herald

Sunday 11 December 2016

Carol Hunt: Commuters must be first, but we're back of the queue

Dublin Bus
Dublin Bus

In our house we try to make sure that our Leap Cards are always topped up.

Nothing worse than getting on a bus and realising that you don’t have the correct change.

As a one-car home, myself and my kids are heavily dependent on public transport – particularly Dublin Bus.

We live in the inner city, I don’t drive and I find myself repeatedly explaining to people that this isn’t a huge problem, we actually like using the bus.

In fact, one of my son’s favourite holiday pastimes is that we stand at a bus stop, close our eyes, put our hand out and get on the first bus that arrives.

Then we go on a magical mystery tour of Dublin, getting to see places we would never guess existed, glimpsing down into people’s gardens and homes from the front seat on the upper deck.

We fly up and down bus lanes while we watch the rest of the city stuck in a traffic jam. It can be magic at times.

The 11-year-old was not too fazed at the thought of a bus strike.

Not even if went on for numerous days.

His first grasp of independence was when he was allowed take the bus to school on his own.

Before that I used to take the bus in and out with him every day, clocking up about three-to-four hours daily on public transport – time well spent reading or researching work on the internet (wi-fi on buses is brilliant).

But yesterday he was optimistic that he’d be allowed stay home as he’d no way of getting there today.

“I’ll drive you,” said his dad reluctantly, dashing his hopes and adding to the already chock-a-block traffic jams.

Buses are an integral part of any modern city’s infrastructure. They help to keep an excess of traffic off our roads.

Of course like all public transport they have to be paid for, but for people like me, for pensioners, for single parents, tourists and cash-strapped students, buses are as important to our lives as free (well, subsidised) education and healthcare. 

It’s hard for Dublin Bus/Bus Eireann to attract more people to use their services when fares have risen while subsidies have decreased – at one stage I was spending €60 a week on bus fares.

The Government argues that privatisation of some routes will lead to more value for money for the customer. Just look at what Michael O’Leary did for air travel, it says.

That may be true but public transport is very different to air travel. Look at what happened when public transport was privatised in the UK: The British ended up with the most expensive and worst service in Europe.

But whether transport is private or state-funded or a mix of both, the bottom line is that it be well run in the interests of the travelling public.

Commuters – those of us who use the service day-in, day-out – should be at the front of the queue. Instead we’re at the back.

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