Can some of the bus stops on Dublin’s North Strand Road be reinstalled?

— One of the main real reasons one key bus stop was removed was for car parking.

Comment & Analysis: The issue of the reduction in the number of bus stops along North Strand Road and elsewhere on the Clontarf to City Centre route project rumbles on — it continues to be mentioned at both local area and full monthly council meetings. But what’s the potential to reinstate any of the bus stops?

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First, it’s worth saying that there are a lot of claims flying around that the number of bus stops was reduced “because of a cycle path” — but the Clontarf to City Centre (C2CC) project is clearly much more than a cycle path.

The project includes a full boundary-to-boundary redesign and resurfacing of footpaths and the road, improved bus stops with new shelters and seats that are actually usable, new greenery, and major works replacing water main pipes along the road.

The Dublin City Council project was also planned as part of a 10-year process.

The problem is a large part of 10 years was spent on first people pushing for a higher quality project with more segregation of the cycle route, others trying to retain a few metres of general traffic lanes, and some people scaremongering about the design of bus stops.

Something that can have a larger effect on bus users is bus stop spacing. It can mean the bus services are faster and more reliable, but, on the other hand, it could mean that some people will have to walk further and some of those people might not be able to do so.

Internationally the best practice spacing between bus stops is generally around 400m, with some stops closer for various reasons. This isn’t for express services or BRT (those distances are up to twice as long), it’s for local-stopping services, ie the services that serve most of Dublin City.

Transport consultant Jarrett Walker has an excellent blog post on the issue of spacing and a solid follow-up on the ethical issues of moving stops further apart (ie for people with disabilities etc). The 400m in any case might vary for several reasons.

On the Clontarf to City Centre route, there was previously a high number of stops which were around or less than 200m between each other. In other words, around 100m or — in some cases — less to walk to the nearest stop.

Now outbound stop spacing (starting from Connolly Station) is 495m, 258m, 586m, 405m, 303m, 359m, and 370m. The inbound spacing (starting from around the Alfie Byrne Road at Clontarf) is 515m, 223m, 510m, 592m, 220m, and 451m.

Clearly, a few of those spacings are way over the 400m mark.

How we got here

Trying to explain how we got here, Dublin City Council officials have issued a map with an overlay of the stop spacing (which is sadly too complicated), the Bus Stop Spacing Report, and a further report focusing on two of the stops with the largest distance in the most populated area (stop 617 inbound and 4384 outbound).

But how we got here is complicated. If the designers of a project are told: You must keep as many trees as possible, you must keep all of the traffic lanes, you must keep all of the turning lanes, you must keep so many parking spaces, and that all bus stops must be a certain length/width and all have a bus shelter.

The designers very quickly run out of options even on a wide section of road like Fairview, never mind a more constrained section like North Strand Road.

This is part of the messy business of designing streets. But setting down rules and not looking at the design holistically gets you to where we are on the Clontarf route project

Stop 617 inbound – Strandville Avenue

Unlike any of the other locations, the next stop inbound, James Larkin House, is uphill and also across a signalised junction. This has been highlighted as maybe the most problematic removal of bus stops. But it wasn’t removed for the cycle paths, but to accommodate the cycle route while also retaining two parking spaces.

As the spacing report said: “Parking which was previously available between Bayview Avenue and Waterloo Avenue on the outbound side shall need to be removed. With stop 617 proposed to be removed for the reason outlined above it was deemed of benefit then that the space could then be used to compensate for parking removed elsewhere on the road. Without the spaces now provided at the location of bus stop 617 there would be no other parking available for the post office and businesses between Newcomen Bridge and Annesley Place.”

Could one of two parking spaces on the side street not be reserved as time-limited spaces?

The report mentions safety too, there being only enough space for one bus to stop and that there would be only space for one formal crossing. But other stops on the route will also have only one crossing and if a bus shelter is not provided there should be adequate safe space on the bus stop platform.

The only question remaining is: Which is more important — two parking spaces or the bus stop?

Stops 4384 and 518 outbound

Another stop highlighted in the more focused report is stop 4384 at Charleville Ave, which is the nearest stop across the road from the above-mentioned inbound Strandville Avenue stop.

It’s not a runner on space grounds alone to reinstate this stop without unduly impacting on cycling or pedestrian safety or both. Resorting to an expensive and long process of CPOing private land also isn’t a runner because of the basement-level rooms in the building on that side of the road.

But the next stop outbound is also removed — stop 518 Waterloo Avenue (which in good old Dublin style is closer to Nottingham Street, right beside it).

You could fit in a bus stop and cycle path around it with the reconfiguration/removal of planned public space (footpath, seating, bike racks etc) and a bit of narrowing of the entry to the side road (Nottingham Street, which is a really minor street which is a dead-end.

It would mean there’s less than 200m between this stop and the next outbound stop. But the previous stop on the other side of the canal bridge is around 400m away. It would also be a shorter bus stop.

This stop would be more complicated to deliver and would require a small-area redesign of the current plan. This would likely require funding. Work on the planned layout could be underway to some extent or another. Retrofitting once the current builders are gone maybe even more costly.

None of this should really be coming up at this stage of the project. But basically: Reinstating stop 617 is technically an easy fix once you overcome pushing the short-stay parking to the side streets; stop 4384 is a non-runner and stop 518 is harder than 617 but doable.

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