Translate the Dublin Bus System into Manhattanese, please!
March 30, 2010 3:23 PM   Subscribe

Please explain the Dublin bus system to me.

I am currently in Dublin with my sister, who is an experienced Manhattan bus rider. She has been driven crazy trying to understand the Dublin bus system, and the paper map, the website, and an explanation from someone at the tourist office have been no help. I am not at all an experienced public transit user, so I can't claim to understand all her questions and frustrations, but here goes.

Today we decided to walk from the Trinity College area to St. Stephen's Green by way of Bewley's for lunch. My sister (again) looked at the bus map and confessed herself perplexed as to how we would get from St. Stephen's Green (the mall, specifically) back home (we're staying off Cork Street, Tallaght line*). There was no way to tell how to change lines within the city center, and as far as we could tell, the only way to get home from St. Stephen's Green was to walk back towards Trinity College to the stop we had gotten off at earlier in the day. Considering today was cold and wet with bouts of snow, this was not an appealing prospect.

Can anyone explain the Dublin bus system in terms a Manhattan resident would understand? Or were we correct, and there really *is* no way to get here from there without backtracking? What do the colors represent? How would you travel by bus from, say, the Parnell Square area to Nassau Street? How do you find the closest stop to where you're going and what line it's on? How does this all work, anyway?!

* This brings up another frustration - only the end stop of a line is listed on the map, not all the intervening stops. So, Tallaght is listed, but not any of the stops along the way.
posted by booksherpa to Travel & Transportation around Ireland (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've always found it works best if I talk to the bus driver. If their line doesn't go where you want, they'll know which one does. (Also, the colors? Each one is a bus route.) If you're going from a hotel to somewhere in town, ask at the front desk for a route they'd suggest, in both directions.
posted by kirstk at 5:00 PM on March 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm wondering if the NYC experience of changing buses might be tripping you up, as well as a Manhattanite's expectation that buses serve a more compact and densely-populated area. The Dublin bus routes are sort of designed to bring people in and out of the city centre from the outskirts, who'll then walk to their destinations -- and there's not much changing between buses unless absolutely necessary.

Anyway, link to maps and a route-finder might help.

In busy places like Parnell Square and St Stephen's Green, you have a lot of buses taking slightly different routes and stopping in slightly different places to limit congestion, so for the trip out to Dublin 8, you need to know the best route(s) and the stops that serve them. For something like Parnell Square to Nassau Street, there are a couple of routes that put you in the vicinity (13/a or 140), with perhaps a couple of hundred metres walk to the departure stop or from where you get off.

But this is going to be one of those situations where local knowledge really helps, especially out where you're staying. If you know the buses that stop closest (within, say, a 100-200m radius) then you can work your way backwards and find the stops in the city centre that serve them.
posted by holgate at 5:10 PM on March 30, 2010

In general buses run from the city center either north or south and don't go through. So yes, to go to tallaght you would have to wall back to trinity and get on a north bound bus. That's not a long walk at all by Dublin standards and with the traffic it would probably take longer if you drove anyway.

As far as the maps go if the lines show the buses going down the same block then you cam transfer. They don't show individual stops, probably because the buses in Dublin stop every 30 feet. I'd you have a question your best bet is to ask the driver as noted above. They don't mind, everyone asks them.
posted by fshgrl at 5:21 PM on March 30, 2010

I initially misread your question as being about trams - the buses are identified by route number (e.g. I'm guessing you might mean the 77 for Cork Street en route to Tallaght), while there about about twenty Tallaght buses. The individual route timetables do list the intermediate stages - as fshgrl says, the stops are too frequent to list - and I tend to use the Dublin Bus website to plan that out before looking for a bus.

In general, the website is crap, the bus service is mostly radial with a few crossovers, and there are journeys you just can't make by bus. I'm not surprised the tourist office was unhelpful, as I think pockets of local knowledge are as much as anyone knows about the system. The drivers, nthing the above, can be extremely helpful.

How would you travel by bus from, say, the Parnell Square area to Nassau Street?

I'd walk, and you'd find most routes will go near one or the other, but leave you with nearly as much of a walk as the ten-minute stroll between the two. Ditto Cork Street to Stephen's Green - Dublin city centre is small and walkable (even in the freak snow!), and I don't think the system is even trying to make that short a walk possible by bus.
posted by carbide at 11:56 PM on March 30, 2010

Also, this site might be helpful, maybe - I think it's like translating one word in Manhattanese into a Dublinese approximation a paragraph long, but it's the best I've seen.
posted by carbide at 11:59 PM on March 30, 2010

I've been living in Dublin for nearly two years now and although I use the LUAS regularly I've used the buses exactly once. Trying to work out how to get from A to B is usually just too hard. But the route finder that holgate linked to might be just the shot.
posted by Logophiliac at 12:07 AM on March 31, 2010

Thanks, all, for the confirmation of what we'd suspected - the bus system isn't designed to get you from A to B, but rather from many outlying A's to city center B and back again. It really is a rimless spoked wheel, as opposed to the grid that is Manhattan. I'll just have a pint or two and it will all seem much more sensible. At least the weather seems to have improved.
posted by booksherpa at 2:45 AM on March 31, 2010

Enjoy your walk! Don't bother about the timetables much either, they serve mainly to tell you roughly how many busses per hour as opposed to when they leave. Dublin born and bred here, and I just go to the buss-stop and wait. In town you will often see blokes in what look like Garda hats near the bus-stops, they usually have a good idea of what goes where, and the Dublin Bus head office is on O'Connell street and they should be able to help too.

16A for life! Airport to the foot of the mountains, baybeee!
posted by Iteki at 5:05 AM on March 31, 2010

It really is a rimless spoked wheel, as opposed to the grid that is Manhattan.

That's exactly what it is! I live in a central enough part of town, but many places that are a 10 or 15-min walk away from here would require TWO trips by bus.

And don't get me started on the timetables (basically, they're at best an estimate - for every mile away from the terminus add 5-10 minutes).

So yes, to go to tallaght you would have to wall back to trinity and get on a north bound bus

I'm sure what was meant there was south, not north; Tallaght is obviously south-west of the city.

In general, the website is crap

It's a lot better than it used to be. Searching for your street or area will return a list of all or most bus routes that go through there; each timetable page now has links to the stops on each route plotted on Google Maps, so you'll know exactly where the bus goes and where to get on/off. That is incredibly helpful for users unfamiliar with the city (or even for Dubliners ourselves -- I've lived here all my life and don't know my way around even half the city).
posted by macdara at 11:20 AM on March 31, 2010

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