I know I can't be the only one to use Dublin's public transport system and see obvious - and for the most part cheap - ways in which it could be improved. Here are a few suggestions - please add to them and critique them. I'm thinking of putting together a list (and possibly a petition) to give to the Minister, so the P.ie scrutiny would be most welcome. My experience is of the northside DART and of the bus, informed by living in Moscow, Kyiv, London and a few other places with public transport even worse than Dublin's. My knowledge of the LUAS is a blindspot, so any suggestions for improvement there would be a great help. The emphasis should be on cheap, common sense ways to make things run smoother.
- Put the "next train" tickers outside the station as well as inside. Where applicable, they should be alongside their bus counterparts. This way, you know whether or not it worthwhile buying a ticket before getting to the platform and realising you have 20 minutes standing around to do.
- Get rid of the "this train serves all stations to Howth" tickers. It should be presumed that this is the case unless otherwise stated. These take up valuable space on tickers that can only display two trains at any one time.
- The 'name of station' signs on platforms should be clearly illuminated, and should be in groups of two at an angle of, say, 30 degrees to the line of the platform in either direction. This way, you can easily read them if you are not directly in line with them.
- There should be clear maps outside all DART stations, so you know exactly where the station is in relation to anything else.
- The location of DART stations should be made far clearer, with signs in village centres pointing to the nearest one with an estimated walking time.
- The Irish Rail logo has to be revised. As it stands, it is an arrow, so whenever it is used as a sign, it is pointing in the wrong direction about half the time. This might sound funny, but I have been stopped by tourists on numerous occasions who have walked for a mile in the wrong direction as a result and want to know where the station is!
- Has anyone noticed how slow things like ticket turnstiles and doors opening are in the DART? What is the advantage?
- Also, why are there turnstiles that are simultaneously open from either side in Connolly Station? There is no obvious benefit of this and it creates unnecessary confusion.
- Where there are escalators there should be a clear green side and red side to show which side you should stand on and let people in a hurry run past.
- A basic rule of marketing is that, if you must keep your customers waiting, make sure they are comfortable. Our Dart stations are mostly outdoors and without enough benches. Stations should have a single long bench (or even ledge) the length of the platform, ideally with a heated pipe underneath for the winter. If it is an open air station, the bench should have a shelter. As it stands, we often have benches and shelters that don't match up, giving you the choice of sitting on a wet bench in the rain or standing in a shelter.
- Few stations have any kind of shop or cafe beyond the ticket turnstiles. This seems to be a wasted opportunity, since you would have a captive audience waiting around for up to 20 minutes at a time.
- How many times have you seen advertising for events that have already happened weeks (or sometimes months) previously. This is a massively inefficient use of advertising. Also, the kind of information Irish Rail could get from smart card ticketing would allow for far more targeted advertising; if adjusted for the time of day, they could charge far more of a premium to advertisers.
- The links between DART, Luas and bus services should be made absolutely clear to potential users. This means a highly targeted communications campaign, telling each neighbourhood which buses suit them to get to the nearest DART or Luas, via billboard or post. If there isn't such a connecting service, a study should be done as to demand and it should be put out to private tender for minibus "Marshrutka" services.
- DART stations should have separated entrances and exits, this speeds things up and means that, if you are going for a train agains the flow of rush hour, you aren't delayed by a stampede coming from the opposite direction.
- If DART stations must be announced in Irish, it should be absolutely clear that it is in Irish (i.e., written in a different colour and announced at the same time as the corresponding ticker). Otherwise it is unnecessarily confusing for tourists/newcomers. On the same subject, it should be impossible for the onboard ticker to announce the wrong station with RFID technology these days.
More substantial changes:
- The Howth-Howth Junction part of the DART line should be a frequent shuttle service, with two trains constantly going back and forth. This way, the stations between Howth Junction and Malahide and between Howth Junction and Howth don't get a reduced service. Enclose Howth Junction so it is an indoor station, to encourage transfer (which is no big deal in any underground system for that very reason). You would never be waiting more than a few minutes for a transfer in either direction.
- The enclosing of the rougher DART stations and addition of a shop inside (that's open as long as the station is open) would make them much more hospitable and commuter friendly. It could also allow for extra parking space above any stations that are below ground level.
- All bus stops should have route maps - London has it, why can't we?
- All bus stops should be named, as opposed to a the current situation, in which they just have a number.
- Bus fares should be shown clearly at all bus stops, so people can have their change ready before getting on. At the moment, the price of various journeys seems to be a kind of folklore, that you have to know by being in the know.
- The buses should have audio announcements for the next stop as they are approaching, a la London