Last month I spent a week in Dublin, Ireland. It’s really a fantastic city, with excellent food and exceedingly nice people (compared to New York, anyway). The biggest problem we had, though, was in actually getting around the city. We used the Dublin Bus system to get around, but I should realized what we got into when I asked a local about the buses and his response was, “Well, most people have bikes.”
The bus system is basically a giant spoked wheel: there’s a middle hub area, called City Centre, and the buses all go in and out of the hub. I guess calling it a hub is inaccurate, since City Center is actually an eight or ten block rectangle. Either way, it should be pretty simple: from wherever you are, take the bus into the center, walk a bit to where you pick up your connecting bus, and ride it to the end.
Well, if only it were that easy. The image to the right is a snapshot of from the official Dublin Bus map. Note the complete lack of streets, names, or any sort of landmarks (aside from the river). Our biggest problem was figuring out which bus to take to get where we wanted to go, and the approximate location of when to get off. Can you tell from this map where any stop is? What street do any of these buses run along? There’s simply no way to tell.
The second half of the map is a list of areas – such as Dolphin’s Barn and Crumlin Hospital – and a list of places in City Centre where you can get on a bus to go out to those locations. But without knowing which area a given location is in, you wouldn’t be able to figure out which bus to ride.
Now compare this to the New York City bus map. This is part of the map in Manhattan, but the maps for the other boroughs are more or less the same. First, the streets are pretty well labeled here; it’s obvious what street the 15 bus runs on. And if you wanted to switch between two buses, you could figure it out rather easily.
Further, the map gives you locations of landmarks or other points of interest, so even if you’re completely lost you could get your bearings easily enough. It is true, however, that this map doesn’t point out where the individual bus stops are, but you could at least get on the right street where the bus would pick you up.
To be fair, both websites for the bus systems do have schedules that show individual bus stops, though the NYC MTA site makes it arguably easier. They have PDFs for every bus line that show the bus stops on street intersections and times. The Dublin Bus site, by comparison, has you click through to a Google Maps mashup with each point along the way. And you can go to Google Maps and look at both cities to find individual bus stops. But for your average tourist who’s on vacation and probably doesn’t have Internet access, keeping all this information on the website is pretty useless.
I really did like Dublin, and I’d like to get back there within the next few years. I just hope they figure out how to improve their bus system by then.