There has been a broad welcome for the draft new bus network plan for Cork with advocates calling for swift and coherent delivery to ensure buy-in from the public.
But it has emerged that only 5% of people who fed into the public consultation on the draft plan since July were aged over 65, despite this cohort comprising 13% of the population. People aged 66 and over enjoy free public transport.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) said additional efforts will be made to gather input from this age group on the draft network proposals which were published today for a new round of public consultation.
The draft network follows a “blank slate review” of the city’s existing bus network and represents one of the biggest overhauls of the city’s bus routes, timetables and fares structure in decades.
It is proposed to increase bus services by over a third, to bring a more frequent service closer to more people who will face shorter wait times for buses running on a simplified route network, with a simpler fares structure to make interchange seamless.
Passengers won’t have to pay extra to change between bus, rail or future light rail services within a 90-minute period.
Ciarán Meers, chairperson of the Cork Commuter Coalition, an advocacy group which promotes public transport and sustainable mobility in the region, described the proposals as a positive set of changes which will transform how the people of Cork use public transport.
Dr Darren McAdam O’Connell, coordinator of the Transport Mobility Forum in Cork, also welcomed the proposals and encouraged people to engage again in public consultation as the network is finalised.
“The more eyes and brains examining this, the greater chance there is to ensure this is as good a network as it can possibly be,” he said.
The draft plan includes a revision to the pattern of cross-city services through routing for the most frequent bus routes, replacing it with an east-west Ballincollig to Mahon Point route, to encourage patronage on the indicative route for the city’s light rail system, and linking Hollyhill and Carrigaline with a north-south route.
“This would have the effect of lengthening some journeys that are made on the existing through-routes,” the report says.
“However, by increasing frequencies, the negative impacts on those journeys can be kept modest.
“It would also have the effect of shortening journeys that people are currently making between east and west, or between north and south.”
The overnight service between Carrigaline and Ballincollig will continue from midnight to 5am, with a Carrigaline to Cork city centre service every 10 minutes, Monday-Saturday, and every 15 minutes on Sundays.
New services are planned for the metropolitan city area, including Blarney, Ballincollig, Glanmire, Carrigaline and Little Island.
The report says more routes would offer high frequency all week long, so interchange between them would require a reliably short wait, with some routes being scheduled to “pulse” together, with co-ordinated arrivals and departures.
But these improvements to interchange depend on improvements to reliability, speed and technology, some of which are beyond the NTA’s control, the report says.
“Making interchange easier for passengers in certain busy places – such as Cork city centre, Carrigaline town centre, Blackpool, CUH and Douglas – will require more space for bus stops as well as bus-only lanes and other priority measures,” it says.
If implemented, the new network will mean the average resident could reach 17% more jobs within an hour’s commute (including all waiting time), and 11% within a half hour’s commute, meaning large employment hubs like Little Island, Hollyhill, Mahon Point, the airport, Blackpool and the city would gain access to more workers.
The number of education places the a