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BKK, I’ve missed you while I was in Dublin!

The mysteries of Dublin bus stops.

Mystified

The mystification started on the AirCoach from Dublin Airport. I had a leaflet giving the names of the stops with another name in brackets underneath. Sometimes the driver shouted the first name, sometimes the second. Sometimes he shouted something different, sometimes he didn’t shout at all. I could see bus shelters but nothing I recognised as a bus stop to give me a clue.

Confused

I was totally confused. Luckily my lovely cousin had come to collect me from the stop I was supposed to get out at and I spotted her in time to press the button.

Next day we went in search of a bus stop to go into Dublin. I was looking for the nice friendly kind of bus stop you see in Budapest, labelled with the numbers of buses that might stop there, the name of a nearby street or landmark, and exhaustive route maps and timetables for each bus – which they mostly keep to the minute. BKK is the name of the transport authority for Budapest which runs a huge complicated network and generally does it well.

We passed a couple of slender yellow poles with a hieroglyphic on top, but ignored them. It wasn’t until we saw a woman standing next to one, facing the traffic that I realised what they were.

Minimalist bus stops!

Minimalist bus stops. Nothing except the hieroglyph, apparently symbolic of Dublin, mars their stern simplicity. No information is on them at all. They are mute, except for a mysterious stop number under the hieroglyph. Now my memory may be faulty here, or maybe I’m too short-sighted, but I don’t remember the ones we waited at informatively saying “Bus” the way the one in the picture does.

I have to admit, at the time, I laughed. I could almost hear the tones of the man (probably) who swayed the crucial meeting at Transport for Ireland. “No, no, ye see,” he was saying, “everybody has to get the app on their smart phones and find the timetables there and that’ll be SO much more convenient for us, I mean them… Think of the data we’ll get!”

Uncluttered

“Oh come on now, everybody has a smart phone…? Er… ok. But I’m sure that the few people who don’t have smart phones will all be old and they’ll have been taking the same bus forever and a day and they’ll know all about it… And the tourists will all be staying at hotels and travelling by taxi. And the bus stops will be so much smarter and uncluttered, we’ll win a prize.”

So we waited by the yellow pole and sure enough, along came a bus with the right number on it, bang on time. We got on and asked if the bus was going to the city centre because I wasn’t sure which way it was going. And the bus driver told us it was and asked where we were going and said we’d be fine and he’d let us know.

Princes among men

This is Dublin’s secret weapon. The bus drivers are princes among men, courteous, knowledgeable, ever-patient with daft questions, even witty. Despite the electronic signs inside the buses giving plenty of information – the stop name (which isn’t on the stop) and the terminus in English and Irish and a lot of wise warnings about holding onto the railings and not talking to the bus driver, also in English and Irish, there’s something missing. They don’t tell you anything about the next few bus stops, like the Hungarian signs do.

But the drivers fill that gap. They tell you, or if you’re clearly a tourist and have missed the right stop, they tell you and make a quick unscheduled stop so you don’t have to walk down from the top of O’Connell street.

Swap

So I have a proposition for the Dublin and Budapest public transport organisations. Swap some staff. Hungary could supply its bus stop designers and maintainers and Ireland could lend some of their lovely patient bus drivers to teach the Hungarian bus drivers how to be a little less grumpy.

I could make fun of the pedestrian crossings as well, which everybody totally ignores (unlike in Hungary) because they make you wait random amounts of time up to 30 seconds on a clear road before changing. But I won’t. I really enjoyed Dublin and its charming bus drivers and wonderful exhibitions and friendly people and I want to come back some time.

 

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