In mid-January, Ireland’s first ever public transport 24-hour bus was launched, much to the delight of thousands of Cork students. The 220 bus service operates through highly populated towns in Cork, such as Ballincollig, Douglas and Carrigaline, and as a result is utilised by huge numbers of students who commute to college on a daily basis.
The change comes following a huge lobbying effort by residents in both Carrigaline, Crosshaven and Ballincollig areas. Over the past 18 months the reliability of the service has been slammed by the public, creating great anger. So bad was the situation at one point in time that even the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, made reference to the 220 service in a session in the Dáil. Local Councillors on both sides of the city were regularly inundated with complaints from their constituents over constant delays and unsatisfactory experiences with the bus service. Not only has the 220 become a 24 hour bus, but for large parts of the day it will operate at a frequency of one bus every 15 minutes.
This news has been received with open arms by students in Cork’s two main Universities, CIT and UCC. Not only should the reliability of the service be now improved due to the sheer amount of buses on the go at one time, but it also gives them the opportunity to use the bus as opposed to taxis to return home on social nights. The bus should now also perhaps encourage other students to use public transport to commute to college or to work instead of using their own private vehicles. This move would show a positive trend in our views on climate change, where we shift away from car-dependency towards an integrated public transport network. It follows on from calls made recently by Cork councillors suggesting that to improve Ireland’s track record on climate change by reducing the number of cars on the road then public transport should be made free of charge. Other prominent figures have suggested that an overhaul of how we prioritise our roads should be debated. A system which involves bus corridors throughout the city has been touted as a radical but sensible proposal. Such an idea would encourage commuters who are sick of bumper – to – bumper traffic, to use the bus, of which would use the traffic-free corridors.
It seems that the government of the day is taking the Ireland and Cork 2040 project relatively seriously. Two weeks ago it was reported that a new transport plan for the ‘Rebel County’ will cost over €3 billion. Included in the plan are proposals a Luas-style, light railway system to operate around the city and branching to nearby satellite towns and centres. However, many believe that the time for action is now and that plans to reduce the number of cars on the road should be fast-tracked. The now infamous ban of cars on St. Patrick’s street during certain hours brought with it an incredibly mixed response. The power of local businesses and their backlash initially fought off Cork City Council during its original implementation. However, following a successful second-phase of the project during the final quarter of 2018, the ban is now here to stay. The future of transport in the city is certainly taking a step in the right direction but it remains to be seen as to whether this positive trend will be a matter taken seriously in the years ahead.