Claire O’Brien is tired of paying €40 to get home at the end of her shift.
“It’s a sickener to be honest, I get paid about €80 per shift, so if €40 goes on a taxi it’s hardly worth my while to go to work,” she says.
O’Brien works four or five nights a week in a city-centre pub that closes between 2am and 3am. On Fridays and Saturdays nights, there are late buses she can take home to Bray, for €5.20 on her Leap Card.
Some weeknights she gets a lift with a colleague, but if he’s not working, she has to pay €40 for the taxi. She says this happens at least once a week.
She would love to see the night-bus service extended to weeknights.
“Recently I’ve been begging my manager to put me on the same shifts as my colleague so I can get the lift, but it isn’t always possible,” she says.
On the last bus home on Monday night, many people joined the call for a late-night extension of the current bus service.
Dublin Bus said on Tuesday that it is currently looking at the possibility of providing a 24-hour bus service in the city. If the demand is there they will roll it out, it says.
But it has apparently been looking at the possibility for years. And it’s unclear if it has done the research yet to establish whether there is demand.
Last Bus Home
On Monday night, there were about 20 people stood waiting for a few different buses at the stop on Essex Quay.
Amie Egan, a tall, well-dressed young woman in a black hat said her whole night out midweek tends to revolve around the last bus.
“I’m always panicking that I’m going to miss the last bus,” she says. Any extension of the bus service midweek would be “a godsend”, says Egan, who was going to Blanchardstown. “It’s grand at the weekend, when you can get the Nitelink,” she says.
At half eleven or thereabouts the number 39a rolls up. I wave goodbye to Egan and jump on board. The atmosphere on the top deck is jovial, with groups of friends chatting and laughing. People are tipsy – no one seems to have had enough time to get drunk.
Derek Brown says he and his friends are going to Cabra. It would be okay if they missed the last bus though, he says, as they could afford a taxi.
Sean O’Connor and Sean Coogan are sitting together chatting. They say they spent the night in the Porterhouse on Parliament Street and really didn’t want to leave to get the last bus.
“It would be class if we could have left later,” says O’Connor. “All of our friends are still there, so we’re missing out.”
Coogan says: “If the Nightlink ran during the week, it would be awesome, but even if the normal buses just ran for another hour ‘til half twelve it would be good.”
O’Connor agrees. “It would be more normal to leave for half twelve,” he says.
Both expressed sympathy for those who live further away than them, like in Blanchardstown.
“With the price of taxis, they really can’t afford to miss the last bus,” says Coogan.
There Is Hope
In a move that could answer the prayers of many workers, commuters and drinkers, Dublin Bus says it is considering rolling out a 24-hour bus service.
“We are currently looking at the possibility of introducing a 24-hour bus service in Dublin in conjunction with the National Transport Authority on a phased basis in 2017,” said Dublin Bus Media and Communications Officer Jennifer O’Brien.
For now, Dublin Bus has increased the Nitelink service over the holiday period. (But it won’t be running 26 December – O’Brien says there’s no demand for Nitelink on St Stephen’s Night.)
The Night Luas is running a late-night service on weekends during the holiday season, said Nikki Farrell, a spokesperson for Transdev which runs the Luas.
It is running an outbound-only service on both lines: until 3am on the Red Line and 3:30am on the Green Line, on Friday and Saturday nights, through New Year’s Eve.
Farrell says Transdev has looked at running the late-night service to every weekend. But “realistically, the demand for services is just not there”, she says. “The service just wouldn’t be financially viable.”
What Happens in Other Cities?
In Dublin, the last regular bus leaves at around 11:30pm each weeknight; the Nitelink service on Friday and Saturday nights keeps going until 4am on 18 routes. The last Luas usually leaves the city centre at around half past twelve, or at midnight on Sundays.
In London, there are many night buses during the week, more at the weekends, and this year the Underground started to run night trains. But greater London had 8.47 million people according to the latest Eurostat figures, far more than greater Dublin city’s 1.26 million.
Both Brussels (1.18 million) and Amsterdam (1.05 million) have roughly similar populations to Dublin, and both are capital cities. It might be fairer to compare Dublin to them.
Amsterdam has 12 night-bus routes which operate from midnight to 7am every half hour, seven days a week. The bus schedule in Brussels is similar to Dublin’s: regular bus service stops about midnight, but there’s a night-bus service on Friday and Saturday that runs to 3am.
Time for Dublin to Change?
Dublin City Councillor Ciaran Cuffe, who chairs of the council’s transport committee, says the city needs to look at extending the public-transport service at night.
“Late-night public transport is part of what makes a city work,” says Cuffe, of the Green Party. “If you look at other cities where public transport works, it certainly plays a crucial role.”
The reduced bus service during the daytime on Saturday and Sundays is also a problem that needs to be examined, says Cuffe.
David O’Connor, a lecturer in transport planning in DIT — who also writes a column for Dublin Inquirer — agrees. He says that if you look to countries where public transport works well, you will see that it runs all night.
“Those cities work and run because they have a high-quality public-transport network that is always on, including through the night,” he says.
He says people come to Dublin to work in the creative economy, which runs at night, and “you have to have services that support that.”
The demand exists, says O’Connor, and you can see that by the traffic on the road at night, the number of people who are now working at night, and even the numbers using 24-hour gyms.
Dermot O’Gara, spokesperson for the National Transport Authority, said he was not aware of any research that has been done on demand for a 24-hour bus service in Dublin.