I moved from Germany to Galway to study at N.U.I.G. I am legally blind, but still have some sight. I’m not an Irish citizen and therefore don’t have the vote, but Ireland is my new home and I have to get on with my everyday life here. So here is my personal hobbyhorse ; public transport outside of Dublin:
I recently moved out of Galway city centre. Initially, I walked in and out to college, which took me half an hour each way. When the weather got really miserable my friends convinced me to try the bus. They checked the timetables and showed me the stops I needed. When I asked them what the stops were called, that’s when the difficulties started. The stops don’t have individual names and sometimes there is more than one stop on the same road.
Prepared with, to my mind, detailed descriptions of where exactly I wanted to get off, I started my adventure. Being used to big cities with buses, trams and trains running every 10 minutes, it took me a while to get used to waiting for a bus that is ten or more minutes late or doesn’t come at all, especially at stops without shelters.
Using the bus for the first few weeks was exasperating and I often went back to walking to preserve my peace of mind. In the beginning some bus drivers forgot to tell me where to get off and I only discovered it too late or ended up at the terminus. I suppose, I can’t really blame them, but sitting there wondering will he remember me or not, is not a pleasant sensation and I don’t want to ask every two minutes: “Is that it?”
Sometimes I recited my little verse about where I wanted to get off and the driver misunderstood me or asked “near this or that place” and I simply didn’t know. In extreme cases the driver didn’t even know the road I was talking about and asked other passengers, some of whom had contradictory opinions, one driver even consulted Google maps while driving. To be honest, that didn’t raise my confidence in the whole venture. My worst experience was when the bus let me off at a busy junction before the designated bus stop and I didn’t know where I was. I know it is convenient for some people to get off between stops, but I think it is dangerous, because drivers and cyclists don’t expect it.
I use the map on my IPhone to follow the route and go to the front when the integrated speech software announces the road .
Not only visually impaired people have problems with the lack of automatic announcements on buses. In summer, for tourists who don’t know where to get off, it is hard to direct them to the right place, because the stops don’t have individual names or numbers. There isn’t even a timetable on some of the stops. In fact anyone who is not familiar with Galway will find using public transport difficult. In my opinion this is something that should be addressed to improve Galway’s chances to become European Capital of Culture 2020.
The government tries to encourage people to avoid driving to work to decrease traffic jams, but they don’t seem to do much to promote using public transport or bikes.
In summary these are the main points I’m advocating for:
- An individual name or number for each bus stop
- Automatic announcements and screen displays in all buses
The cost of implementing measure 1. would be minimal and 2. would bring the service all over Ireland in line with that being provided in Dublin.
These measures are not only beneficial to people with disabilities, many of whom can not drive or cycle, but would also benefit the general public and tourists.