Leap Card one small step

Launched on the 12th of December 2011 the new Leap Card plans to introduce an integrated ticket scheme were first announced by Former Transport Minister Mary O’Rourke back in 2000 at the time the minister said it would be up and running by 2002 at a total cost of €29m. Move on 12 years the Leap Card comes in at €55 million. On the launch Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly, TD, said. “The Leap Card will be among the cheapest ways to get around Dublin and will make public transport more attractive,”

After 1 month in operation Dublin’s Leap card can be purchased and topped up at 350 retail shops, 15,000 people have signed up for the scheme in the first month. The Leap Card is a welcome addition to encourage more people to use public transport. However after 12 years in planning and costing €55 million the introduction of the Leap Card is less than satisfactory. Its not like they were inventing the wheel, successful integrated transport cards operate in several cities around the world including London.  So way have those responsible for Leap launched a card made so many basic failures?

On most public transport systems that I have used in other countries they operate a zoned system which allows you to travel with any transport operator as many times as you need to in a set time and charging you a flat rate for that. A typical zoning example would be something like this:

Zone   A= 60 mins
Zones B= 90 mins
Zones C = 120 mins

Such a system is very simple for a commuter to understand and easy for the operator to implement. As anyone who uses Dublin Bus regularly the fares structure is impossible to grasp. This issue that has become even more complicated with the introduction of the Leap card.

Given that the new integrated ticket was 12 years in planning and three (Dublin Bus, Irish Rail, Bus Eireann, of the 4 main transport operators in the Greater Dublin area operate under the umbrella of the CIE group with Luas being the exception. The first task the Department of Transport/NTA should have addressed before the introduction of Leap card was to get a clear zoning system in place common to all operators within the greater Dublin area.

The other issue would appear agreement was how much each operator would receive for each commuter’s journey, which is why the Leap card is just a combined transport card that charges you individual fares each time you long on a particular transport mode. So for instance if I want to travel to the city centre I pay an Irish Rail fare to Heuston on my Leap Card and then continue my journey on Dublin Bus or Luas for a second fare, albeit giving me  small savings by using my Leap Card as opposed to using cash. Hopefully this will be worked eventually for another chunk of taxpayers’ money

The main issues arises from using Leap is on Dublin bus due to complicated stage fare structure  – Dublin Bus they have either due to their  inability or pure laziness failed to put in place a system for Leap to work efficiently and what Dublin Bus have given commuters is far from satisfactory.To use a Leap card on Dublin Bus depending where you are going, you may have to use to two different readers on the bus, confused?

If you’re not going more than 13 stages, you cannot tag on at the smart card validator as it will deduct the a flat fare of €2.20. But for city Centre, short (1 –3 stages), medium (4 –7 stages) and long (8–13 stages) (view here) journeys you must tell the driver your destination and hold your Leap Card to the target on the driver’s ticket machine and the correct fare will be deducted from your Travel Credit. This is both complicated for both commuter and driver and you cannot see what’s been taken from your card or how much credit is left on your Leap card.

One of the benefits of switching to a Leap card should be to make it easier for commuter and speed up the actual time a bus stops picking up passengers by having simple tag on tag off system in place. How after spending €55 million has Dublin Bus and in today’s world of technology have they ended up installing 2 separate readers to carry out a simple function? At present it is taking longer for those commuters using Leap card, interacting with a sometimes confused driver than it would be to pay with cash (although I should point out the fare will be greater for doing so).

While both Luas and Irish Rail offer discounts of 10- 40% per journey compared to cash fares, unlike Dublin Bus who will at the outset offer no discounts and will only offer a flat fare of 2.20 euro despite currently offering a 1.90 euro flat fare on its ‘Travel 90’ ticket, so regular commuter will continue to use ‘Travel 90’ tickets. Yet another nonsensical approach taken by Dublin Bus on its fare structure on the introduction of Leap card.

More so than any other operators, Dublin Bus as the largest public transport operator refuses to move to a passenger friendly fare structure and as its be shown through the introduction of Network Direct Dublin Bus continues to ignore the views of its customers on the type of service it once. If it were a private operator it would never survive.

Meanwhile a statement issues from Irish Rail says while is not yet possible to top up the new Leap card from the Irish Rail machines it hopes to introduce the system in the first quarter of the year.

The introduction of Leap card is welcome but could have been a far superior system. Had the Department of Transport/NTA simplified the ticket systems/zones before they integrate there would have been a far greater chance of implementing a workable, and successful integrated ticket. In its current form it will fail to convince those who don’t regularly use public transport that this is a Leap forward in transport.

I would like to hear your comments on the scheme.

There are some good comments from commuters attached, I would encourage to read them also.

Categories: Transport

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 replies

  1. Well said,
    Another question that should be asked is why does one need yet another card – with a price tag of 55m, I think it should work as poart of the Dublin Bus / Luas APP.

  2. Hi Tom,

    Very well put. It’s a seriously missed opportunity.

    Having to get the driver to do your card is completely counterproductive – most infuriating for both driver and passenger – and quite bizarre.

    The card also adds yet another layer to an unfathomable fare structure for Dublin Bus, and it was introduced at a time when all fares went up. OK, we are well aware that the increases in the bus fares aren’t nearly as steep if you use the new card compared with cash, but there’s still the fact that public transport fares have been deliberately allowed to go in an upward direction.

    The integrated ticket scheme should have been part of a long-term strategy to increase use of public transport and decrease the need for cars in the city and county, which would make it far more efficient and economical to move around town.

    The two of us spend a good amount of the year in the Languedoc in France, and the difference in approach is astonishing. We live in the Hérault département – the same place where the Luas trains come from, though in Montpellier the tram system uses joined up thinking. Anyway, two years ago our département’s bus service announced massive cuts in fares in order to shift more people onto public transport – and for sustainable development.

    Its basic fare system is simple and very easy to understand: buy a 10-journey card and you get 10 trips for €10, or a euro a trip, on any route on Hérault Transport, on any distance along the route, with no time limit. There are other fares, but this is the one that has been promoted in the public awareness campaigns. A euro a trip, anywhere across the Hérault.

    In addition, major towns in the region such as Béziers have a free shuttle bus service from the top of the town to the bottom – the busiest areas from the train station to the bus station, in a long loop. It’s equivalent to going from the top of O’Connell Street to Stephen’s Green (actually the distance covered would be slightly more).

    The €1 bus fare and the shuttles have been a roaring success of course.

    Keep up the good work…

  3. I’ve been complaining about the lack of a zone system in the greater Dublin area for years. I live in Ashbourne, approx 20km from the city centre – around the same distance as Bray.

    But because the provider of public transport is Bus Eireann instead of Dublin Bus, a weekly ticket is €31.50 – around a tenner more than someone in Balbriggan (33km from the city centre).

    Bus Eireann has no business offering city bus services in the greater Dublin area when Dublin Bus already covers up to 45km from the city centre. But something tells me they’ll fight hard to retain routes like Ashbourne – a handy little earner that leaves us commuters paying through the nose…..

  4. The Leap card is merely a RFID card plopped on top of the current fare structure. The absurdities you highlight (two different readers charging different fares on each bus) arise because there was no political will to force Dublin Bus to offer a real integrated ticket fare system.

    Yet again the technology (RFID) became the focus as a way to avoid addressing underlying systemic problems.

  5. You do actually get to see your balance and the fare deducted on the screen on the terminal when you pay. Sometimes this is hard to see though as the driver will often have the terminal tilted at an angle that suits them and the screen you’re supposed to be looking at is pointing at the floor. Another silly thing about this is the card reader is on the top of the terminal and you’re supposed to place the card on top of it, of course if it’s tilted at an angle then your card just awkwardly slides off. In general though over the past few weeks of using the card I’m usually made feel like an asshole for wanting to use the card, but then the same drivers make me feel like an asshole for wanting to pay using a bunch of coins so you can’t really win.

  6. There’s no real reason for me to change from the travel 90’s. To start they’re €1.90 per trip and even if I’m only going from town to Lucan it saves me. If I’m using it to get to work the double bus trip, Lucan to town and town to Cabra costing me €1.90 is a bargain and it would actually cost me to use the Leap card, logic would say that to move is stupid. I may migrate my Luas card, which I use very rarely, to a leap card, but it would be just for those rare moments, there’s no real incentive to move.

    • Yes, Rambler card costs €22 for 5 non consecutive daily rides a saving when multiple bus usage in city centre

      • News flash, I have returned to college part time and armed with my Student Card I get any 30 days for €82 – no point in Leaping for me – I have also asked why , as they spent 50m on LEAP you cant use an APP as a v-ticket – no reply. The company that makes the ticketing machine (wayfarer) tell me they can accept an NFC code on the machine but Dublin Bus has not enabled it????

  7. Dublin Bus does have discounted fares. The new €1.90 costs €1.70 when you use your Leap Card, and the other fares have similar discounts.

  8. I topped up my leapcard today online – huge mistake.. I thought my card would charge immeaditely, but that would be too convenient I guess. I need to ‘pick up’ my top up at irish rail stations (because I chose this option, stupid me) and it takes 48 hrs for the top up to appear on the card, 48 hours!! The whole thing with different ways of using it on rail/bus/luas is ridiculous.

  9. Sorry my english not good, however I can say your article make lots of sense, and I find it very informational too. Hope you’ll be able to write more of these articles in the future.

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