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.