The new Dublin Luas map is a crime against cartography

Abbey Street. Image: William Murphy/Wikipedia.

It can be reassuring, in the era of Brexit, to know that there are still some things which Britain has in common with its European neighbours like Ireland. For example: "Really, really bad public transit maps".

The Luas is Dublin's tram network, which first opened in 2004. It has two lines: the Green Line, which connect the suburbs of south Dublin to St Stephen's Green; and the red line, which connects the western suburbs to the docks.

What the red and green lines don't connect is each other because, look:

Well, I guess we’re walking. Image: Strikous/Wikipedia.

But Dubliners need not worry much longer – because the Luas Cross City project is extending the green line across the city centre and into north Dublin. It's due to open in December, and the city's transport authorities have just released this outstandingly abysmal map:

Click to expand.

In fact, it comes in Irish, too:

Cliceáil a leathnú.

I'm not familiar with the geography of Dublin – sadly, I've never been – so unravelling this map required spending half an hour clicking back and forth between this and a street map. I might be wrong about some of the details (in which case, write in), but I’ve found four big problems with the new map.

It shows the wrong number of lines

Luas Cross City is not a third, blue line: it's an extension of the existing, green one. You wouldn't know it from this map, however, which strongly suggests it's a whole new line, because:

The river is invisible

Transit maps don't tend to go for geographical accuracy – that's not what they're for – but they do often include big rivers and other major features of the landscape, just to give you a sense of the shape of the city.

Whoever made this map seems to have considered doing this, then changed their mind, then decided on a compromise option. And so we get this:

This best I can tell is the River Liffey which divides the two halves of Dublin. I can see a case for including this on the map (Helps with orientation!); I can see a case for not including it (Clutters up the map!). What I can't see a case for is replacing the river with a confusing dotted line.

The interchange is baffling

Okay: if you want to change from the red to the green (blue) line, you will get off at Abbey Street, and walk to either O'Connell-GPO (to head in one direction) or Marlborough (to head in the other). You can see that from this monstrosity of an inset:

But which stop do you want for which direction? If you keep squinting long enough you can sort of see that the left hand line is northbound. But it's not obvious on the graphical map, and the geographical inset doesn't bother to make it any clearer.

What the hell is an interchange anyway?

Some stops are marked as interchanges because they're the point where two branches of the same line meet. That's not an interchange in the same way as Abbey Street, but I sort of see what they're up to.

But why is Sandyford an interchange?

Why is O'Connell Upper?

You can probably find out with long enough on Google (I got bored and gave up). But the point is you shouldn't have to. It should be clear from the map. What is going on?

Really, Dublin, you’re the capital of a bloody tiger economy, the city that's threatening to steal London's crown. Is this the best you can do?


Anyway, I'm going for a lie down.

Update: A number of correspondents have been in contact on the last point: both Sandyford and O'Connell Upper will be where some trams terminate, so you have to change trams. Which seems a funny definition of interchange.

Also, I can't vouch for this, but somebody tweeted to say that blue is a standard colour in Ireland for stuff under construction.

Still, though:

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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22 reasons the hyperloop and driverless cars don't mean we don't need HS2

Yeah, this is not real. Image: Hyperloop Transportation Technology.

I’m on holiday. Bloody hell, lads I’m literally on holiday. As I write I am on a high-speed train hurtling south through France to the Mediterranean. The last thing I should be doing right now is reading the dumb-ass tweets sent by an essentially irrelevant Tory MEP, let alone obsessing about them, let alone writing about the bloody things.

But it turns out 6.5 hours is quite long as train journeys go, and the fact I can take this journey at all is making me feel quite well disposed towards high-speed rail in general, and for heaven’s sake just look at it.

That Tweet links to Hannan’s Telegraph column, of which this is an excerpt:

Hyperloop may or may not turn out to be viable. Driverless cars almost certainly will: some of them are already in commercial use in the United States. So why is the Government still firehosing money at the rather Seventies idea of high-speed trains?

The short answer is that firehosing money is what governments do.

Well, no, that’s not the only reason is it? I can think of some others. For example:

1. Trains are faster than cars, driverless or otherwise.

2. High speed trains are faster still. Hence the name.

3. The biggest problem with cars as a form of mass transportation isn’t either pollution or the fact you have to do the driving yourself and so can’t do anything else at the same time (problems though those are). The biggest problem is that they’re an inefficient use of limited space. Trains not only move people faster, they take up less room while they do it. So driverless cars, marvellous though they may be, will not render the train redundant.

4. The hyperloop is still unproven, as Hannan himself admits, so the phrase “become a reality” seems just a teensy bit of a fib.

5. Honestly, nobody has ever travelled a single inch by hyperloop.

6. At the moment, like Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, it’s basically one big fever dream backed by an eccentric billionaire.

7. Frankly, I am pretty stunned to see one of Britain’s leading Brexiteers buying into a piece of fantastical utopian nonsense that would require detailed and complex planning to become a reality, but which is actually nothing more than a sketch on the back of a napkin.

8. (That last point was me doing a satire.)

9. Even if it happens one day, a hyperloop pod will carry a tiny fraction of the number of people a train can. So once again Hannan is defeated by his arch nemesis, the laws of space and time.

10. In other words, Hannan’s tweet translates roughly as, “Why is the government spending billions on this transport technology that actually exists, rather than alternatives which don’t, yet, and which won’t solve remotely the same problem anyway?”


11. High speed trains definitely exist. I’m on one now.

12. I really shouldn’t be thinking about either the hyperloop OR Daniel Hannan if I’m honest.

13. I wonder why the French are so much better at high speed trains than the British, and whether their comparative lack of whiny MEPs is a factor?

14. It feels somehow typical that even in a genuinely contentious argument (“Is HS2 really a good use of public money?”) when he has a genuinely good point to make (“The way the cost of major projects spirals during the planning stage is a significant public concern”), he still manages to come up with an argument so fantastically dim that bored transport nerds can spend long train journeys ripping it to shreds.

15. He could have gone with “let’s cancel HS2 and use a fraction of the saving to sort out the northern railway network”, but no.

16. Somehow I suspect he’s not really bothered about transport, he just wants to fight strawman about debt.

17. Also, of course we’re using debt to fund the first new national railway in a hundred years: what else are we going to do?

18. “Unbelievable that at a time when I need new shoes we are borrowing money to buy a house.”

19. Can I go back to my book now?

20. I said I was going to stop this, didn’t I.

21. This is a cry for help.

22. Please, somebody, stage an intervention.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.