I use Dublin Bus almost every day and, for the most part, it’s very reliable and easy to use with the wheelchair. Since 2013, every bus in their fleet is, in their own words, ‘equipped with low floor chassis, kneeling suspension to further reduce entry step height, retractable ramp at entrance and a priority space for wheelchair users as standard’. That means that the bus can lower if there’s a large distance from the path, there is an extendable ramp and a space for one wheelchair.
If you are new to your wheelchair or new to Dublin Bus, here’s what you need to know before you make your journey.
First of all, see if you are entitled to a Free Travel Pass. If you are, you get free travel with Dublin Bus, Luas, DART and Irish Rail, with some exceptions like the Nitelink or Airlink. It’s really handy, especially for the train as it’s so expensive, and it almost makes up for any transport issues that arise because of poor access, broken ramps or unmanned train stations. Almost.
On Dublin Bus’ site, they say that they will stop whenever they see a wheelchair but I wave it down just in case they don’t see me. If there are people waiting, I wait until last to get on and then wave or wink at the bus driver so they know to let the ramp down and lower the bus. 9 times out of 10 it works, so that’s good.
When the ramp is coming out, the heavenly and robotic voice of Dublin Bus goes “warning! wheelchair ramp opening”. She makes it very clear that the ramp is coming out and, yet, so many people stand on the ramp, sometimes causing it to freeze. Don’t do that. Listen to the heavenly and robotic voice of Dublin Bus and stop cocking up a very simple procedure.
However, if there’s already a wheelchair user on the bus, I will have to wait until the next bus as Dublin Bus only allows one wheelchair user on at a time. If there’s a buggy or a pram on the bus, it will have to be folded up to allow space for the wheelchair. That’s the rule. Drivers don’t always enforce this so, parents/babysitters/older siblings/uncles and or aunts, if you’re listening, fold up your damn buggies.
When you get on the bus, you either pay the fare or flash your Travel Pass, say thanks to the lovely bus driver and make your merry way to the space for the wheelchair, which is just beside the steps for the top deck. The protocol here is that you have to place the back of your wheelchair against a padded board so you’re facing everyone else on the bus. Let them absorb and admire the majesty of your face.
I generally keep a firm hand on my wheels and brakes just in case the bus takes any unexpected and sudden stops but it’s normally easy sailing. When you want to get off, there’s a blue button near the wheelchair space that sounds a different alarm that lets the bus driver know that you and your chair want to get off. If the bus is packed, you’ll have to use your top room voice or do your best Ludacris impression to clear the path. If the bus driver didn’t cop it that it was you who sounded the alarm, you’ll have to let them know to lower the bus and let the ramp down again.
Dublin Bus is fairly reliable but when the ramp doesn’t work or there’s already a wheelchair user on board, you will have to wait for the next bus to arrive. This always seems to happen when you’re in a rush, too. Depending on which route you live near, you could be waiting for another minute or another hour. It’s very important for Dublin Bus to check that the ramps work every day before they set off so that no one is left stranded or delayed.
It really is a great service and the fact that they made their entire fleet accessible is a huge achievement. Now, if only we could figure out a way to fit more than wheelchair on so two pals in wheelchairs don’t have to travel separately. That would be something.