Some time ago, I had reason to stay overnight in Malahide, North Dublin City. The drive into town the next morning took about an hour, a distance of fifteen kilometers.
But the bus from Malahide to the city takes 30 minutes. This is because of the provision of a bus lane on this wide three-laned road, (either way), and it runs for almost the full length of the journey. Sitting stationary in your car in one of the other two jammed up lanes, you watch jealously as yet another double-decker whizzes by and disappears off into the distance. Big wide multi-lane roads lend themselves to bus lanes and they are a fabulous idea there.
On the other hand, the distance from my home in Mayfield to Cork City Centre is five kilometers. For most of it, it is barely a single lane in either direction. In one part of it, cars are allowed to park down one side which leaves a single lane road for use in both directions. However, there is one stretch of that road that widens for approximately point-four of a kilometer, about long enough for a bus to find third gear. You guessed it, they made that one tiny part a shagging bus lane!!!
Even in that point-four of a kilometer of wide road, there are two bus stops. The bus lane does not even cut a single second from the bus journey time to the city. How is this remotely possible that public money is shelled out on a venture that makes no sense before you even begin? It is not as if there could have been much doubt about the outcome even before the surveyors arrived. This pathetically short bus lane was never going to achieve the objective for which it was designed. It could not possibly shorten journey times for its bus passengers. It was a waste of taxpayer’s money, pure and simple.
But what it did do was to confuse the fuck out of us motorists. Where once the white line used to run down the centre of the road, now on the journey into town, oncoming traffic had nowhere to go but across that white line and into your face. They actually took one half of the wide section of road for a sole bus and the other half was split between outgoing and incoming traffic AND the parked cars. It is positively dangerous and a helluva challenge if you’ve never driven up here before.
Of course, you will never find out how much this unnecessary and dangerous mistake cost the taxpayer to put in place. When you factor in the professional fees involved, the work teams and equipment to paint the lines, the signage that was erected and cemented into the footpaths and the hours of administrative sweat it cost, you are probably looking at a quarter of a million quid and all of that to achieve no positive outcome. What absolutely gormless twit in Cork Corporation was behind this wasteful stupidity? Well, you’ll never find that out either. Bureaucracy doesn’t do transparency, it talks about it instead. Bureaucracy doesn’t do accountability either, lest the whole shower of them end up out of a job and forever unemployable.
I often think about this when “Book of estimates” time rolls around and the City Fathers are obliged to make public what they need from us money-wise to run the place next year. I have no doubt that, ‘Mayfield bus-lane style mistakes,’ are made all over the city every year, possibly running to millions of wasted euros annually. There is that other elephant in the room as well and that is, if you didn’t spend all of last year’s budget, then next year’s goes DOWN by that amount. Imagine that. If you saved the taxpayer money last year you’ll be penalized for it next year. Maybe that’s why Mayfield got its shiny new bus lane one year. Unspent budget money lying around threatening the gravy train due after Christmas.
Don’t laugh though because that is the incredible reality of public service in Ireland today.