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On a private road through North Dublin housing estates, residents dream of a bus service

Getting out of the Northwood Estates can be a pain, says Danielle Itodo, halfway down Northwood Avenue on Monday, a shopping bag in her hand. “It’s such a long walk.”

From her home in Temple Court, it takes up to 15 minutes on foot to get to Swords Road, an even less pleasant journey on a rainy day like today.

Northwood Estates sits just below the M50, a patchwork of housing estates and apartment complexes in Santry, built in the 2000s and 2010s.

It also has a retail park, with big box stores like Homebase, Lidl and Mr Price, and a McDonald’s, plus a strip of smaller stores like Northwood Dry Cleaners, McCabes Pharmacy and Costa Coffee. But also, scattered throughout the estate, restaurants, hotels, offices, a gym and a retirement home.

Northwood Avenue, a two-way carriageway winds its way through the neighborhood, joining all these amenities, running from Ballymun Road in the west to Swords Road in the east.

What Northwood lacks, locals say, is a bus service that runs through it, leaving them to walk to either of the two major causeways that line the neighborhood to hop on a bus into town.

Changes under BusConnects’ plans to revamp the city’s bus network would mean new bus service that would dip into the east end of Northwood – but running along the entire avenue would do a lot more big difference, say some residents.

NTA spokesperson Kim Buckley said: ‘We are aware of some requests for bus service further into Northwood and are reviewing what options may exist for this.

A complicating factor could be that Northwood Avenue is actually a private road, owned by Northwood Management Company.

A long walk

Anna Banach, holding open the door to her building in Temple Court, says considering the walk from her house, waiting for the lights to change on Swords Road and a cushion just in case, getting into ** ** the bus can take almost 20 minutes.

“It depends on how fast you are. If you are young and walk fast, yes, it is better. But imagine someone walking slowly, a buggy,” she says.

Fifteen minutes is a long walk to get to a bus stop, says Luís Ferreira, who lives in Cedarview, another Northwood estate.

When it rains, he says, you get there wet. “And then you have to wait.”

Itodo says the length of the road is not just a problem for taking the bus. She has friends there but they may still seem far away.

“If I want to meet my friends, they have to walk here, or I have to walk down,” she said, from outside Temple Court, pointing to the bend in the road, towards Swords Road.

It also interferes with her night outings, she says, as she has to take an elevator rather than the bus. “I would have to walk all that at night, that’s not it. It’s just a little scary, and it’s just a long walk.

The nearly two-mile length of Northwood Avenue means it’s difficult to even get around the estate without a car, Banach says.

Shopping is difficult, even with a pulley cart, she says. “If you don’t have a car, it’s a nightmare. People have to take a taxi. It is too far.”

She tried to go shopping once and walk back, she said. “I stopped every few minutes, thinking, when will I be home?”

Northwood Ave. Photo by Claudia Dalby.

Also, most of the closest schools are in Ballymun, she says. “You will need at least half an hour to walk to the nearest school from here.”

Many people use the buses on nearby main roads, says Temple Court resident John Diamond.

You can see them around 8 a.m. on Northwood Avenue, Diamond says. “You see loads of people walking along the road to catch the bus into town.”

Ann Graves, Sinn Féin councilor for Fingal County Council, said residents badly needed a bus service along Northwood Avenue. “Even though it’s a local connection, to get people from Northwood to where they can get another bus,” she said.

According to BusConnects Choice Report prepared by Jarret Walker and Associates in 2017 for the NTA.

Areas that are denser and more walkable – meaning more direct walking routes and safer road crossings – are likely to have higher bus usage, according to the report.

According to the NTAsWalking and cycling index 202181% of people in the greater Dublin area live within 400 meters of a bus stop, which according to one 2012 studyis a five minute walk away.

On the table

East of Northwood Estates, several bus routes – the 16, 16D, 27B, 33 and 41 (plus 41B, 41 C and 41D services) – sweep Swords Road.

To the west of the neighborhood along Ballymun Road there are three other routes: 4, 13 and 155. To the south, the new N6 service runs along Santry Avenue.

As part of the plans for BusConnects, the redesign of the National Transport Authority (NTA) bus network, which it is gradually rolling out, the Santry area is to be served by the E-spine.

E1 service should start near the western end of Northwood Avenue at the roundabout nearest Ballymun Road, approximately 250 yards from the entrance.

“The E-Spine is currently scheduled for launch in Q3 2023,” said NTA spokesperson Kim Buckley. “This date is indicative until our detailed planning phase is complete.”

Banach at Temple Court says walking to the E1 road will be better but not great. “I don’t know if that would help much,” she said. “Of course, it would be nice to walk for a few minutes.”

From some Temple Court apartments, Google Maps estimates the roundabout to be a 1.1 mile walk.

More ideal for her though, she says — and for Northwood residents living farther east along the road — would be bus service that resumes all the way down Northwood Avenue, she says.

Cedarview resident Ferreira agrees. “If it crossed all of Northwood Avenue, it would be better, to serve everyone,” he said.

According to 2016 census, 4,787 people lived in the Northwood area – and they expect more neighbors. There are town planning requests before An Bord Pléanala, for 268 apartments built for rent and 255 apartments.

Theresidential travel plan for Whitehaven, one of the developments awaiting a planning decision, lists the BusConnects E-spine and the long-delayed Metrolink – an underground metro linking the city center to the airport past Northwood – as transport options for future residents.

There will be a carpooling system and parking spaces will be limited, the plan says, “with reduced reliance on private cars for travel”.

But a lot of people are driving in Northwood right now, says Temple Court resident Diamond.

At Cedarview, an estate in Northwood, the management company has blocked cars parked on the road, while residents say there are not enough parking spaces and/or public transport options.

Diamond says trying to get home from the bus on Ballymun and Swords Road if you’re coming back from town isn’t easy. “The bus is on the other side of a dual carriageway so you have to cross that.”

It’s pedestrian-unfriendly, he says, and a closer bus stop would solve that problem. “It would be much better and safer, and it would make public transport more attractive, if it actually started in Northwood.”

“I know people who drive for this very reason, and sometimes drive to maybe Glasnevin, park the car, then take the bus,” he says.

A private road

Diamond thinks the reason the E1 doesn’t go further into Northwood Avenue is because the road is private property.

Buckley, the NTA spokesman, said the NTA would need permission to operate a bus service there. “Since it’s a private road,” she said, without giving further details.

The NTA did not respond to questions asking whether it had asked Northwood Management Company – which the council says owns the road – if it could operate a bus route along Northwood Avenue.

Northwood Management Company did not respond to questions sent Friday asking if it had been approached by the NTA to provide bus service along Northwood Avenue, or if it had asked the NTA to put bus service there.

Roundabout on Northwood Avenue where E1 service is proposed to terminate. Photo by Claudia Dalby.

The usual process for a private road to become public is that when a residential development is carried out, the developer or most owners ask the local council to take over the development.

The council must take it on if asked to do so, a Fingal County Council spokesman said. Taking charge of the road means the council controls its operation, maintenance and upkeep of roads, lighting and similar services, they said.

The spokesman said: ‘Council has not been asked to take the road by the developer.

Diamond says it doesn’t make sense that the road isn’t public property because the public uses it.

Ferreira says he wouldn’t mind paying the maintenance fee, which he has to pay as the owner at the moment to the management company, if only Northwood residents were using the road .

But although there are barriers and a security hut, no one is prohibited from using the road, he says. “There is no private security screening at all.”

Diamond says: “It is used as a local traffic route. At this point, we’re paying double tax, because we’re paying management to, you know, ostensibly take care of the road and so on. But we already pay local property taxes to do this stuff.

Diamond says he would like residents to vote for Northwood Avenue to be taken over by council.

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