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Leap Card: First Impressions

The Leap Card is Transport for Ireland‘s integrated public transport card for Dublin. It allows you to use Dublin Bus, the Luas and the Dart without having to fish in your pocket for change.  It’s Dublin’s answer to the Oyster card.

I love the Oyster card. It’s ones of the things that excites me about visiting London: I get to make use of this fully integrated system that seems to have been designed by someone with actual common sense; it has made the experience of working with London’s bewildering (compared to Dublin) public transport infrastructure a little less confusing. It has eliminated the old “Will I get a daily travel card or not? How much are bus-fares anyway?” question that I had to deal with every time I took public transport in London.  It also means that you never have to fiddle in your pocket to find change when getting on a bus.  You can only imagine my delight when I found out that something similar was coming for Dublin.

Yesterday morning, I had to head in to the city centre to pick up my bike.  I had no change.  I thought to myself “Aha! This is a perfect excuse to pick up a leap card.”.  So I went to the local newsagent and picked one up.  The woman behind the counter asked “do you know how this works?”.  I said “em, no, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out”. I paid, went outside and hopped on the first bus that came by.  I put my card on the ticket machine and announced my destination.  The driver pressed a button, and then looked bemused.  He said “hold on there a minute, I’ve never used one of these things before.”.  I stood aside and let all the other passengers get sorted out, and then the driver asked me to put my card on the machine again, and he poked a few buttons to see what was what.  It turns out there was no credit on the card to start off with.  That’s fair enough.  I’d gotten change from buying the card, so I paid my fare, and away I went.

I got to the office, and I went online to register my card and top it up. Registering your card means that in the event you lose your card, you don’t lose your credit.  It also means that the operator can track you in a rather Orwellian manner, but fuck that, I love me some convenience.  I applied a €20 top up, and clicked a button saying that I would pick it up by swiping at a red-line Luas stop.  At lunch, I trundled up the road to the Luas stop and put my card in the ticket machine.  It told me that my card was inactive and I should call the helpline.  I did so, and spoke to a lovely guy named John.  Unfortunately, John wasn’t able to help me, but he did arrange a call-back.

Later that day, the call-back came.  I have to go back to the newsagent and get my card activated.  I’m going to do that this morning on the way to work.

So all in all, the only problems I’ve had so far with the Leap Card is that no one knows how to use the fecking thing.  I kinda anticipated some teething problems with the system, but I didn’t expect it to take 24 hours and a return to the point of purchase on my part to get it sorted.  I thought the point of a “Smart” card is that it’s centrally managed, and can be controlled from the back-office.  Once I get thing working, I may share more.

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