Dublin Area Rapid Transit connects Malahide and Howth in the north of Dublin to Bray and Greystones in the south. Running along the eastern coast of the city, it offers a quick, comfortable, and scenic ride. The DART line is part of the LEAP system, an electronic card system of easily paying fares on DART, Dublin Bus, and LUAS (streetcar system) transport lines.
The DART's route going along the coast, dipping into the city, and returning to the coast offers some rather nice sightseeing. Many Dublin visiting guides recommend a ride on the train just to get a good look at the "gritty" (read: dodgy) side of the city and the coastal beauty north and south of town. I would also recommend this cheap sightseeing ride, especially if planning a day in Dun Laoghaire or the aforementioned Howth.
The DART train cars are clean and comfortable, and each upcoming stop is announced in English and Irish- unlike most Dublin Bus vehicles. Announcing stops is a critical feature for visitors and tourists, and the reason I recommend visitors to use the DART and not Dublin Bus to get around. Visitors don't know what Baggot Street looks like from a bus window, but they can certainly listen to and read the clearly stated, "Next station, Blackrock, Stáisiún Aghaidh na Carraige Duibhe" as they make the final approach.
...Now let's talk about getting around. Check the map above. Look at all those convenient stops! All the way up the coast from the farthest south suburbs to the very northern edge of Dublin's urban sprawl. What's that? You don't live (or your hotel isn't) close one of these stops? Well... tough toenails, I guess.
That's a big limit to this great system. If your departure or destination isn't on the eastern edge of Dublin, be prepared to walk or switch transport lines. See the airport symbol on the north edge of the map? Wouldn't it be nice if such an inexpensive and convenient line had a stop at the airport? Guess it wasn't to be with this line. Maybe next time they build a commuter train line...
What about City Centre? The DART does have stops at Pearse (south of the river) and Connolly (north) stations near the central hub of the city. It's handy to get to- but not around in- City Centre. Better catch a bus or wear your walking shoes. Keep your heels and dress shoes in your briefcase.
Stop Whining!I can't imagine the challenges involved in planning and building an above-ground rail system in an already established thousand-year-old city. Obtaining the land, leveling the (probably historic) buildings and roads for construction, and building the stations, switchyards, and other infrastructure must be incredibly difficult. It's probably a wonder this was built in the first place.
In general, the public transport system here does have a very pieced together feel to it. Much as I love Dublin and Ireland, I feel I must be honest for any potential visitors reading this post. Having one north-south train line (DART), an east-west(ish) streetcar system (LUAS), and an intimidating and expensive bus system serving the city can really scare any potential travelers, especially visitors. Some trips from corner to corner of Dublin might require a ride on DART followed by one (or two!) buses each way.
The three systems are tied together with the LEAP card, but that has some head scratching limits. Paying with the card does save on cash fares, but bus or train transfers are not included. Have to switch buses to get to your location? Be ready to pay for two full fares. Got a bus ride to the LUAS station? Get that e-wallet out for two tickets.
Like anything, the system takes some acclimation and careful planning to use and navigate successfully. Like many systems that feel pieced together to Americans, it perform its function just fine. People here still find ways to get to and from work. I guess Dublin has some growing to do before it would be feasible to build something like London's famous Underground system.
...And it will always be better than the no ticket checking, no stop announcing, no idea where I am, few stations near important sights, hold on to your possessions systems we used in Rome and Naples...