— Cllr claims Dublin cannot implement car restrictions to improve public transport service because public transport isn’t good enough.
A Dublin-based Labour Party councillor — who also supports legalising parking on footpaths — has started ramping up misinformation rhetoric against a key part of the infrastructure element of BusConnects in the South East Area of the city.
Bus gates are traffic reduction measures which give cycling, buses and taxis priority, while allowing local access to all areas by cars — private motor traffic only is restricted from going through the bus gate. It is intended that the BusConnects bus gates will be camera-enforced. The National Transport Authority is considering 24 hour bus gates, but it is unclear whether such will be in the final plans for the project.
At the South East Area committee of Dublin City Council, Cllr Mary Freehill (Labour) claimed that installation of a bus gate on the Rathmines Road would mean that people would be “completely blocked off” — which is untrue and thus is misinformation.
Cllr Freehill was strongly supported by Cllr Anne Feeney (Fine Gael) who also mentioned the planned Templeogue Road and Lower Kimmage Road bus gates. Cllr Feeney said that the council needs to “get their hands dirty on this” and TDs should intervene.
The Rathmines Initiative, which describes itself as a group of individuals from different backgrounds seeking to enhance the quality of life in the diverse community in Rathmines, said it supports the BusConnects proposals for Rathmines.
It said that bus gate should only operate for as long “during the time scheduled buses are running”. Although, Dublin is getting 24 hour bus services across the city — with route 15 through Rathmines already in place — and higher-frequency off peak and weekend bus services are in the process of being rolled out as part of BusConnects.
A submission on BusConnects by the Rathmines Initiative, said: “We reiterate our support for the Bus Connects project and the proposed Core Bus Corridor through Rathmines and welcome the significant improvements that have been achieved in the current proposals. We have noted further recommendations for improvements to ensure that the project successfully balances the needs of public transport users with the needs of other road users while protecting the special urban quality of Rathmines.”
The submission added: “We are concerned at growing opposition to the project which has arisen, in part, due to a lack of detailed information in some areas and in part due to a sense that there has been insufficient opportunity to engage directly with the NTA and the design team.”
It is understood that Cllr Freehill is involved in Rathmines Initiative, but where there is not full consensus that the group comes to a position by a majority agreeing.
Dublin Commuter Coalition, a sustainable transport advocacy group, said that if councillors request information from the National Transport Authority (NTA) that they will get a “personalised response”.
Kevin Carter, chairperson of the Dublin Commuter Coalition, said: “Our local representatives have easy access to the most detailed of information when it comes to these projects. They need only request an answer to a question, and they will receive a personalised response from the National Transport Authority. It is incredulous, therefore, that any would resort to spreading misinformation when the correct info is so easily available to them.”
Carter added: “As time goes on however, one must consider if these objections based on falsehoods are being used to cover more selfish objections.”
At a local area committee meeting on July 12, Cllr Mary Freehill (Labour) said: “This is about the suggestion that the bus gate on Rathmines Road be 24/7, which I think is quite excessive. It’s an issue that an awful lot of various communities in Rathmines are very concerned about. It was probably highlighted by the people in Grove Park because they are going to find it extremely difficult to access their homes because of all of this.”
However, the fact is that the BusConnects plans do not include restrictions on Grove Park directly. Residents there — just like everybody else — will just not be able to drive through the bus gate. Areas on both sides of the short bus gate will be accessible by car, motorists who continue to drive can drive around the area covered.
“There’s a need for a bus gate at very busy times, there’s certainly no need for a bus gate at one o’clock in the morning, there’s no need for a bus gate on Saturday or Sunday,” she Freehill.
Measures such as bus gates have been shown to overall reduce motor traffic, but their opponents often claim that traffic will be diverted and dismiss traffic reduction as theory even after it has happened in Dublin again and again. Cllr Freehill said: “It’s [the plan is] excessive. The report [from council officials] here says that you can go around by Ranelagh — that’s precisely what’s happening in Ranelagh at the moment, various associations are all coming together because they are concerned for Ranelagh with the consequences of the traffic diverting there.”
“The people in Rathmines are concerned with the survival of small businesses — I mean, would you come to Rathmines any more to do your weekly shop if there’s such a difficulty in being able to get through?” she said. The proposed bus gate will not restrict motorists who are accessing Rathmines shopping centre, Lidl, Aldi, and Tesco from the south, or from the east or west south of the bus gate location.
In an unclear reference, Cllr Freehill said: “Amsterdam, I remember, at one stage admitted that they went for an overkill [on car restrictions] and they have a hell of a lot better of public transport than BusConnects is going to give us. So, I think we have to be very careful that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
This reference is unclear because no detail was given as to when the Dutch capital “admitted” such and Amsterdam in fact continues to restrict car use in its city. In the last few years measures include further restrictions on through travel by car in its city centre, further narrowing the space for cars, a large Low Emission Zone which excludes older cars, and a plan to systematically remove parking spaces.
Cllr Freehill claimed: “We really do need to address the suggestion of a 24 hours, seven days a week bus gate where there can be no movement. How are people going to get to the church? How are funerals going to get? How are weddings going to get? They are going to be completely blocked off.” As covered before: This is untrue, nobody will be completely blocked off.
Cllr Anne Feeney (Fine Gael) said: “I would like to support Cllr Freehill in relation to this. Particularly to have a review of it based on data modelling.”
“In relation to the 24/7 bus gates, it’s a case I have made in relation to Templeogue Road bus gate in terms of what that will do to Terenure village, and to the Lower Kimmage Road bus gate as well. Both of which are suggested to be 24/7,” she said.
“If we’re talking in Dublin, I know Dublin City Council don’t want to get involved or want to leave it to the NTA or whatever, but if we’re talking about having vibrant urban villages, we have to be involved with this. This has impacts for Terenure, Kimmage, Rathgar, Rathmines, all of our urban villages on the west side of Dublin South East,” said Cllr Feeney.
She added: “I would urge that Dublin City Council would get their hands dirty on this [against the 24/7 bus gates], and that our Dáil representatives would also get hugely involved with it over the coming months because this is very important for our area — for commuters, but also for the urban villages and residents.”
Cllr Tara Deacy (Social Democrats) said that a lot of councillors have received representations on 24/7 bus gates and that it’s a concern. She said there needs to be better engagement.
She said that she understands that meetings take place regularly between Dublin City Council and NTA officials, but that there is a lack of clarity of what is discussed between them in the meetings.
Cllr Deirdre Conroy (FF) claimed that councillors we not getting information on the project.
Cllr Pat Dunne (Independents 4 Change) said that the NTA has told councillors that BusConnects will be going to An Bord Pleanála with the BusConnects plans this month or next month.
He said that regardless of whether the bus gates were 24 hours or just peak time that monitoring of the traffic flow post implementation of the bus gates was important, especially to monitor for effects such as potential rat running. He said that Hugh Creegan, Deputy Chief Executive at the NTA, has given a verbal agreement that such monitoring.
Cllr Dermot Lacey (Labour) said that he was not going to add to the debate except for a comment on transport agencies.
He said: “As I’ve repeatedly said we have 63 statutory agencies responsible for transport in Dublin, that’s why we have a mess. Until we have a single Dublin transportation authority, with some degree of democratic control, we will continue to have all the different agencies fighting for what’s best for the agencies, very few people fighting for what’s best for the public.”
London has a far more centralised transport authority, Transport for London, which is controlled by the directly elected Mayor of London and oversight is given by the London Assembly. London also still has councillors and other politicians who call fight tooth and nail against projects which restrict car use.
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