BusConnects continues to plan road expansion in Dublin’s inner city under guise of bus priority

— Scherzer rolling lift bridges to be moved to install new bridges for freer-flowing traffic.
— Rather reduce space for cars, pedestrian space is planned to be narrowed, removed, redirected.

As climate scientists and campaigners are calling for a rapid ramp-up of action on climate change, Ireland’s National Transport Authority is continuing to plan road expansion in Dublin’s City Centre under the guise of bus priority.

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The NTA has just submitted its planning permission application for the Ringsend to City Centre Core Bus Corridor Scheme to An Bord Pleanála. It includes the north and south quays in the Docklands

Rather than following international examples such as London, Utrecht, Ghent, or Paris which have provided space for sustainable transport by reducing car space and priority, the Ringsend to City Centre Core Bus Corridor Scheme includes expanding road space by replacing historic bridges and eating into pedestrian spaces, including on the Campshires along the quays.

IMAGE: The project includes a number of examples of sub-standard widths for walking and cycling.

“July has been so hot scientists are already confident it is the warmest month ever” reported Sky News last week, and the BBC reported how “July is ‘virtually certain’ to be the world’s warmest month on record”. But the National Transport Authority’s focus on road expansion in BusConnects — which is planned to take years to implement — is continuing.

Most of the media has focused on how this will affect suburban homeowners’ gardens and driveways. But little attention has been paid to how the BusConnects on different routes impact footpaths, cycle lanes and other public spaces, even within city centre areas.

Cycle paths will also be improved but a lot of the space for this will be done by using what is currently pedestrian space, and the plan includes attracting more cyclists into already contested areas such as the shared space at the southeast corner of the Samuel Beckett Bridge.

Rather than reducing space or priority for cars and reconfiguring traffic routes, pedestrian space is planned to be narrowed, removed, and redirected onto boardwalks over the River Liffey.

The plan includes horizontally moving the double sets of Scherzer rolling lift bridges on the north quays which are located at the mouth of George’s Dock and the mouth of the Royal Canal. The new layout has the Scherzer bridges as walking and cycling space flanking a new bridge in the centre to allow for continuous bus and traffic lanes at each of the locations.

Indented bus bays are proposed on part of the north quays which will further eat into public space — this is an approach which was originally planned for the Clontarf to City Centre bus and cycle route but was abandoned when it became problematic for space for walking and cycling.

The indented bus bays, in this case, will be for regional or long-distance coaches to stop while not blocking local bus routes. At the junction with Commons Street one of these “coach stops” is planned — the project drawing claims it will “Remove existing loading bay & replace with coach stop” but, when the drawing is compared with the current layout, the footpath space to be removed is larger than the loading bay space.

As with much of BusConnects, the length of pedestrian crossings is to be extended — longer crossing distances are associated with increased risk and less accessibility. The general width of crossings on the north quays in the Docklands will be five lanes wide, including the width of a two-way cycle path. But beside the ‘coach bay’ at Commons Street, the width will be equivalent to six traffic lanes wide.

IMAGE: The layout at Commons Street including ‘coach stops’.

The report on the ‘Consideration of Reasonable Alternatives‘ outlines: “Demand management can take many different forms from restricting car movement or car access through regulatory signage and access prohibitions, to parking restrictions, to fiscal measures such as tolls, road pricing, congestion charging, fuel/vehicle surcharges and similar.”

The report states that “In advance of a significant uplift in overall public transport capacity in the Dublin Metropolitan Area, the implementation of major demand management measures across that area would be unsuccessful” — this however is a false chicken and egg situation. The statement also said that the public transport system would need extra capacity first, implying wrongly that demand management could not play a part in boosting capacity.

It continues: “Instead, the capacity of the public transport system needs to be built up in advance of, or in conjunction with, the introduction of major demand management measures in the Dublin Metropolitan Area. This is especially true in the case of the bus system where a major increase in bus capacity through measures such as the Proposed Scheme would be required for the successful implementation of large scale demand management initiatives.”

The last quote is dismissive of demand management measures mentioned in the first quote — ie “different forms from restricting car movement or car access through regulatory signage and access” which could include localised or wider one-way systems or bus-only sections of streets. Such systems could provide more continuous bus lanes on the north or south quays in the Docklands but are not explored in the report.


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3 comments

  1. Bus Connects will deprive my area of any direct link to the City Centre. Dublin Bus and connecting buses really don’t go together even where traffic is light. Pedestrians have it bad enough with this penny pinching thing at junctions of four roads of only having pedestrian crossings at maybe two of the roads. Given the low, low standards with road works in the city centre, it would also just result in the city centre looking even more ragged.

    Reply
  2. @Cian, I’m sure you’ve seen this: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/aug/04/uk-must-follow-europe-lead-prioritising-walking-cycling-public-transport
    Bus Connects feels very unjoined-up.
    I love your posts, Cian, they are so informative and thorough. I wonder how possible it would be to do a series about parts of our cities where the cycling / walking infrastructure feel safer. Even if they are not continuous it would be great to have a reference of where it’s easier to travel sustainably. Like an alternative virtual map. It might help in energising the things most of your readers and certainly I want to see happen?

    Reply
  3. For me Bus Connects has been a major disappointment simply because the NTA and the funder of it all, the Department of Transport, did not set cycling priority at the outset as a clear policy, unlike the approach Mayor Hidalgo has taken in Paris. A clear policy statement that her city will prioritise cycling and walking.
    The NTA gave in to tree-huggers who were blatantly using that as a fig leaf to preserve private car parking along their streets.
    What is now being set in stone on these routes will not be alterable in my lifetime.

    Reply

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