— Councillors spoke both for and against the proposals.
— Parking Association object while DublinTown business group issue warning.
A plan to reduce the priority for cars in Dublin City Centre, while still allowing car access, has been outlined to Dublin City Council’s transport committee this afternoon.
The council again highlighted that its traffic data shows 60% of motor traffic in the core city centre is through traffic which is not stopping in the area. It also said that car and delivery access to city centre locations will be maintained.
The plan includes bus gates on Bachelor’s Walk and Aston Quay (local access only for private motorists), traffic northbound on Westland Row will have to turn right (public transport will be able to turn left), two-way traffic on Pearse Street, two options for the area around Custom House, Parliament Street to be made traffic-free once BusConnects allows it, and College Green to be made traffic-free east-west once BusConnects allows for it.
These measures are expected to reduce traffic in other areas and allow for further walking, cycling, bus and greenery improvements. As previously reported, the project is a Pathfinder project geared up for quick implementation with the goal of reducing carbon emissions.
The measures will be part of the revised Dublin City Centre Transport Plan — public consultation has gone live for the plan.
A number of images showing possible changes were presented to committee members, these were said to be a vision of what’s possible rather than firm plans.
Brendan O’Brien, head of traffic at Dublin City Council, said: “What we are proposing is revised traffic arrangements for the city centre, the reason for this is to both meet the targets set out by the Development Plan but also to allow our public transport network to grow — there’s significant investment is going into the BusConnects corridors, so, the idea of all the investment and not insuring that public transport can quickly navigate the city centre, that would be a waste of time and effort.”
“What we have done, we believe, is exactly what the city councillors voted for in the City Development Plan, to move towards these low-traffic environments… People may disagree with use but if you follow the logic of the City Development Plan as it is set out, these are the kinds of changes that are now our policy. Keeping the status quo is no longer part of the policy.”
He said the new plan follows the targets in the City Development Plan and that the reduction in private traffic will mainly fall on private cars as there’s less scope to reduce the number of deliveries and taxis.
O’Brien said that following the installation of bus priority measures on the quays in 2017, there are now only around 250 cars per hour at Bachelor’s Walk at peak times. For context, a single fully-loaded Luas Red Line tram carries 291 passengers, while a single Green Line tram carries up to 319 passengers.
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O’Brien said that the main changes could be implemented quickly using signs, traffic islands, road markings, and traffic lights. Most of these changes would use Section 38 of the Road Traffic Act, he said.
It was looked at making Westland Row bus only but the railway bridge is the only one in the area which allows trucks of legal height to pass under. This is why traffic using Westland Row northbound will have to make a right-hand turn, so, it us diverted away from the main bus routes.
O’Brien added that there used to be cars and buses on Grafton Streets and that shows change is possible. He added that some people give out about “tactical urbanism” — which is trying measures with simple materials before implementing more permanent designs, but “putting some chairs out” is exactly how Henry Street was first pedestrianised.
Hugh Creegan, the deputy CEO of the National Transport Authority, said that the plan should “really enhance” the city, but that it requires public support, including councillors selling the plan to people.
Creegan said: “In terms of the barrier to delivery, it really does boil down to the public and political acceptance. The funding will be there.”
Speaking to councillors and other committee members, he said: “It’s up to yourselves partly to buy into this and sell this, and it’s up to us to sell this over the next while. But it really is a truly transformative plan which, in our view, is going to enhance and improve the city in the years ahead.”
He said that public transport use in Dublin is now above pre-Covid, and that while the issue of hiring drivers is slowing the rollout of BusConnects route, this issue will be overcome and BusConnects will allow for more effective use of buses.
Councillors mostly welcome the plan
Cllr Janet Horner (Green) said: “It looks like a really exciting and ambitious plan which allows us to work towards that idea of a low traffic city or reduced traffic city which is much more liveable and accessible, a much more engaging city where people can walk and cycle safely, and where businesses can thrive where people can enjoy the city as opposed to the stressful, traffic-heavy backdrop that is the city at the moment.”
Cllr Michael Pidgeon (Green) said that “currently the quays don’t work for anybody” and that the plan looks like one of the most significant since Grafton Street.
Cllr Mannix Flynn (independent) — who is a serial objector to street changes which impact on cars, including taking the council to court over the Strand Road cycle route — said that the presentation on the plan had little mention of pedestrians, and instead, it was focused on cycling and buses. This is not true, O’Brien had repeatedly mentioned walking or pedestrians and shown images of extra public space.
He also claimed that Capel Street as it currently stands is “very confusing” and does not like cycling being allowed on the street.
Cllr Anne Feeney (FG) said that she worried that there were not enough buses.
Cllr Daniel Céitinn (Sinn Féin) said: “My initial reaction to this is quite positive, especially any measures that will reduce through traffic in the city centre are quite positive. Especially along Pearse Street, as we know the level of traffic is unhealthy and has a health impact on the people that live in that part of the city.”
However, he said he was concerned by the impact “back up the way” which he said was mentioned by other committee members. He said that obviously it is hoped some people would switch away from using their cars, he questioned where traffic would go.
Cllr Ray McAdam (FG) said: “It could be transformative for the entire city”. But he said: “If this is to become the policy of the council, there’s an onus on (the council) executive and the NTA to make sure that Dubliners are brought with us.”
Richard Guiney of business group Dublin Town — who previously engaged in making legal threats to the council over the car-free Capel Street — warned that the group’s “latest research” found there was lower support for sustainable transport.
“There’s a huge amount of detail to go through — we’re going to have to reduce the amount of vehicles in the city, that’s a given. We’re also going to have to bring people with us in this process and our latest research shows lower support for sustainable transport interventions,” said Guiney.
He called for a detailed workshop with the business community and said he’d have concerns about Parliament Street.
Keith Gavin, who heads the Irish Parking Association which represents car parks and a member of the committee, said he was “very concerned” about the plans which he called “populist in the current environment”. He said: “It’s the tyranny of the minority over” what he claimed was the “people who had no choice but to use their car in the city centre.”
Gary Kearney, a Public Participation Network member of the committee who has objected to a large number of sustainable transport schemes, claimed that traffic does not evaporate — however, data shows that 48% of cars evaporated from Dublin City Centre’s streets at peak times in two decades and the traffic evaporation effect is well-proven internationally.
Kearney, who is also a disability campaigner, used examples of how it would be hard for himself and others to walk far. He used examples where there are already tram and bus connections between such areas.
He claimed that it was “able travel” for people who can walk and cycle and said that “all the new buses would not make a major impact” for people with disabilities highlighting how there is only one wheelchair space on buses.
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