How did the media report on Dublin City Centre’s radical new Traffic Plan?

Comment & Analysis: The changes planned for Dublin City Centre are billed as one of the most radical since Grafton Street was pedestrianised (aka the “car ban” was implemented). So, how did the media report the Dublin City Centre Traffic Plan? As you might have guessed it, the majority of news outlets focused on negative, car-focused framing.

The majority of commuters and shoppers who visit Dublin City Centre do so by sustainable transport (mainly buses). Yet why is there always a car-focus on a plan to free up space and priority for those buses, as well as for walking, cycling, trams and more public space in what is the most densely populated area of the country?

There was widespread mention of car bans but while most reports outlined greater bus priority, the sense that the changes are needed to get buses flowing thought the city centre wasn’t really expressed much or at least not very strongly.

How the media frame a story — in other words, what slant they take on an issue or from what perspective they focus on — can have a large impact on how people and politicians perceive a plan. It’s an indictment that framing of this story by RTE, The Irish Times, Irish Independent and the Examiner is all negative in their headlines and they are collectively not much better than shock-jock radio NewsTalk or the red top tabloid The Sun in how they report the issue.

A notable exception of all media outlets was TheJournal.ie which ran with one of the more neutral headlines: “Traffic to be diverted from congested quays under proposed rehaul of Dublin city centre roads” and the standfirst “Transport officials have devised a draft plan aimed at reducing traffic congestion in the capital.”

Their first paragraph mentioned diverting cars from the quays and “dedicating more space to bus and cycle lanes”. TheJournal.ie included elements which were common to other articles but also included a link to the consultation and later in the article, they also linked the plan — which is a Pathfinder project to speed up carbon emission reductions — to climate action. Something most media outlets fail to mention.

While this article is mainly focused on text-based article, another honourable mention to due to Shane Coleman, a presenter on NewsTalk:

The main newspapers and RTE all ran with the mention of car ban from areas — which can be seen as misleading as while through-traffic will be blocked and access modified, motorists will still be able to access at least most streets that they are currently able to park or generally access. Although some new streets will become car-free, that’s not truly a ban from any area.

The Irish Times’ combination of headlines and standfirst is one of the most brazenly negative: “Plan proposes most radical restriction of private traffic in Dublin city for decades” and “Cars to be banned from more areas to allow extra space for cyclists, pedestrians and public transport”.

That hyperbole was topped by outright misinformation from NewsTalk’s opening paragraph: “The Quays in Dublin are set to close to car traffic under new proposals from the City Council.” Although their headline was more colour than full-on negative: “The days of driving along The Quays are over’ – New traffic plan unveiled for Dublin”.

RTE also reported that “Draft plan would see cars banned from parts of Dublin city” — again, this isn’t really accurate. Unlike the others we should maybe expect more from RTE, yet there was no mention of this as part of climate action.


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The Irish Independent‘s online headline states “Two-thirds of cars to be banned from Dublin’s inner city in new transport plan”.

Although like most of the others, the Independent’s first paragraph is a bit more balanced with “A radical new transport plan for Dublin aims to take two out of three cars off the streets and dramatically increase space for pedestrians, public transport and cyclists.”

The second paragraph however declares that “The entire city centre would be be made a low-traffic zone” — this is not totally accurate because the city centre is defined as the area between the canals and there would still be an orbital traffic route in that area, and it’s generally douthful that the plan will make the entire city centre low-traffic.

The Irish Examiner — which is owned by the Irish Times — also went with the negative car ban approach “Radical plan proposes banning cars from some parts of Dublin city”.

The Sun newspaper also doesn’t hold back with the headline “CITY CHANGES Major blow for motorists as radical new transport plan for Dublin aims to ban cars and remove parking spaces” and the misleading first paragraph: “CARS would be barred from the quays and all traffic taken off College Green under new plans proposed to Dublin City councillors today” — cars will not be barred from all of the quays and the College Green bus gate is already 24/7.

5 comments

  1. Excellent precis, Cian. I thought the recent IT op piece presenting two different views from Dublin Town and a Climate Activist on congestion charges was pretty good though. Obvs the eds wanted to stoke up a culture war but in fact both people (including the guy from Dublin Town) agreed on the need to reduce congestion and bring in better joined up public transport.

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  2. ‘Diverted from’ is probably the most realistic, practical unused option- which begs the question where the traffic will be diverted to… which as per usual hasn’t been thought about yet, but will be reacted too ‘after’ the plan is implemented no doubt. Until they bring in an actual congestion charge really they’re just moving the problem around the city.

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  3. What people tend to overlook is that traffic is not subject to the same rules that normally govern flow in physics. People are rational beings and will modify their route, choose to postpone their journey or choose a different transport mode if necessary. Here is a good article on this phenomenon and how it applies to Dublin from a few years back:

    https://dublininquirer.com/2017/05/17/david-so-where-will-all-the-city-centre-traffic-go/

    Another interesting article here:

    https://thecityfix.com/blog/traffic-evaporation-what-really-happens-when-road-space-is-reallocated-from-cars/

    Reply
    • @aka — because people think traffic evraption is fiction or claim it is because they don’t want it to be real be cause it does not suit their argument.

      It’s worth saying that sustainable transport supporters also sometimes don’t get it or the level to which it is possible (especially in a city centre location), it’s not just people who are fully against changes.

      Reply

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