Galway Chamber CEO claims Gluas would only be a “solution for a small group”, but is that true?

— Galway could be amazingly served by one tram line.

Comment & Analysis: Kenneth Deery, CEO of Galway Chamber, a business lobby group, has posted on LinkedIn that a Galway Luas would be only a “solution for a small group”, but is that true?

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His main post was about how the group was off to Brussels to make the case for Galway’s bypass to Irish MEPs at the European Parliament. Presumably to the EU as well.

“Government policy supports this project” said Deery when it’s not clear if it really does in terms of funding or climate commitments which cannot be brushed away by saying cars will be electric as the Galway Chamber has tried to.

He also mentions that An Bord Pleanála are adjudicating on the project right now. So, why are they in Europe this week? The most likely reason is to seek help with the pricetag which is likely already well exceeding €1 billion.

€1 billion is some price tag for a second bypass for a city with a population of just 85,910 people (Census 2022. Would developing Galway around sustainable transport be a better idea with a tram as the spine of that? Because with €1 billion on a road, there will be no funding for Galway realistically left over for public transport of any substance.

As an aside: I say a second bypass because Galway’s first bypass is still in place — it’s four lanes from the east side of the city all the way over to the Browne Roundabout where the bypass traffic splits in two directions. None of these roads could be described as streets, and, with the exception of small sections, the roads have very few homes or businesses fronting them.

ALSO READ: Galway needs to overcome the idea you need more roads before anything else changes.

When the Galway Luas or GLUAS as locals like to call it was brought up, Deery said: “Thank you for bringing the proposed GLUAS up. It certainly has the potential to be a part of a solution for a small group of one of the constituencies mentioned. That’s all though! It’s important that’s made clear.”

The data from reports from Galway City Council and Galway County Council show that the majority of trips in the city by car start and end in the city, and only 3% of trips are pure bypass traffic which could not avail of park and ride:

In his reply, Deery added: “Other cities with larger populations than Galway have struggled with these type of solutions on the basis of commercial viability, as it’s only a linear point to point solution. Could be a part of the overall but alas that’s all. The business community broadly support the feasibility, but it ain’t near a solution I’m afraid.”

But the thing about the shape of the urban area of Galway is that its layout is very much suited to one line — it would be amazingly served by one tram line and buses could fill in the rest. A linear point-to-point solution.

So, I got the Crayons out (a term for a non-professional drawing up a public transport route) and came up with a route that would serve a high percentage of residential areas, a higher percentage of employment areas, the city centre, the train station, and even a link to Oranmore.

Ok, the link to Oranmore is a bit cheeky in terms of the likely viability of a tram line. But just like the real justification of a new bypass is to open up new areas to mostly car-dependent housing, a tram route in Galway would be dependent on growing the city but by increasing housing density in planned housing areas (ie to the east of Doughiska) and around the city like some radical ideas such as transforming the Galway Golf Club and some of the surface car parking on the Headford Road into housing.

The route here is imagined as a modern European tram which would look like a Luas tram but with fewer stops and a higher degree of segregation from traffic than much of the Luas network.

The trams should be the exact same as whatever trams Luas in Dublin will be using when the next order is made, while the length of the trams would be tailored to Galway. Looking at what is called very light rail trams is well-meaning but self-defeating — extra risk, cost and complexity.

Below is just a crude measure of how an 800m catchment would cover a large percentage of Galway including a large number of residential areas, workplaces, venues, campuses etc — of course some work would need to be done on permeability to allow for access from some housing estates to tram stops etc. But roughly, an average adult could reach stops in around 10 minutes walk:

Add in cycling to tram stops and all of Galway and, a good chunk beyond it, can reach a tram stop in 6.5 minutes:

Even if the above suggestion was stripped back to only include Galway City and not extend to Oranmore, Kenneth Deery’s suggestion that a tram route would only serve a small group is wide of the mark.


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16 comments

  1. Improved public transport alone won’t sort Galway’s traffic in the same way as a bypass alone won’t either. Both will be needed and designed to work together. This is what both sides of the argument don’t seem to get.

    Reply
    • Hi Aidan, both a tram and a second ring road are definitely not needed — providing both would mean one or the other or both would be radically underused.

      And before that, you’re not dealing with the reality of the situation — Galway isn’t getting the funding for both.

      Saying both are needed sounds nice but it doesn’t really fit with the facts. If a second ring road is built, it will lose the opportunity to change direction away from being a car-dominated city.

      Reply
      • Sorry Cian. Must be mixed wires here. I never mentioned a tram. The improved public transport will be the bus connects, both the cross city and the Dublin road, both of these also provide cycle lanes and have funding in place. There is also works going ahead on the Athenry to Galway line to put in further passing points. This will allow for more regular trains on this section of track and this to has funding in place. In time with further platforms built in Roscam and Renmore will give Galway a commuter rail on the East side of the city.

        This alone won’t solve the problem which leads to the need for a bypass. As much as it’s nice to think it’s not needed. Galway has roughly 95,000 people living from Barna to Oranmore the population density in this arrea is so low as to make a public transport only solution practically impossible.

        Reply
        • No problem, Aidan, any mention of tram in my last comment is interchangeable with the phrase ‘high-frequency bus system’ / ‘decent public transport’.

          As per the graphic above, most of the trips are within the city area.

          As per the maps above, a huge percentage of the population in that area could access a high-frequency line (be it bus or tram) within a 10 minute walk and even more within a 10 minute cycle.

          Good planning and densification can make such a line viable.

          People also said that Dart and Luas was a waste of money.

          And there would still be cars and there would be increased A-B trips of cycling and walking too. This can work because other cities have done it.

          Reply
          • Sorry but densification takes time and alot of it. As for the Luas and Dart they were always going to work just by to the population density on the lines, this can’t be compared to Galway. The bus connects will be a high frequency bus system, the East commuter rail will be a Dart for Galway. We still, with all the above, need a bypass. The bypass alone won’t solve the problem and either will public transport.

            Reply
            • You’re not dealing with what you said was the issue:

              As per the maps above, a huge percentage of the population in that area could access a high-frequency line (be it bus or tram) within a 10 minute walk and even more within a 10 minute cycle.

              And, sure, densification takes time. But the line can be built before that to support it.

              Along a good chick of the Dart line, half the catchment is in the sea, and the Luas lines mostly go via lower density suburbs.

              Galway can grow and reduce car usage at the same time.

              Reply
              • This is fine in theory but it’s ignoring the fact the from about October to March people in Galway just won’t walk or cycle 10 minutes, to jump on public transport, to walk again after getting off. They will drive, hopefully, via a bypass to where they need to go. It’s fine to have a differing view I’m not here to say you are wrong. I’m just saying I think you are wrong.

                Reply
                • Yeah, it’s fine having a different view but what you’re presenting here is little different than the people who said Luas or Dart would not work.

                  Some people will never drive. Others change their habits when presented with high-quality routes for walking, cycling and public transport.

                  Weather is used against changes in terms of cycling and public transport all over the world — too hot, too cold or too wet. The reality is when high-quality routes are provided, weather is rarely the issue people like you make it out to be.

                  Weather is a fairly poor excuse to spend a billion euro plus on trying the same thing again of more roads a sprinkle of sustainable transport and expecting a different result.

                  Expecting a different result from building an urban ring-road aimed to spurn on development in a car-centric way is not factual or logical. 

                  Reply
                  • I cycle, I use public transport, I drive. I live in Galway and have worked on all sides of the city. I understand the problem, have looked at and disagree with your opinion, which btw is what you are presenting opinion, not fact. I’m presenting my view, not caring if you agree or not. Not forcing it on you.

                    No amount of colourful circles on a map will make what your saying a fact. To be honest I didn’t even realise that it was you who wrote the article, the same lad who mentioned radical plans to build on Galway Golf Club, seriously we’re not Sydney or Singapore. Anyway, if I had noticed that earlier I’d have not bother to reply to you at all. Lesson learnt, I’ll check the author’s name next time.

                    Reply
                    • That you cycle or use public transport has little relevance to anything said in our discussion

                      Just more and more excuses: The weather, “we’re not Sydney or Singapore”, the Dart and Luas naysayers were different to what you are saying etc etc.

                      Again: Expecting a different result from building an urban ring-road aimed to spurn on development in a car-centric way is not factual or logical. Nowhere has proven otherwise and you have said nothing which shows that Galway will be any different.

                    • Okay. Just some context both Sydney and Singapore in the last year have taken land that was gold courses and are building housing. Think that went over your head but that’s fine, everyone has an off day.

                      Weather is a real thing regarding how you choose to travel, not an excuse, a fact. Think at this stage you’re probably too emotional involved in the subject to have a rational discussion at it. Which again is fine people get emotional involved in all kinds of things. All the best lad, happy pedaling.

                    • I’m well aware what you were referring to regarding Sydney and Singapore. And, yes, the weather is a real thing regarding how you choose to travel, but — as I’ve already explained — all over the world people like you use it as an excuse not to provide sustainable transport to the level that its use outranks car use. They say it’s too hot/cold/wet but when high-quality walking, cycling and public transport routes and networks are built, they are used all year around.

                      You might be emotional or otherwise too attached to the idea of the status quo of a sprawling car-dependent city. But I’ll repeat this again because you have been unwilling or unable to deal with it:

                      Expecting a different result from building an urban ring-road aimed to spurn on development in a car-centric way is not factual or logical. Nowhere has proven otherwise and you have said nothing which shows that Galway will be any different.

  2. Very good article.

    What the CEO really means is that improved public transport is not a solution for him.

    For others, all over the world, improved public transport is very much a solution.

    What the CEO doesn’t seem to understand is that improved public is actually good for those who want to/have to drive. It means less cars on the road.

    Building more roads creates just more road traffic.

    Galway has a chance for a different direction which is good for all those in the city (including drivers).

    They can cease the opportunity.

    Reply

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