— 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?
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.
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.”
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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.