There were articles in the papers over the weekends about Dublin City Councils plans for banning private vehicles altogether from O’Connell St., Dame St., College Green, and Westmoreland St. in order to create a ‘Bus Gate’. The cars will then be directed over temporary steel bridges at Macken St. & Hawkins St. or Marlborough St. There will then be 350 extra buses (and one can only assume 350 people to drive them).
Buses and Taxis are proposed to be allowed to use the Port Tunnel at a reduced rate as well. The Sunday Biz Post stated that the strategy is to increase the percentage of people using buses from 20% to 80% and passengers from 148 million to 200 million (yes I tried working the maths on that one and couldn’t figure it out either! I suspect it must be a type-o in the SBP).
Steel bridges, messing with the use of roads that all tax payers pay for and as if we didn’t have enough of a one way disaster already? So my proposed contribution is to fix all of this for a tenner. How? Draw a perimeter around the city, it starts at Heuston, Fairview (at the bridge) and the Canal on the South-side, this hems off the city (if you don’t like my perimeter then make your own or whatever but the idea remains sound).
Then at main entry points you build super car parks that charge a nominal fee per day to park there. If you wish to drive into the city beyond the perimeter it will cost you €10, if you choose to park its €2.50 per day and that covers a feeder bus ticket to and from the city centre with one transfer. If they did this in Clontarf or on the south-side somewhere near a Dart line people could use the Dart instead. Parking in the city would also be raised to €5 per hour.
I’m not smart enough to think of this all by myself, in fact it’s really just some of the blueprint used in London to solve their city congestion problems! And it has, in fact there are almost 50% fewer people driving into the traffic restricted areas. So no need for yet another Irish logistical nightmare that punishes people who drive cars while not actually solving the problem.
As for me? I’ll keep cycling like I always have, today I met a friend on the way in who cycles from the north-side to Bluebell industrial estate, and we mused that while getting some exercise and fresh air we passed (assuming an average value of about €20,00 per car) out, using only simple pedal power, about €2,000,000 worth of highly tuned and well designed automobiles, full of people frustrated with traffic.
The mistake in the proposed plan is that people should have to pay to get into the city, anything short of that will never stop people from sitting in their cars in an endless line of traffic, if they are willing to pay a tenner a day then so be it, most people won’t though, they’ll opt for €2.50 with effective feeder buses that will get them in and out faster.
Of course one may feel that rich people will have the advantage of still driving their big cars in every day but I would beg people to remain in the land of reality, rich people have a different set of rules anyways, they can afford bigger cars/houses/whatever and that in itself is important in order to keep money flowing and taxes being collected.
Taxis would not have to pay, and proper cycle lanes, even the ability to ‘rent a bike’ from a place in the car park would be possible, say if (you’d secure it with a credit card) for the €2.50 you could get a bike for the day or a bus? By doing this you then get a proper uptake of public transport, I know this would work because a scabby 15 cent virtually eradicated endless plastic bags on the street overnight! If that kind of control worked then the pay per-entry system would definitely be a success.
I think that there are plenty of ideas that would make congestion decrease rapidly, the DCC plan actually doesn’t address the fundamental issue of public transport v.s. sitting in your car, Quality Bus Corridors (QBC’s) won’t be worth much if at the end of them buses have to do battle with cars anyways? Then that bottle neck will just backlog on itself – and remember there will be an extra 350 buses under the proposed plan – and cause the QBC to be at a standstill.
Another thing that would make sense is to have the Dart line on the north side rationalised, have a two or three trains that just go back and forth from Howth to Howth Junction on one side and from Malahide to Howth Junction on the other (because it forks at Howth junction and the present solution is reduced service to each termination point) and then have more frequent trains from Howth Junction to the city? Or even have trains that go back and forth between city centre and some other point halfway where the majority of user traffic comes from?
Chicago has a great system where the ‘El’ (stands for Elevated Line) goes into a loop and then back out, we probably can’t copy that but it should give us some ideas, because some ideas are worth copying, London’s traffic solution being one of them.
Stations in the Suburbs should be given funding to build larger parking lots (most of them are full by about 6:30 a.m.) and that will help take cars off the road too, and of course secure and sheltered areas for locking bicycles, many people would actually use trains if the service was up to par with other European Capitals.
All I can say in conclusion is that it would be a pity to see more bridges spanning the Liffey and at no benefit to the city dweller who has to breathe the exhaust and live with the noise of cars, at no benefit to the people in the cars-traffic will still be a mess, at no benefit to the people who opt to take public transport (all of the cars will still have access to the city and they will choke the streets at every point) and at no benefit to the city coffers, in fact all they will be doing is paying for infrastructure that has no return.
If instead they adopt a plan like London’s then we would see one of two things, either people don’t use the new options in which case the city gets a tenner for every car entering every day (that would lead to a permanent surplus), or a an adoption of the new plan which means the city would have less traffic, less polution, less congestion, a more pleasant overall environment, and those willing to pay for the privilege of driving in can do so, albeit at a cost which while affordable (you might do it from time to time to go shopping) is not a cost that the majority of drivers could afford every day.