Saturday 21 September 2019

Bus Connects: How Dublin’s radical transport plan pits commuters against communities

Bus Connects Special Report - plan will redefine travel in capital

Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

In the first of a five-part special report, Conor Feehan looks at the €2bn shake-up of Dublin's bus network - a radical plan that promises to transform transport but has divided the capital

Bus Connects is a 10-year plan designed to make Dublin's bus service fit for purpose.

When it is rolled out across the streets of the city and suburbs, it will have a major impact on commuters and road-users.

However, it is the communities that stand to lose the most, amid plans to chop down hundreds of mature trees and carve up front gardens to make way for wider roads.

There are two aspects to Bus Connects that are causing some confusion: the A-G Spines and the 1-16 Corridors.

Orbital routes are also planned, labelled N for the northside of the city, S for the south, and W for the west where services will run at least every hour.

Read more here: Bus Connects: 'Congestion is so bad that you can be sitting in traffic for 20, 30 minutes at a time'

There is also an inner orbital route, the O, which forms a loop around the city centre near the canals, linking Heuston and Connolly stations, the Samuel Beckett Bridge and St James's Hospital. This is designed to allow people to move around the core of the city while avoiding the centre.

Both aspects of Bus Connects have already gone through a public consultation process. Chopping down trees and cutting up gardens has generated a lot of anger, but it is the redesign element of Bus Connects that has caused the biggest outcry.

The A-G Spines element of the plan received 30,000 submissions, while the 1-16 Corridors element received 10,000.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) said it has listened to the public in relation to its proposals, and hopes to produce a revised version of the A-G Spines plan in the coming weeks.

It hopes to produce a revised version of the 1-16 Corridors plan at the end of next month.

There will be a second round of public consultation to come in the future. How the revised proposals will differ from the original plans remains to be seen.

The NTA argues that all these changes need to be made, not only to cater for the current gridlock that snarls up traffic in the city on a daily basis, but to protect against that congestion growing in the future with an increasing population.

A recent report showed that Dublin is now the 14th most congested city in the world, and the sixth most congested city in Europe.

Gridlock in Dublin costs an estimated €350m a year.

It is claimed that drivers in Dublin are now spending an average 45pc more time in traffic than they should be. To make matters worse, the NTA reckons the population of the city will rise from 1.2 million to 1.5 million in the next 20 years.

Bus Connects will target car drivers with a carrot and stick approach in an effort to try to get more of them to switch to public transport.

Read more here: 'It will be like living on the M50' - residents set to lose gardens to bus lanes struggle to see beyond the negatives

The carrot will be that if car drivers switch to buses, they will get into the city more quickly and efficiently, and reduce their carbon footprint.

The stick will be that if they continue to use cars, they will be held up at traffic lights and junctions in order to give priority to public transport.

We have now also seen proposals by the Government to tackle the increasing financial and environmental cost of climate change. The proposals include hikes in carbon tax, which will increase fuel prices. There are also plans to ban petrol and diesel cars from cities in the future.

Yes, there are people who use cars every day in the city for work. This cohort is angered at how car drivers are being targeted in this quest for a perfect transport system.

Bus Connects is a balancing act in the making.

Irish Independent

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