Car share lanes on cards in bid to cut traffic jams
THE introduction of car-sharing lanes is being considered by the Government in a bid to cut journey times, traffic congestion and carbon emissions.
The initiative, which could see motorists sharing cars in order to access designated lanes or bus lanes, is one of the car-pooling options currently being considered by the Department of Transport for its sustainable travel and transport action plan.
While insisting that the best way to reduce congestion and minimise city traffic is to encourage people to switch from cars to public transport, Minister Noel Dempsey said High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes will be considered.
"I am aware that a number of cities around the world have introduced HOV lanes. The results have varied greatly," the Transport Minister said in a parliamentary reply to Fine Gael. "I am not aware of any local authorities which have plans to introduce such lanes in Ireland. However, the possible use of HOV lanes will be considered as part of the development of my Department's forthcoming Sustainable Travel and Transport Action Plan."
Already, HOVs are in use in Canada, the United States and Australia, while the UK opened it's first car-sharing lane between Bradford and Leeds last March. Only cars with two or more occupants are eligible to use the lane, in addition to taxis, buses and coaches.
Although such countries have lanes designated solely for car-pooling initiatives, Ireland will likely have to rely on bus lanes if such a scheme is pursued.
AA Roadwatch has been a long advocate of HOVs and previously lobbied the Government to undertake a trial run of a car-sharing scheme using the capital's bus lanes. However, the proposals were rejected by the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO) which argued that the most efficient way of using road space is with bus lanes.
Other car-pooling options being considered by the Transport Minister include "car-clubs" in workplaces. Some local authorities in the UK now require developers of new office blocks to submit details of public transport and car-pooling initiatives as part of their planning application.
Fine Gael's transport spokesman Fergus O'Dowd said that in the greater Dublin area, there are 10 quality bus corridors in operation, 10 under construction, 12 at design stage, six at public consultation, with a further 20 at feasibility study stage.
"Fine Gael has been arguing for years that the best way to get people out of their cars is to provide a high-frequency and reliable bus service and the only way to do that is to open the market to competition.
"There have only been 110 new buses bought for Dublin Bus in the past seven years and in the present economic climate, it is unlikely there will be any new purchases soon," said Mr O'Dowd.
"By opening up the market to competition, we could flood these new bus lanes with buses. However, under Fianna Fail's current plans, this isn't going to happen. That is why other options should be looked at."