Monday 21 October 2019

Gardens could be saved after Bus Connects outcry

New plans would hit car drivers by giving more room to bus lanes

New route to success: The plan could see rows of trees saved – but would cut space given to private cars. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
New route to success: The plan could see rows of trees saved – but would cut space given to private cars. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

Many trees and gardens that were at risk under the controversial Bus Connects plan to rid Dublin of peak-time traffic gridlock might now be saved after an outcry from the public.

The proposals to widen streets in the capital to accommodate more bus and cycle lanes were met with stiff resistance when first floated this time last year.

Now, after receiving 10,000 submissions on the 16 double- decker highways that would radiate from the city centre, the National Transport Authority (NTA) is testing out alternative plans on community groups in an effort to reach a compromise. The NTA's Bus Connects teams have spent the past few weeks floating tweaked versions of the initial plan by the communities they would affect to see if the revisions would reduce opposition.

While the revisions are not yet set in stone, Bus Connects is anxious to see if it is meeting communities halfway before it comes out with its revised plan which will then go out to public consultation again.

Plans have now been drafted which give the option of saving rows of trees and taking away less space from gardens, but any move in this direction would potentially affect car commuters by replacing more traffic lanes with bus lanes, making more streets one-way, reducing the number of on-street parking spaces, and introducing systems of 'bus gates' and 'bus priority' traffic lights that hold cars back to allow buses to move ahead of them. Moves to give cars less road space, and impose greater restrictions on those using private vehicles as daily transport, are not unique to the NTA or Bus Connects either.

The private car driver is also about to feel the squeeze when carbon taxes on petrol and diesel are increased in the Budget. The use of fossil- fuelled private cars is increasingly a global issue.

The average Dublin Bus can seat 67 passengers and carry 87 when standing passengers are included.

Fifteen cars can carry 75 people, but 15 buses can carry more than 1,300 people, according to Bus Connects.

Bus Connects and the NTA say if you leave the car at home and take the bus, you will be given priority on your journey via dedicated bus lanes and bus-biased traffic lights.

You will get to your destination quicker and there will be much less congestion if a large enough commuting cohort makes the change, they say.

And contrary to popular belief that double deckers are polluters, the NTA says that modern buses that carry more than 60 people produce less toxins than many average family cars carrying five people.

"People have this image in their head of the old noisy green buses from the 1980s and the cloud of smoke behind them, but the modern engine is light-years ahead in efficiency, and now that we are moving to hybrid vehicles, the emissions are even less," said Grainne Mackin, of Bus Connects.

Every year, the NTA and Dublin City Council carry out a survey that counts how many people cross the canals into Dublin city and what mode of transport they use.

The snapshot survey shows that in 2018, more than 4,000 more people used the bus to get to the city one morning than in 2008.

It shows more than 7,000 fewer car drivers crossed the canals in one morning in 2018 than in 2008.

Irish Independent

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