'More funds needed to get commuters out of cars' - NTA
The National Transport Authority (NTA) has warned the Government it does not have enough funding to switch commuters away from the car and onto public transport and other modes.
In a presentation to the Climate Council, which advises the Government on how best to tackle global warming, NTA chief executive Anne Graham said the capital plan out to 2021, which included €9.6bn in transport funding, would not be enough to drive change.
Her comments come after the Irish Independent this week revealed that congestion in our main cities has returned to boom-time levels, with commuters forced to leave home an hour earlier than a few years ago to get to work on time.
Transport is the sector with the fastest-growing greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland, and while more people are walking, cycling and using public transport, reliance on the private car remains stubbornly high, with 70pc of all trips nationally made by car.
Outlining the NTA's approach to providing improved public transport services, Ms Graham said its strategy for the Greater Dublin Area from 2016-2035 outlined a high quality bus, rail and cycling network, along with park and ride facilities and improved spaces for walking, among other measures.
If implemented, it would cater for a 25pc increase in travel demand and see car use drop from 62pc in the capital to 45pc, increase walking and cycling rates to 20pc, and reduce carbon emissions, at a total cost of €10bn.
While the Government's capital plan out to 2021 included funding to complete Luas Cross City, electrification of the Dart to Balbriggan, new buses and upgrading of bus corridors, more was needed.
"Funding is not sufficient to meet the Greater Dublin Area strategy nor in encouraging modal shift in the regions," she said. "We need a step change in investment in public transport."
Rail projects are needed across a number of corridors in Dublin, but it will be 10 years or more before they come on stream, she added.
"Irish cities' low density layout means the bus system forms the backbone of the public transport system, even in Dublin," she said.
The NTA wants to "radically overhaul" the network under its 'Bus Connects' project, which includes new 'rapid' routes, high-capacity segregated services on main corridors, and a new fleet of low-emission buses, costed at €1bn.
The NTA has also called for better integration between land-use planning and transport planning. Provision of new homes distant from existing public transport corridors means many commuters are forced to rely on the car, exacerbating the congestion problems and associated emissions and falls in air quality.
Much of what could be achieved by introducing a congestion charge in Dublin would be achieved by various traffic measures being implemented, including changes at College Green, O'Connell Street and the quays, she added.