Plan to ban cars and taxis from centre of capital
Road network will not cope with congestion by 2023, say city bosses
An ambitious plan to discourage motorists from driving in Dublin city centre is necessary to avoid a repeat of the "severe pressure" the capital experienced during the boom.
The City Council has defended its initiative to effectively force drivers to use a multi-storey car park at Heuston Station and continue their journey by public transport, foot or by bike.
They also want to reduce the number of car parks in the city and convert some into taxi ranks and bike stations.
The Dublin City Centre Transport Plan from the council and the National Transport Authority (NTA), says the number of trips being made into the city is forecast to increase by 20pc by 2023, and that the road network simply cannot cope.
Unless road space is reallocated in favour of public transport, it will result in widespread congestion.
The plan controversially intends banning taxis and private cars from some heavily trafficked routes including College Green; closing some streets to all traffic, and introducing public transport hubs, where buses, the Luas, bikes and trains are readily accessible.
It aims to make the city more attractive for walkers, cyclists and public transport users, while also improving air quality and reducing noise levels. The plans were greeted with fury by taxi drivers, who will no longer be allowed work key streets.
"Taxi drivers are being pushed into cubby holes, dead ends and off the main thoroughfare which is going to affect our business," said Tony Rowe from the National Transport Assembly of Ireland, which also represents taxi drivers.
Car park owners also raised concerns, with the Irish Parking Association saying reducing access for motorists would not only have a "detrimental effect" on car parks, but also impact on business.
"A lot of the measures, going along the headline items like the 24-hour bus gates and things like that, we wouldn't be in favour of. We don't think they are necessary," he said.
But the city council insisted that its plan, which runs until 2023, is needed to avoid the "severe pressure" on the city experienced during the boom years.
It expects some €150m to be spent on a range of sustainable transport projects including bus infrastructure, cycling and walking schemes and continued roll-out of Real Time Passenger Information systems.
Some works, such as the upgrade of College Green, are already largely funded under the Luas Cross-City scheme, due for completion in 2017.
The council said that "no specific" car parks had been identified for use as taxi ranks, and that changes would only be on an "agreed basis" with owners.
The study is also proposing construction of a car parking facility close to Heuston Station, where motorists can switch to public transport.
Business group DublinTown, which represents more than 2,500 businesses in the city, gave the plan cautious welcome, with chief executive Richard Guiney saying in terms of making the city a more attractive location, it was "very welcome".
"I think we are in for some very exciting times. How people are accessing the city is changing," he added.
Conor Faughnan, the director of Consumer Affairs with The AA, said the existing public transport system was not capable of providing additional capacity, and that it could not be considered a "victory" to drive cars out of the city.
"Some of the measures appear to be gratuitous and you wonder what purpose they are serving," he added.
A period of public consultation on the study will run from today until July 16. People can submit their views on www.dublincity.ie/TransportStudy.