Shock at city car ban plan
BUSINESSES last night questioned whether a radical plan to close large areas of Dublin city centre to private traffic was viable within a year.
Dublin Chamber of Commerce spokesman Aebhric McGibney said the business organisation "shared the vision" of having a large, pedestrian-friendly civic space in the city centre, especially where this would facilitate tourists and families. But he said businesses would not put up with making sacrifices "at any cost" to make that vision a reality.
The proposals to tackle congestion are included in a draft report from the Oireachtas transport committee and were revealed by its chairman Frank Fahey of Fianna Fail.
The report, which will reach Transport Minister Noel Dempsey's desk in the coming days, recommends the creation of a "bus gate" area around College Green, and closing off O'Connell Street, Dame Street and Westmoreland Street to all traffic except buses and taxis.
The plan suggests the closure could be implemented by April of next year and envisages 350 extra buses, with services running at 10 minutes intervals off-peak and three-minute intervals at peak times.
The report also suggests that a similar plan could be rolled out for Galway, Cork, Waterford and Limerick.
Mr Fahey claimed the scheme was workable if supported by traffic management measures.
"We decided that a reliable high frequency bus service can effectively deal with traffic congestion in Dublin in the short term," added Mr Fahey. "We have put forward a short-term plan to be implemented in 2008/2009, so that by next April this plan for traffic being banned would be in place."
He added bus priority measures must be established if the public was to be encouraged to use public transport. Traffic measures would help smooth the transition to a car-free zone.
The plan would also be supported by two new bridges over the Liffey: one at Macken Street and the other in the Hawkins Street/Marlborough Street area.
Dublin Chamber spokesman Mr McGibney said there was no point in closing off the city until there was an impact analysis on how traffic would be affected and until a higher quality, more efficient bus service was in place. And he questioned whether that could be achieved in the next 11 months.
Simply increasing the number of buses would not automatically deliver a "smarter", more efficient service sufficient to persuade shoppers and commuters to leave their cars at home and use the bus, he said.
"We need to remove blockages from the system. Shoppers are still bringing their cars in and people are still driving through the city centre. But we need a higher quantum of public transport," he said.