Talking about traffic

Tue, Sep 17, 2013, 01:00

The response of senior Dublin City Council officials to the National Transport Authority’s (NTA) assessment of traffic in the city centre, and what to do about it, has been characterised as reactionary. And rightly so. Proposals made by the NTA in its draft, including the creation of a pedestrian plaza on College Green and the diversion of through-traffic to a designated “orbital route”, are certainly radical. But they deserve sympathetic consideration rather than a knee-jerk response from the council’s director of traffic, Michael Phillips, who said it raised a number of serious issues “and our worries are that there has been an expectation created out there that we will not be able to deliver”.

Despite the NTA’s draft stating that its contents represented an accumulation of work done over 18 months in conjunction with the council’s roads and traffic department, city councillors were told last week by Brendan O’Brien, the department’s head of technical services, that it “wasn’t a joint plan and there’s a lot in that study which may never see the light of day”. But this burying of ideas will only happen if the council persists in defending the status quo, making minor changes here and there, rather than seizing the opportunity presented by the Luas Cross City works to re-imagine what the city centre might be like.

New thinking, as exemplified by the NTA’s document, is urgently required. Dublin needs it. Such proposals as a city centre cycle network, wider footpaths on key streets, public transport-only corridors and the extension of Grafton Street’s pedestrian zone into Suffolk Street, Church Lane and the southern half of College Green are ideas whose time have come. Indeed, they are the type of projects that have already been implemented elsewhere. Given that the NTA’s assessment was leaked to this newspaper, to the dismay of those involved in drafting it and their opponents in the higher echelons of the Dublin City Council, the sensible approach now would be to publish it and thereby facilitate an informed public debate .