Air pollution risks stopped Dublin City Council from seeking two way bus operations on Parliament Street in the city as part of the College Green plaza plans, An Bord Pleanála has been told.
However the National Transport Authority (NTA) said it could only support the plaza if buses were allowed run both ways on Parliament Street.
Donal McDaid, consulting engineer representing the council, said it had considered changing Parliament Street from a one-way street to a two-way bus corridor, but ruled this out “based on the predicted exceedance of air quality standards”.
Mr McDaid was speaking at the second day of the An Bord Pleanála hearing on the council’s proposal to build the pedestrian and cycle plaza and ban all traffic, including buses and taxis, from accessing Dame Street through College Green.
He noted the NTA had made a submission to the board recommending two way bus running on Parliament Street using new low emission buses, but said the council had based its application on the existing bus fleet.
"Dublin City Council, while being the roads authority, does not manage the bus fleet, nor is it the regulator of the bus route network in Dublin. These are the functions of the NTA," Mr McDaid said.
Hugh Creegan, director of transport investment with the NTA said its support for the plaza was “contingent” on two way bus running being facilitated on Parliament Street.
Southbound, the street should be confined to public transport from 7am to 7pm, while heading north, it should be a public transport corridor on a 24 hour basis, he said.
Ann Mulcrone, representing Dublin Bus, said the exclusion of buses from College Green was not part of the original design brief.
However she said Dublin Bus had maintained its support for the project when there was to be two-way running of buses on Parliament Street. It was “remarkable” she said that the council did not consult Dublin Bus before removing this option from its plans.
Diverting bus routes to the quays offered “no meaningful solution” she said. “At the moment on the quays people waiting for the bus are just about falling off the footpath.”
Independent councillor Mannix Flynn told the hearing that running buses two ways on Parliament Street “would basically destroy it”.
Earlier Brendan O’Brien, head of traffic control and management with the council said Dublin Bus journey times through College Green increased “by up to 100 per cent” following the introduction of the new cross city Luas line last December.
Luas journey times had also been affected with only 28 trams crossing College Green per hour against the target service of 39 trams. In addition there had been a “deterioration of the pedestrian environment” in College Green with pedestrians waiting an average of 79 seconds to cross the road, up from 40 seconds.
Since January, measures have been introduced to reduce the traffic congestion, including the removal of 27 Dublin Bus routes from College Green and a ban on taxis travelling south through College Green during the morning peak hours.
However Mr O’Brien said these changes are entirely separate to the traffic management measures for which the council is seeking An Bord Pleanála approval as part of the plaza plan.
If approval is granted for the construction of the plaza, the number of buses travelling on Dame Street towards College Green would be reduced from 64 per hour to just seven, all of which would use the turning circle to return down Dame Street without crossing College Green.
The Irish Hotels Federation and several city centre hotels told the hearing that restrictions on taxis would deter visitors from the city.
The hearing continues on Wednesday.