Dublin commuter traffic has reached its highest point since the Covid-19 pandemic began, with the number of cars in the city at 90 per cent of January 2020 levels.
Despite a renewed appeal from the Government and health authorities for people to continue working from home, and climate action plans seeking a cut in car use, motorists have been returning to the city in increasing numbers, according to Dublin City Council.
While public transport returned to full capacity from the beginning of September, passenger numbers on Dublin Bus have levelled off at just over 70 per cent of pre-Covid figures, indicating a reluctance of commuters to switch back from cars to buses.
However, cycling numbers have returned to pre-Covid levels for the first time since the start of the pandemic, following significant investment in safer cycling infrastructure in the city over the last 18 months.
Meanwhile, increases in Dublin parking charges up to €3.50 an hour are to be introduced almost two years after they were proposed.
The increase in parking charges of about 10 per cent across all zones was approved by councillors in late 2019 and was due to come into force last year, but was delayed due to the pandemic.
In a report to be presented to councillors next week, the council's parking enforcement officer Dermot Stevenson said it was an objective of the city development plan to "renew restrictions on the use and cost of on street parking and change them as necessary, in order to discourage commuter parking".
He noted that four submissions were made to the council in relation to the proposal to increase the charges, three were in favour on the grounds it would discourage vehicle use, have an impact on congestion, air and noise pollution, and create a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists.
The fourth submission did not comment on the proposed increase in parking charges but requested parking street signage would include a description of the colour of the zone in writing to aid people who are colour blind.
The new charges will mean parking in the city centre “yellow zone” rise from €3.20 to €3.50 an hour, while just outside this area the “red zone” charge will go from €2.70 to €3. The outer “green zone” will increase from €1.60 to €1.80, while the low demand “orange zone” will go from €1 to €1.10. Lower rates will apply for those using parking tags instead of cash.
The Government’s climate action plan published this week proposes the introduction of “demand management” measures to discourage car usage to achieve a 51 per cent reduction in transport emissions.
More work is required to “fully define the pathways” to reduce car use, the plan states, but consideration will be given to the implementation of “low emission zones” which restrict access of polluting vehicles, and “road pricing systems” commonly known as congestion charges.
Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan said both measures were likely to require primary legislation before they could be introduced in the city, but were "two options that are worthy of consideration".