‘Transport-orientated development’ critical to end cars’ dominance in cities

NESC report focuses on public transport and higher density housing

Providing extensive "transport-orientated development" at key urban locations will be critical to ending the dominance of cars in Irish cities, according to the National Economic and Social Council (NESC).

This approach makes it easier to use public transport, and cycle or walk to work or school, and includes higher density housing compared with current levels in urban areas, NESC concludes in a study of options.

Leading European cities, which have successfully introduced this approach, have not necessarily gone the high-rise development route, it finds.

The State must build on Project Ireland 2040 to maximise the number of homes, jobs, public services and amenities "which are close to frequent, high-quality transport services", the council adds in a report published on Thursday, which has been noted by the Cabinet.


Waiting times

The critical feature in high-quality public transport is short waiting times, which in effect do away with timetables. This is evident in cities such as Freiburg in Germany; the Hague in the Netherlands; and Nantes in France.

In Freiburg, parking cars is only permitted away from some housing developments; there are car-free areas; and 5km per hour speed limits on some streets – and yet a five-storey limit on buildings.

Transport-orientated development (TOD) will be possible with Metrolink in Dublin and in cities where BusConnects is fully in place, the report says. In the case of Metrolink, it outlines how a 2.5km corridor could be developed – an area of 10,000 hectares – on either side of the emerging route, with mixed housing and mixed use development including offices.

In such areas it could allow for a doubling of dwellings to more than 50 per hectare, compared with current levels in Dublin suburbs.

The report, Transport-Orientated Development: Assessing Opportunity for Ireland, outlines how the first steps under the National Development Plan need to be scaled up “if its strategic objectives of compact growth and sustainable mobility” in cities are to be achieved. This will require specific decisions to create such development at key locations, new institutional and tailored-funding mechanisms such as local taxes or leasing arrangements.

NESC director Dr Rory O’Donnell said “it is clear that development in Ireland, as in many other countries, continues to be centred on cars”.

“We know from experience that in countries with more desirable transport-orientated development such as France, the Netherlands and Germany, development makes walking, cycling and public transport more convenient, and converts car journeys to public and active transport trips,” he added.

Urban development

This delivers more efficient and sustainable urban development, “and can be designed to provide a higher proportion of social and affordable housing”.

Dr O’Donnell noted “other countries are increasingly using the uplift in land value to help to fund transport infrastructure and affordable housing”.

Applying the concept, “should set out the density of residential housing to be delivered at the location, the desired mixed-use and tenure, requirements regarding affordability, and the high-frequency and quality transport services that will connect the location”.

It should include a tailored agency or project management body to plan, oversee and deliver the TOD at the chosen location. Such a body would have to possess the necessary planning and borrowing/investment powers and responsibilities in terms of land-use and transport.

The funding mechanism “should allow necessary transport and other infrastructure to be delivered ahead of demand”. It could facilitate “land-value capture” whereby the uplift in property value that arises from investment in transport and other infrastructure can contribute to the cost of developing the site.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times