Greens 'concerned' at bus gate plan

 

The proposed suspension of the recently installed ‘bus gate’ in Dublin city centre will lead to more congestion in the city and less reliability for bus users, the Green Party has claimed.

Green Party transport spokesman Ciaran Cuffe was responding to reports that Dublin City Council planned to suspend the bus-gate for two months from November 18th to January 15th to cover the Christmas shopping period and January sales.

Mr Cuffe said he was concerned that Labour, Sinn Féin and Fine Gael councillors were “back-tracking” on the issue and that they were under pressure from lobby groups using the effect of the recession to attack the bus gate.

“Introducing the bus gate was a progressive step for the Council, on behalf of our city's bus passengers, pedestrians and cyclists. I know that councillors have come under pressure from interest groups like car park owners, but I fear that they are missing the bigger picture.

“The bus gate has been a success. It has dramatically cut the time that people are spending on buses stuck in congestion in the city centre. It has reduced air pollution. And it has made the streets safer for cyclists.”

Mr Cuffe claimed the bus gate had also cut congestion costs and saved the taxpayer money.

“Dublin Bus - and subsequently us taxpayers - were paying €60m every year as a result of traffic congestion. These costs have fallen significantly as buses move more freely around the city.”

Mr Cuffe claimed car users were “a small minority of city-centre shoppers, and account for a minority of the money spent in shops”.

He said he hoped that when the new Macken Street bridge opens in early 2010, Dublin City Council would provide more space for pedestrians, cyclists and bus users in the city centre.

Traders in the city have complained that the traffic restrictions – under which only buses may pass through the key artery of College Green between 7am and 10am and between 4pm and 7pm – are costing them business.

City manager John Tierney put proposals to the leaders of the council members’ political groups on Wednesday in a bid to end the dispute that traders claim has led to a 30 per cent reduction in business since July.

The council today refused to comment on the details, however.

It said a report would be issued directly to councillors tomorrow for consideration at the City Council meeting next Monday and it would not comment ahead of this.

It is believed the proposals include the designation of up to 15,000 on-street parking spaces as free parking, from 2pm on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Some on-street parking spaces are already free on Sundays. A further aspect of the plan is to postpone the six-month review of the bus gate, which was to have taken place at the end of January, until next June.

President of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, Paul Mallee, called on Dublin city councillors to resist any proposal to lift the bus corridor.

Mr Mallee said it would be “shortsighted in the extreme” for Dublin City Council to abandon the bus corridor, and that any temporary suspension of the busgate over the Christmas period “ran the risk of it never returning”.

He said it was “a successful and progressive measure that would encourage a shift away from overdependence on the car, and towards viable public transport options”.

Mr Mallee was speaking during his inaugural presidential address to the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport Ireland, in Dublin city centre this evening.