The ban on cars entering Cork’s main thoroughfare each afternoon was leading to faster travel times on public transport in the city before the measure was scrapped because of pressure from traders.
Cork City Council's unanimous decision to suspend the ban on private cars entering Patrick St each afternoon came despite a report from the council's own expert on traffic management who revealed the ban was benefiting public transport.
Cork City Council Director of Services, Roads and Transportation, Gerry O'Beirne briefed councillors before a vote on Friday night and told them that the ban on private cars entering Patrick St between 3pm and 6.30pm had led to clear improvements in public transport in the city centre.
Mr O'Beirne explained that the afternoon private car ban on Patrick St was part of the Cork City Centre Movement Strategy which is designed to address increasing traffic congestion in the city centre and provide for the transport needs of new workers and residents in the city.
Cork city has been experiencing ever-increasing traffic congestion and traffic levels have increased significantly in recent years and there are now over 100,000 vehicles per day entering the city centre. Surveys consistently show that two thirds of these do not stop in the city centre, he said.
These 66,000 vehicles are using the city centre to travel north and south and this presents a unique opportunity to establish better routing for through traffic to move efficiently and at the same time to free up road space to better support bus service prioritisation, said Mr O’Beirne.
Changes by Bus Éireann in ticket pricing with the expansion of the city zone to cover Ballincollig, Carrigaline, Ringskiddy, Glanmire, Carrigtwohill, Blarney and Cork Airport have helped deliver a 23 per cent increase in annual passenger numbers over the three years up to 2017, he said. However traffic volumes are causing significant difficulties with the reliability of bus journey times, he added.
Patrick St is critically important to the broader Cork city bus service as approximately 40 per cent of city services use the street each day with the 970 buses movements along Patrick Street having a carry capacity of 60,000 per day and this will a major source of footfall both now and in the future.
Bus Éireann revealed that since the introduction of the Patrick St afternoon car ban on March 27th, travel times were cut with an average 20 per cent reduction in travel times in the 208 Route serving Mayfield to Bishopstown and an 18 per cent reduction on 205 Route from Kent Station to CIT.
While the afternoon car ban was introduced during the Easter Holidays on March 27th, schools and colleges had since resumed, commencing on April 9th, and “travel movements have been developing as expected without major ongoing difficulties/delays”, Mr O’Beirne said.
Meanwhile early indications regarding the use of the council's car parking facilities at the Kinsale Road Park & Ride, North Main St and Paul St car parks confirm that there was no overall change in customer numbers following the introduction of the private car ban on Patrick St, he added.
And since Cork City Council introduced free afternoon Park & Ride from Kinsale Road and free two hours parking at Paul St and North Main St, overall parking in the council’s facilities has increased by 9 per cent compared with the same period last year and by 13 per cent within the incentivised period.
“Sample journeys taken across the city, pre and post-completion of the total package of traffic measures also suggest that flows are improving, particularly along the quays,” said Mr O’Beirne before the vote, adding the new changes will take a period of time to become fully embedded.
"The route from Sarsfield Road roundabout to Tivoli via Wilton Road, Victoria Cross, Dyke Parade, Bacheors Quay and along the quays to Anderson's Quay and Lower Glanmire Road was recorded as taking 52 minutes in September 2017 compared to 33 minutes this week," he said.
Mr O’Beirne said the reducing traffic congestion and improving travel times was imperative for Cork given that based on current construction activity and recent announcements, the city will see over 5,000 new jobs created in the city centre in the next 36 months.