Only one in four travelling to Dublin city do so by car. Should they monopolise so much space?

Dublin transport plan, which aims to remove up to 60% of traffic that travels through the city centre on its way to somewhere else, shouldn’t be derailed over concerns about short-term disruption

Commuters in Dublin city centre. The international consensus shows that when traffic is removed from a city centre several things happen. Photograph: Leah Farrell/

Since it was launched, the new Dublin City Centre Transport plan has caused much debate and discussion on the future of traffic in our city. A key element of the plan is to remove up to 60 per cent of traffic that travels through the city centre on its way to somewhere else. With this traffic gone, it is anticipated that public transport travel times would become more reliable and quicker, while more space could be provided for civic areas and active travel.

Dublin city councillors were told recently some of the plan’s restrictions were being reduced, and would only apply from 7am-7pm daily.

The 2023 canal cordon count showed that 25 per cent of those travelling into the city centre did so in a private car. One could argue that the amount of public space allocated to the private car in the city relative to the numbers using their cars to get around is disproportionate.

Right across the world there are many examples of similar traffic management plans that have been implemented successfully. Have they been implemented with ease? The short answer is no: making changes in transport systems often causes controversy and requires bravery to get them across the line. The types of changes that will be required – and not only in Dublin – likewise demand courage and commitment.


The international consensus shows that when traffic is removed from a city centre several things happen. An increase in footfall and retail activity and an improvement in air quality are the most common impacts. We don’t have to look too far to see examples of this. Since the pedestrianisation of Capel Street in 2022 there has been a 17 per cent increase in pedestrian numbers and a 27 per cent increase in cyclists. In 2022, the Climate Change Advisory Council commissioned the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to produce a report titled Redesigning Ireland’s Transport for Net Zero. One of the main findings of this report is that road space reallocation will be one of the most effective tools to decarbonise our transport system as we look towards net zero. If we can’t make these changes in Dublin, given it has the best public transport network in the country, what hope do we have of realising the OECD recommendations of increased road space reallocation in the rest of the country?

“But our city doesn’t have adequate public transport” is one of the arguments that’s used against the plan. It’s true the story of the development of Dublin’s public transport system is as long as it is frustrating. The last time new light rail infrastructure was delivered was more than 6½ years ago. In September, it will be the two years since the railway order for Metrolink was submitted to An Bord Pleanála. The closest new rail project to completion right now in the city is a 4km extension of the green line to Finglas, which could take anything up to 10 years to deliver from its initial inception. It is the intention that by 2040 the city should have a Metrolink and Luas extensions to Bray, Finglas, Lucan and Poolbeg (a total of 44km of new rail with more than 40 per cent of it underground). For context it has taken almost 30 years to build the 40km of the Luas lines we currently have in the city. While it is good to see some progress on Dart+, the delivery of new rail lines in the city has been chronic and very disappointing.

A large part of the new transport plan for the city is to aid the delivery of new public transport and to make the most of the current system. Removing pinch points, reducing delays and improving the reliability of our bus network are all core to the plan. BusConnects is the most likely new public transport plan to be achieved this decade. This plan will impact upon every corner of our city and improve travel times, air quality and safety right across the capital. This plan too will require determination and commitment by local authorities to ensure that it is not diluted, and the benefits that can be achieved are realised. Delays at this point to any of our transport strategies will result in delays to achieving our climate goals, citizens living with poorer air quality and spending more time in congestion. The targets to reduce emissions in the transport sector are substantial and the latest modelling from the EPA shows that we are likely to fall very short of achieving these targets.

There is an onus on Dublin City Council to report the results of the new transport strategy as it progresses to ensure citizens are informed of its impacts. The first few months of any change to a traffic system will cause disruption and in some cases chaos. Typically, these periods are short lived as we saw with the introduction of Luas cross city. The key point is that our city needs to substantially change. This change will not be easy, but we need to do this in a spirit of partnership and collaboration. This collaboration was seen by the cross-party support from those elected by the people of Dublin to get the plan to this stage. This is a point also echoed by the new Dublin City Council CEO in the 2024 report Climate Neutral Dublin 2030, “For the journey to neutrality by 2030 and beyond, we know that we need everyone at the table and ready to work and invest in our future and the future of generations to come.”

Brian Caulfield is professor in transportation at Trinity College Dublin