Dublin transport: getting the capital moving
Buses still constitute the backbone of people movement
Striking a more appropriate balance between the dominance of private cars, the social need for a fully-functional public transport system and the safety of urban roads and streets has long been a goal of civilised cities everywhere. Dublin suffers chronic levels of traffic congestion that can only get worse in a “do little or nothing” scenario. That’s why the National Transport Authority’s (NTA) “BusConnects” initiative to transform public transport services in the capital must be welcomed, even though it is likely to take several years to produce real results.
Luas may have grabbed the public’s imagination as a high-quality public transport option, but the truth is that buses still constitute the backbone of people movement in Dublin. Annual passenger numbers were nearly 120 million in 2015 compared to less than 35 million for the two light rail lines. In that context, it is quite correct that the latest proposals “will put bus services at the heart of the solution” by giving them clear corridors, even if this means reducing the road space available for private cars to move or park.
Motorists are also being hit by a widespread extension of 30km/h zones from parts of the city centre to the suburbs. But all of the evidence shows that, however inconvenient it may be to drive in second gear, lower speed limits save lives as well as safeguarding pedestrians and cyclists from serious injuries. There is one important caveat: the lower limits need to be rigorously enforced by An Garda Síochána, which has shown little inclination to apprehend motorists breaching the 30km/h speed limit on sections of the Liffey quays, for example.
Public health is also endangered by noxious diesel emissions from cars and buses. Diesel cars will have to be phased out sooner or later to improve urban air quality, and the same applies to buses, all of which are diesel-powered at present. The NTA lists cleaner technology as the last item of its 10-point “BusConnects” plan. But it really should be taking the lead in replacing the Dublin Bus fleet with hybrid or electric-powered vehicles as one of its major priorities, in the public interest.