Sir, – If the National Traffic Authority (NTA) gets away with its Bus Connects scheme, one of Dublin’s Victorian jewels will be tarnished. Jane Jacobs, in her seminal Death and Life of Great American Cities, could be describing Upper Baggot Street when she lists what makes a vibrant neighbourhood: it serves more than one function; it has small blocks; its buildings vary in age and condition; it has a concentrated population. This model of a mixed-use street, one of Dublin’s last, will be only one of the victims of NTA’s sweeping and ill-conceived scheme.
The NTA has tried the traditional wheeze of having a foreign consultant “propose” 16-new high-capacity routes and published the plan with the ritual scaremongering; its CEO Anne Graham has warned that traffic will “grind to a halt” if it isn’t passed, but she does not explain why we should rely on the agency that caused the mess to fix it. The scheme, a perfect example of what Jacobs called “the pseudoscience of planning”, is to a large degree an expensive rearrangement. It will certainly reduce parking and green spaces but how it will reduce congestion remains a mystery.
Other routes and options – congestion charges, metro extensions, bus gates, free buses at rush hour – have been summarily dismissed as too expensive, but let’s not pretend NTA’s scheme come cheap. The first of the corridors are priced in the €100 million to €170 million range. The demolition derby will necessitate thousands of compulsory purchases of private properties. The NTA are already backing away from the touted compensation figure of €22 million, but after the children’s hospital debacle, we can safely triple these estimates.
The consultation process thus far has been desultory; the NTA only seems capable of hearing what it wants to hear. Nimby, the lazy slur of technocrats keen to bulldoze over the rate-paying citizen, has lost its sting. Anyone familiar with Cork Street and Donnybrook Road knows how brutally unsympathetic road planning rips the heart out of communities. The burden of proof is on NTA to show that it can listen.
“In a hundred years or so”, wrote Patrick Kavanagh, “Inquire for me in Baggot Street”. Let’s hope the din of traffic won’t drown out the question. – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL J QUINN,