01 April, 2009

College Green Bus Gate

I missed an interview on Newstalk's lunchtime show with Eamon Keane today.

I was supposed to be discussing the possibility of a car scrappage scheme. As it happened, I was stuck in the boardroom of Buswell's Hotel across the road from Leinster House with a bunch of car dealers. (Is 'clutch' the collective noun?) I came out and there was 11 missed calls and 7 new messages on the phone. I had missed the interview. I did get a chance to talk about it on Q102 later on, and while not quite going as far as George Monbiot, I did say that a car scrappage scheme did not make sense. I don't believe that we should be putting scarce resources into the non-productive economy.

If money is scarce, let's use it to build Metro North. Each individual station on that line would be in the top ten list of building sites in the State. The project would generate thousands of jobs in construction, and would lower our carbon footprint and create many jobs during operation. Dublin needs a high capacity north-south public transport backbone. It could even continue south as far as Bray via the Luas green line.

Meanwhile on the subject of improving public transport, it's about time that we gave buses the priority that they deserve through the centre of Dublin. It's not fair that buses get stuck behind SUVs heading for the Brown Thomas Car park. If we want buses that keep to a schedule we've got to ensure that they don't get snarled up in traffic in College Green behind these kind of lines of cars. Currently it can 40 minutes or 10 minutes for a 46A to get from Parnell Square to Stephen's Green. No wonder people says buses aren't reliable.

The info on the bus gate is here on Dublin City Council's site, but you've missed the consultation period which ended last Friday. Here's the Green Party's PR on the matter. I'll get around to putting our submission on line soon.

I had a chat with Fergus O'Dowd Fine Gael's Transport Spokesperson today and he agreed with me. I was on radio yesterday with his colleague Cllr. Paddy McCartan who sits on Dublin City Council and unfortunately he doesn't want to take the cars out of College Green. While I was on radion I had a sense of deja-vu, and then I remembered. I had heard the same arguments about taking cars out of Grafton Street 25 years ago. Scary.

Conor Faughnan has also been discussing the issue, and he's taking the same line as he did with the Stillorgan QBC a decade ago: in favour in theory, but not in practice. Back then even the Chartered Institute of Transport had to tap the AA on the shoulder and politely point out to them the error of their ways. The SIMI wasn't exactly on the side of the angels either, back then, opposing it I suspect in theory, as well as in practice. I actually agree with a lot of what the AA is saying: YES, we need a radical reform of Dublin Bus routes, YES , we need decent cycling lanes as well, but I'm always a bit nervous when the perfect becomes the enemy of the good.

Plus ca change. Tom Coffey from Dublin City Business has a large wish-list of things that have to happen before the bus gate proceeds:
  1. Samuel Beckett Bridge at Macken Street is in place and operational
  2. Bridge at Hawkins Street is in place and operational
  3. Real-time passenger information on all QBCs is in place and operational
  4. Electronic signposting to all 22 car parks in CBD for shoppers is in place and operational
  5. Oral Hearing on Metro North in An Bord Pleanála heard and all appeals to the Courts in Ireland and EU heard and a final judgement issued.

Sometimes you'd tear your hair out.

Tom, people in buses buy things as well.

We'll see how these things pan out. It'll be up to Dublin City Council to make a final decision in a few weeks on the issue.


Eoin said...

Regarding a car scrappage scheme, it has to be kept in mind that we don't have a car "industry" here as they do in Germany. We only sell cars to each other.

As you said yourself our car retail sector is part of "the non-productive economy."

Anonymous said...

a busgate would possibly make me the happiest person in the world. I don't know what I'd do with all the free space cycling in along dame street!

tomcosgrave said...

Tom Coffey is right in some of what he says in terms of the bridges being built. You can't just shut down car traffic willy-nilly - it has to be done gradually - the traffic will not disappear overnight.

I'll be in favour of the corridor being started when work on the Metro North and Luas Line F construction get underway - particularly line F.

Obviously, the corrider wouldn't be functional until after construction and maybe it would be better to hold off with it until after Line F is complete - because it would need to be redesigned at any rate, is this not so?

By the way Ciaran - Line F, Metro North and the DART Underground / Interconnector - are all going ahead, right Ciaran? They won't be cut out in the budget, will they?
While I'm at it - will the FF/Green Government be increasing buses and routes - and re-instating the drivers that were let go?

As for the car scrappage scheme, I thought you'd be in favour of it as it would be a way to get higher emissions and high mileage vehicles off the road? Even I can think of some sort of emissions based incentive that could work?

Ciarán said...


Most of it is gone due to the opening of the M50, and the restrictions on South Great Georges Street (right turn ban), Dawson Street (left turn ban) and Parnell Square (straight ahead ban.

There still are a significant amount of cars holding up buses though (one of the links on the post shows them), and I feel that's an inequitable and inefficient use of valuable road space.

I think the busgate is worth implementing, with or without Metro North. I think the Metro is on track, the Oral Hearing with Bord Pleanála has started and the tenders are due in. I don't have the current timeline on Line F, but I'll fire in a Dáil question on it.

On the buses issue we need radical reform within Dublin Bus as well as the busgate. Every single change in Dublin Bus shouldn't have to be decided at the Labour Relations Commission.

The number of people travelling is down dramatically - less people working, less people shopping. Dublin Bus will lose €30M this year unless changes are made.

Scrappage doesn't add up. How can you justify paying people to buy new cars when you've people protesting about Cystic Fibrosis facilities outside the gates of Leinster House.

Plus, the manufacturing of a car is a significant whack of the lifetime carbon emissions

Unknown said...

I like you blog! Like you say, this bus gate is badly needed. However, it would be nice to find some way to divert more buses away from this area. College Green is one of the finest spaces in Dubin city but the noise of the buses can be quite off putting. Ps. what is happening with the Velib bicycles? I have used this scheme in Paris - it would be fantastic if it works so well in Dublin!

Paul Donnelly said...

Regarding the new College Green bus corridor...

From what I can tell the sequence on the traffic lights turning south across the Liffey just after the Customs House has not been altered sufficiently to compensate for the huge increase of traffic it now gets. I counted the green light for 16 seconds. This is creating serious traffic jams along the north quays and around the Customs House area. Traffic is now re-routing around the back of the Customs House by BusAuras and crossing the Liffey from that direction. Traffic today was at a stand still in the surrounding area at 8.40am. This will have a knock on effect on all approaching roads including the north quays, Pearse Street and the south quays.

I travel this route every week day and regardless of the reported success of the new system I can tell you first hand that it is causing considerable delays and in September/October when the volume of cars will increase the situation will be unacceptable.

In my opinion the system has its merits but should not have been implemented until alternative routes, eg. the new bridge, were available to handle the large amount of disruption that it has caused.