I launched two funds this summer, to support innovative sustainable travel projects, the Smarter Travel Project Fund, and the National Competition for Smarter Travel Areas.
The Smarter Travel Project Fund was established to:
assist the development of demonstration projects that can deliver sustainable transport initiatives at both a national and local level, achieving real and measurable changes in people's travel choices and behaviour
assist the development of demonstration projects that aim to reduce the environmental impact of travel
increase the capability of organisations to help deliver sustainable travel
raise public awareness and acceptability of sustainable travel and transport issues.
The Project fund is €15 million over five years. The deadline for applications for this fund closed on 9 September. Applications were made by a wide range of groups and individuals. My Department received 121 bids, some of which were of a very high standard.
The National Competition for Smarter Travel Areas differs from the project fund in that it is not targeted at individual or specific measures. The Competition adopts a multi-dimensional approach to transport and spatial planning so that reliance on car use is dramatically reduced and alternative options are made available and promoted.
The national competition will therefore support a wide range of integrated transport and spatial planning projects delivered in one particular area. A Smarter Travel Area bid comprises a highly integrated approach to changing the travel behaviour of a whole town or area.
The National Competition for Smarter Travel Areas aims to demonstrate that sustainable travel can be delivered in all types of communities across Ireland. Bids were therefore submitted in one of five different categories, according to population size:
Small towns, villages or rural areas with populations of up to 5,000;
small towns, villages etc with populations of 5-15,000;
towns or groups of towns/villages with populations of 15-25,000;
larger towns or groups of towns with populations of 25-40,000; and
large towns or cities with populations above 40,000.
The deadline for stage 1 bids was 30 October, and 39 bids were submitted from across the local authorities, who had responsibility for co-ordinating bids. Successful bids from Stage 1 will be shortlisted. These shortlisted bids will then be awarded supporting funds to develop full business case bids, including travel plans, for stage 2. I am aiming to have Stage 2 bids submitted by the end of March, and for the final list of successful bids to be announced in May 2010. €50 million over five years will be available for Smarter Travel Areas.
Both funds are targeted firstly at behavioural change to encourage more sustainable travel. A direct consequence of this behavioural change will be reduced environmental emissions (CO2 and also local air pollutants), reduced congestion, improved fitness and health levels, and more attractive town centres and streetscapes. Measures in both the Smarter Travel Project Fund and the National Competition for Smarter Travel Areas will be evaluated, to develop clear evidence on how sustainable travel is best delivered and designed for the Irish context. The most successful measures, delivering best value for money, will thus be identified, and can be rolled out across Ireland.