That Dáil Éireann:
— 92 per cent of the members of the Citizens' Assembly recommended that the State should prioritise the expansion of public transport spending over new road infrastructure spending at a ratio of no less than 2:1 to facilitate the broader availability and uptake of public transport options with attention to rural areas;
— vitally important public transport projects such as the Western Rail Corridor, the Dublin-Navan railway line and the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) Interconnector, which a decade ago were close to being implemented, were stopped by the Government;
— the National Development Plan 2018-2020 envisages total expenditure on land transport infrastructure of €20.6 billion up to 2027, with €8.6 billion of that going to public transport, and when non-national roads are taken into account, the anticipated ratio of public transport spending to new roads infrastructure is significantly lower than 1:2;
— in some jurisdictions, towns or villages which meet population thresholds are entitled to guaranteed public transport service based on population size, linking them into the overall public transport network, e.g. in the Canton of Zurich, every village with 300 residents, jobs or educational places is entitled to a service connecting to the network on an hourly basis;
— the rail network in Ireland is less than half of its historic greatest extent, with some counties now having no rail service at all;
— Ireland has the lowest percentage of its rail network electrified of any European country, with 3 per cent electrified compared to an European Union average of 54 per cent;
— underinvestment in rail infrastructure is continuing, reducing the quality of service on all lines and undermining the viability of some;
— the Dáil, on 17th January last, called on the Government to ensure that 10 per cent of transport funding is allocated to cycling;
— there is an inherent complementarity between providing good public transport and making good provision for walking and cycling at each end of the public transport trip, including providing cycle parking;
— the annual cost of congestion in the Greater Dublin Area has been estimated at €358 million in 2012, predicted to rise to €2 billion per annum in 2033;
— attempts to address congestion by increasing road capacity are futile because they induce more traffic;
— the average distance to work has increased from 11 kilometres to 18 kilometres between 1991 and 2016;
— over 10 per cent of trips to work, school or college are in excess of one hour in length;
— the extension and improvement of public transport in both urban and rural areas improves social equity and enables people on low incomes to avail of economic, social and environmental opportunities;
— extending and improving public transport enables and encourages reduction in private car use, with consequent benefits for air quality and greenhouse gas emissions;
— greenhouse gas emissions from road transport increased by 140 per cent between 1990 and 2017;
— greenhouse gas emissions from transport continue to increase rapidly and are projected to grow by 18 per cent over the period 2017-2020 and by 20 per cent over the period 2017-2030;
— the impact of Project Ireland 2040 on greenhouse gas emissions from transport has not been assessed;
— climate modelling of the National Development Plan 2018-2027 shows that we are only on track to achieve one third of the emissions reductions we have committed to make by 2030;
— the inherent spatial efficiency of public transport means that transferring trips from cars to public transport frees space to be allocated for other uses, improving the liveability of cities and towns; and
— due to the increased physical activity involved with using public transport compared to private motor vehicles, improved public transport has a significant positive impact on public health;
adopts the recommendation of the Citizens’ Assembly in this regard;
and calls on the Government to:
— prioritise the expansion of public transport spending over new road infrastructure spending at a ratio of no less than 2:1 to facilitate the broader availability and uptake of public transport options with special attention to rural areas;
— ensure that all public transport routes operate as part of an integrated, interconnected national public transport system;
— ensure that all public transport services are accessible and useable by all;
— establish specifications for rural public transport to connect populations to the national public transport system based on population size;
— investigate innovative rural public transport options, including combining public transport services with the transport needed to deliver other public services, and learn from existing rural transport pilot projects;
— include the assessment of implications for greenhouse gas emissions in all assessments and evaluations of transport expenditure;
— revise Project Ireland 2040 accordingly;
— ask the National Transport Authority to revise the Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy accordingly;
— consider the following for inclusion in the National Development Plan 2018-2027:
— completion of the restoration of the Western Rail Corridor;
— Cork Luas, reopening of suburban rail stations in Cork, river buses, and a more extensive bus and cycleway network than currently envisaged;
— Galway Light Rail and a more extensive bus network in Galway;
— development of a local rail service on the four railway lines serving Limerick;
— a comprehensive local bus network for Waterford;
— completion of the restoration of the Dublin-Navan railway line;
— the DART Interconnector;
— Metro West; and
— a national greenway network;
— consider the restoration or opening of other rail lines for inclusion in the National Development Plan 2018-2027;
— bring forward a plan for large-scale investment in urban, interurban and rural bus systems;
— bring forward a plan for major modernisation and improvement of the rail network, including electrification of main lines, with goals of modernisation of all lines, increasing frequencies and reducing journey times below two hours for trips between Cork, Belfast, Limerick, Waterford, Sligo and Dublin, and below one hour and thirty minutes between Galway and Dublin;
— ensure good quality access to public transport by foot and bicycle; and
— expand the bicycle sharing systems in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick, and establish new systems in other cities and towns, especially centred on rail and bus stations.
The motive for this motion comes from the deliberations of the Citizens' Assembly on the topic of climate action. Over 90% of the members of the assembly voted in support of a recommendation to switch the transport budget from its current emphasis of 2:1 in favour of roads rather than public transport, to a new ratio of 2:1 in favour of public transport rather than roads. I would like to qualify that by pointing out that our first priority should be to invest in walking. We should allocate at least 10% of the budget to walking and a further 10% to cycling. That would meet the OECD recommendation on what should be spent on active travel by a country such as Ireland. We would split the remainder of the transport budget on the basis of a 2:1 ratio in favour of public transport rather than new road building.
Our second motive for this motion relates to the work of the Joint Committee on Climate Action, which delivered a really good report. It was clear at that committee that the biggest problem we have in the climate area relates to our transport policy. Representatives of every agriculture organisation turned up at the launch the other day, but there was no one there from transport. When the committee had to choose whether to support the recommendation of the Citizens' Assembly, 16 members of the committee voted against doing so. Just four of us voted in favour of the recommendation. I remind the House that emissions in the transport sector increased by 140% between 1990 and 2017 and are continuing to increase. When officials from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport came before the committee and were asked to set out their emissions projections for 2030, it was shocking to find that they could not answer the question. The Department has no particular plans for meeting our wider target of a 30% reduction in emissions. When it was pointed out that the Environmental Protection Agency has shown that, according to the best analysis available, transport emissions will increase by 20% by 2030, rather than falling, the officials from the Department had no answer. We have a real crisis in our transport sector when it comes to climate.
I would like to say to those who are not concerned about this issue, on the basis that we will develop electric vehicles, hydrogen, biogas and so on, that there is a second reason they should support this motion. The approach we are taking to transport planning is causing gridlock and leading to significant inefficiencies. It is disadvantaging our citizens who are increasingly unable to move because of being stuck in traffic. The statistics are clear. According to the household transport survey, 74% of all trips in Dublin and 80% of all trips outside Dublin are made by car. Just 18% of all trips are made by walking. Public transport accounts for 5% of all trips. Just 3% of trips involve cycling. That goes against everything we have been saying in policy terms for the past 30 years. We understand that this split is not working and is leading to substantial costs, but we are doing absolutely nothing to redress it.
I would like to refer to the international expertise. Mr. David O'Connor of Technological University Dublin spoke at an interesting session in the audiovisual room today. He mentioned that in 2006 - this still applies today - the European Environmental Agency referred to Ireland as the worst case scenario in terms of transport planning. When the new accession countries joined the EU, they were told to avoid making the mistakes that Ireland was continuing to make on transport policy. According to another international survey, Dublin has the second worst morning peak gridlock problem on the planet. The only city to beat Dublin was Mexico City. Belfast was just behind Dublin. The national planning framework addressed this problem by recognising that complete change is needed. It set out the right strategy, which involves bringing development back to the centre, switching away from a road-based transport system and engaging in decarbonisation. However, this strategy was completely and utterly ignored in the national development plan. Under the plan, half of all new housing will be outside urban areas, where the car will again be the only proper option to which people will be able to turn when seeking to get to work, school or sports grounds.
Professor Edgar Morgenroth, who is an economist who works in Dublin City University, was very influential in the drafting of the national planning framework. He has spoken scathingly about the national development plan. He has made the point that if we want to develop our cities, particularly Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Galway, we have to invest in them. It is not enough to invest in the interconnection points between the cities, as advocated in the national development plan, because all that facilitates is further sprawl. The reality of the national development plan is even worse than that. Various public transport projects are mentioned in the plan. We all know they will be stuck in planning because of the lack of political support for the sorts of actions that are needed. Projects involving 51 motorways or national roads are currently being built or are about to be built. No public transport project is under construction at present. No infrastructural projects of any scale involving public transport or cycling were built last year. Not a single public transport project will be delivered this year or next year, or any time in the immediate future under this Government. It is a disgrace. Our insane transport policy is tying us into high emissions. The social cost of this anti-social system is so real.
Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy of Technological University Dublin made the case at today's meeting that the lack of investment in active travel is damaging our society. An open letter that was presented to the Taoiseach today on behalf of the Irish Heart Foundation, cyclist.ie and Irish Doctors for the Environment shows that consistent benefits would accrue if we were to switch away from a roads-based transport system. Dr. Donal O'Shea, who is responsible in the HSE for obesity policy, has lamented the lack of action and joined-up thinking in transport planning. He has stated that the best way to solve the massive explosion in obesity would be to pursue active transport options every day. The average age of the patients who are suffering with obesity with whom he deals is 45, but many of them have the gait speed of an 80 year old. They cannot cross the road. The recommendation from the medical experts is not to go to the gym - it is to integrate into our everyday lives physical activities like walking or cycling to the bus or the train, or walking and cycling in their own right. Cycling and public transport account for just 3% and 5% of all journeys, respectively. We should be using such modes of transport to tackle our health crisis.
Seven out of ten Irish people do not get the recommended daily amount of exercise. Just 20% of primary school students get the correct level of physical exercise. We have an obesity crisis as a result. The climate issue is connected to these dietary issues. It has been suggested that the inflammatory state of the planet is similar to the inflammatory conditions we are creating for human beings. We have been told that 78% of solutions are environmental. It is not just a question of what we eat; it is also a question of how we move around. This Government is driving us into a future in which all we can do is drive. Its failure to invest in or plan for public transport, walking or cycling will mean we have no other options or possible alternatives. Dr. D'Arcy has made the point that the promotion of active travel would have an anti-inflammatory effect because such travel is really good for people's health and is an antidepressant.
All the surveys show that those who do the daily recommended amount of exercise are twice as happy as those who do not. It provides for social interaction. It creates social spaces where people see each other and can stop and talk to each other. The sense one gets on a bus of being with people is not experienced in the traffic gridlock that has been created by Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance, which are running our transport system.
Active travel increases strength and enhances flexibility, endurance and bone density. It is an anti-ageing technique. It decreases the prevalence of dementia. If the Government's only metric is an economic one, it should note that active travel cuts absenteeism by 20%. We live in a society in which one never knows how long it will take to get from A to B. Increasingly, people are spending hours in gridlock. Some 200,000 Irish people spend more than two hours per day on their daily commute. What does that do to the quality of life? Commuting times will increase even further as all the motorways and roads are built and as people live ever further from urban centres. With this trend and with house prices so expensive closer to the centres, we are condemning young people to a commuting hell. When people return from other countries, one of their main dislikes about Ireland is the lack of availability of the transport alternatives that exist in every other developing country.
There is a phenomenon known as peak car. Other countries have reached peak car and have decoupled economic development and housing development from commuting by car. It was interesting that the assistant secretary in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport said when the Department did not have an answer to the questions on where we are going and how things will change that we may be at peak car. We know we are. We know from all the statistics and surveys that Dublin is gridlocked and that Galway, Cork, Limerick and Waterford are even worse. We are not responding by building alternatives. What we are doing is responding by building even more roads.
Dublin is the most egregious example. Transport Infrastructure Ireland representatives attended a Dáil committee a year ago and had to answer the question as to how it would tackle gridlock in Dublin. Their solution was to widen the N7 between Naas and Newbridge and the N11 at Kilmacanogue, in addition to widening the N2, N3, N4 and N6. Pretty much every approach road to Dublin is being widened, and they join an M50 that is completely at capacity. In the city, within the M50, we are planning to take out the gardens and trees to cater for traffic.
This is the insanity of the transport planning in the national development plan. The joint committee members asked whether there was any climate assessment of the plan when it was signed off last June. In a world in which we know we are committing to climate targets, was there any climate modelling of the outcomes? Deputy Thomas Pringle will have heard what occurred. It was incredible. There was not one bit of modelling. It was done after the fact, partly because our committee embarrassed those concerned into doing so. The assessment was that even if we did everything in the national development plan, including all the good stuff, such as retrofitting and developing the metro and BusConnects, we would get only one third of the way towards meeting the emissions reductions targets to which we have committed for 2030. There is a 70% gap, and transport has to change.
Agriculture will change. It is clear that it will be better for farmers. They are starting to realise that. We have choices. We will promote a better type of forestry and we will we re-wet our boglands. We are going to change farming for the better. Energy also has a path. It is clear we have a comparative competitive advantage in renewable power, and we have everything to gain from promoting energy efficiency. Options are becoming available. In the area of transport, there is nothing. There are no plans and there is no ambition. There is no changing of ways and no reassessment of the national development plan. Under the national development plan, projects were assessed according to the flawed model of saying roads would save a certain amount of time in making inter-urban journeys, with no regard to the traffic that would arise and the certain gridlock to come. All the inter-urban motorways to provide for long-distance commuting will result only in motorists getting stuck on the outskirts of Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.
Galway must be the worst example. I refer to the Galway transport plan. We happened to have our convention in Galway last month. I could not believe how bad the plan was. I could not believe how out of date it was. Thirty years ago, I would have said it was out of date. It is now spectacular that any city authority could believe it represents the future of transport. It depicts a road-based system providing for long-distance commutes.
We are going to have a difficult job building public transport but we need it. In my closing remarks, I will set out some of the examples of what we could do. It requires political commitment. To have commitment, one needs projects to get behind. One needs to get behind the BusConnects project in Dublin and change it for the better but we need to create a public transport network that works here. Where are the options for Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway? Cork is a great doughnut, a hollowed-out city. Everyone has left for Douglas, Carrigaline, Ballincollig and beyond. In Galway, everyone is coming from a long distance and getting stuck at the industrial estate roundabouts. In Limerick, only 3% of people live within the historic city. There are four rail lines, unused for most of the day, that we could turn into commuting routes if there were some vision or imagination.
Transport planning needs to change now. The national development plan needs to be completely revised and changed. We would start by setting targets: walking, 10%; cycling, 10%; and the remainder divided two to one in favour of public transport. The AA is stating that this is what we need to do. Businesses know it is what we have to do because the current system is not working. More than anything else, for the health of our people, mental and physical, we need to change. We ask people to support this motion to send a signal of intent in that regard.