Skip to main content
Normal View

Seanad Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 24 Nov 1998

Vol. 157 No. 6

Adjournment Matters. - Traffic Management.

This motion is timely in view of the decision taken yesterday and the ongoing discussions on traffic management in the greater Dublin area.

The motion is the result of requests from a number of business people in Dublin city who are concerned at the continuing traffic gridlock which prevents or discourages shoppers from coming to the centre of the city. This is affecting the economy of our capital city. I have framed the motion in a way which will allow the Minister to indicate the Government's opinion on park and ride facilities in areas other than Dublin. It is coincidental that the Minister who will reply to this Adjournment debate comes from a city where park and ride has operated successfully for 12 months. It is interesting that the southern capital has taken a lead in this regard. Even yesterday's announcement was merely about temporary park and ride facilities for Dublin. The case for park and ride is well made and I hope the initiative announced yesterday will be encouraged by the Department. I am surprised this matter comes under the aegis of the Department of the Environment and Local Government. I would have thought it would be dealt with by the Department of Public Enterprise. This, too, indicates some confusion in the area of traffic management in Dublin and generally.

The motion also affords me an opportunity to examine the whole question of traffic management. Traffic gridlock appears to be exacerbated by the extension of the bus lane system in that bus lanes dominate many of the approach roads to our cities. While bus lanes are a welcome development, we do not yet have a viable public transport system and restricting access to city centres to motorists when such a public transport system is not in place is a recipe for disaster.

The present situation cannot continue. One suggested initiative which I would like implemented on a permanent basis is the granting of permission to private buses to use bus corridors. I see no reason private sector buses could not access these corridors, particularly in the absence of a viable public transport system. When I speak of a public transport system I include trains and the DART system as well as buses. We must remember that the DART system is the privilege of the east coast. The rest of the country does not enjoy such a facility.

The question of penalising those who bring cars into the centre of major cities is a live issue. A newspaper article earlier this week proposed that motorists should pay to come into city centres. I am not convinced that such a radical approach is called for at this stage, but where a viable public transport service is available a case can be made for imposing a penalty on such motorists. The penalty could take the form of restricting the number of hours a car may be parked at a meter or in a car park or making such parking financially prohibitive.

We are all agreed it is frustrating to see a line of cars driving to a city centre in the early morning or late evening with only one person in each. We cannot allow such a practice to develop unhindered. Whatever the deficiencies in our public transport system, many of these drivers cannot justify using their cars to come into the cities. The article I referred to earlier suggested that solo motorists are anxious to justify the use of their cars because they have formed the habit of listening to a favourite radio programme every morning or evening and do not relish the prospect of sitting in a cold and airless bus among a crowd of strangers. Encouraging the use of public transport may intrude on the private preferences of our citizens, but the greater good must be recognised.

My purpose in bringing this matter to the House is to highlight this serious issue and to maintain it on the public agenda, particularly in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I hope the initiatives announced yesterday will go some way to alleviating the problem and I reiterate the central point of my motion, that the Minister should encourage the establishment of park and ride facilities on a permanent basis in Dublin and their extension to other parts of the country.

I thank Senator Mooney for raising this important issue. My colleague, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, is unable to be in the House this evening and has asked me to respond to this matter on his behalf.

Park and ride facilities are widely recognised as an important instrument in achieving an integrated approach to urban traffic congestion. Well located facilities of this kind can assist in encouraging commuters to leave their cars in secure parking areas and travel by public transport to the city centre, thereby reducing traffic congestion. Park and ride facilities offer potential benefits to the car user in terms of less congestion and more affordable parking charges, to public transport in terms of increased passenger numbers, to local authorities in terms of better management of limited road space and for the public at large in terms of less traffic and a better quality environment in the inner suburbs.

At present there are only limited park and ride facilities associated with certain DART and suburban rail stations. The Dublin Transportation Office has, however, been working with its constituent organisations to establish a framework for the more extensive development of park and ride facilities in the Dublin transport initiative area. In May last, the DTO produced a park and ride strategy for the DTI area. The strategy identified 20 sites throughout the DTI area where park and ride facilities could assist in encouraging commuters to travel by public transport to the city centre, estimated that the sites would provide an additional 8,360 car parking spaces and could be used by up to 14,700 persons daily and that the total cost involved would be £39 million, including the cost of land purchase and £6 million for a dedicated bus fleet to serve the six bus-based sites. It concluded that revenue from parking charges and public transport would not be sufficient to cover costs and, accordingly, substantial financial support for the investment involved and ongoing running costs would be required.

The strategy is being addressed by the DTO to CIE, the Dublin local authorities and other relevant agencies. In response, and as part of the DTO short term action plan, Dublin Corporation is considering the development of a major pilot park and ride facility in Finglas. In addition, Dublin Corporation and Dublin Bus announced yesterday, as part of Operation Freeflow, the provision jointly of park and ride facilities at Whitehall and Simmonscourt during the Christmas period. These pilot projects together with similar experiments in the Cork area, to which Senator Mooney referred, will provide invaluable experience which will assist in the development of park and ride facilities on a wider and permanent basis throughout the DTI area and in other major cities.

It is clear from the DTO strategy that there is no single or universally applicable model for the development, financing and operation of park and ride facilities. Different models will be required depending on circumstances. In general there will have to be an openness to a partnership approach involving public transport operators, local and other public authorities and the private sector.

Park and ride facilities are undoubtedly part, and an important part, of the solution to problems of urban traffic congestion. A good start is now being made to implementing and testing viability in the Dublin area. DTO and its constituent bodies will continue with this important work as part of the integrated approach to Dublin transport management which we must actively take forward.