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.