That Dáil Éireann:
— that transport and travel trends within the Greater Dublin Area are unsustainable, congestion is increasing, transport emissions are growing, economic competitiveness is suffering and quality of life for commuters and inhabitants is declining;
— the capacity of the Dublin region as a destination for living, visiting and for locating and doing business is being seriously undermined;
— that significant actions are required to increase capacity and usability of public transport, to better manage traffic during peak periods and to reduce the private car share dependence by commuting traffic especially;
— that the population in the Greater Dublin Area is expected to grow by 22 per cent to 1.8 million by 2030 and by 26 per cent to 700,000 in the Mid-East Region alone including Kildare, Meath and Wicklow and increasing investment in rail services including the Dublin Area Rapid Transport (DART) expansion, as well as vital bus services including Bus Rapid Transit, is absolutely essential;
— that this Government lacks a comprehensive vision and strategic plan for how to cope with future public transport demand in the core Dublin City Area as well as the Greater Dublin Area; and
— that the Capital Plan is emblematic of the lack of ambition, vision and forward planning for public transport;
— that many of the main arterial routes into Dublin, including the M50, either have already reached operational capacity or are expected to reach capacity in the near future;
— the lack of preparation and forward planning for the impact of the Luas Cross City, including the impact of its construction on city trade and mobility;
— the urgent need to increase the numbers and frequency of buses, either public or private, from expanding suburban areas in order to tackle capacity issues, relieve traffic congestion and provide practical choices for commuters;
— that while expanding capacity on our motorway and primary road network is something we need to plan for in the future, recognises that traffic demand policies are essential to relieving congestion as will sustained increases in public transport investment;
— that transport bottlenecks and congestion are increasingly becoming a drag on growth and productivity in our cities as well as hindering wider regional development in large parts of the country;
— that despite the historically low cost of financing to deliver economically and socially critical infrastructure projects, this Government has produced no policy plans for how to mitigate transport infrastructure deficits;
— that now is the time to:
— build critical transport infrastructure like the DART Underground and Metro North;
— make vital improvements such as bus lane completions and removing 'pinch points' for Dublin buses;
— ensure priority signalling at junctions;
— continue to invest in real time passenger information, which will increase capacity and service reliability on public transport, make it easier for commuters to get to work and relieve congestion in our cities; and
— develop park and ride infrastructure in order to facilitate ease of use of various public transport modes;
— that the Government has completely failed to mobilise additional investment in transport infrastructure available under the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI), and of the EFSI transactions within the European Union, 6 per cent are in the transport sector, yet in Ireland there has not been a single transport project put forward by the Government to the European Investment Bank (EIB) under the €500 billion funding stream; and
— that the decision to cancel the DART Underground project, described by the National Transport Authority as 'the missing link' in Ireland’s rail infrastructure, was short-sighted and a costly set-back for the liveability of the city, while the only large transport infrastructure contained in the Government’s Capital Plan, 'the optimised Metro North' proposal, could be fundamentally lacking capacity as it was recommended on the basis of reduced employment growth and passenger demand projections in 2013, which are no longer accurate; and
calls on the Government to:
— commit to giving enhanced governance, democratic input and administration of transport in Dublin by enacting section 17 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 which provides for the establishment of the Dublin Transport Authority Advisory Council;
— give a firm commitment to significantly increase annual investment in public transport, including funding to Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ) companies to improve attractiveness, reliability and integration of public transport;
— establish a new, dedicated Cycle Way Fund for bike-lanes and cycle-friendly infrastructure, Dublin Bike extensions, the rolling out of secure bike lockers and parking throughout the city as well as funding for pedestrianised 'open streets' initiatives to encourage cycling;
— earmark a portion of the Local Government Fund to annual resurfacing, maintenance and quality improvements in bike lanes and road verges to enhance safety for cyclists;
— commit, as part of revisions to the Capital Plan, to bolster capital investment levels by securing funding agreements from the EIB and further Public Private Partnerships under the EFSI for critical transport investments like the DART Underground and Metro North.
The context for this motion could not be simpler. Dublin is growing and is going to grow even more in the next 30 years. The greater Dublin area, taking in the commuter counties, is growing exponentially also. Some 70% of workers in Wicklow travel to Dublin for their work and in Kildare the figure is 40%. Dublin is growing and it is leading to traffic congestion that is only going to get worse.
This chronic congestion affects everything from competitiveness to quality of life to carbon emissions. People are trying to get their kids to school, trying to get to work, trying to deliver goods and trying to get to college, and the traffic congestion is clogging up and impeding public transport. As a consequence, economic growth in the greater Dublin area is being held back.
This motion is not just about the capital city. Dublin is the gateway to the rest of the country. When Dublin gets congested, it delays inward traffic and outward traffic, delaying goods, people, commerce and tourism to the rest of the country.
The major infrastructural projects that were intended to solve the growing traffic problems have not only been paused or cancelled in some cases, but we can reasonably say that a child born in Dublin today will not ride a metro to the airport or travel DART underground until they are about to enter post-primary school.
The previous Government cancelled the DART underground project, the missing link as the National Transport Authority, NTA, called it, and then sold off a critical piece of the land associated with delivering the project. The DART underground would link Heuston Station, Connolly Station and the Docklands station. It would open a gateway to the rest of Ireland from Dublin and a gateway to Dublin from the rest of Ireland. Work on metro north and the DART underground will not commence - if it ever does commence - until the middle of the 2020s.
I acknowledge that the Luas cross city is going provide significant additional capacity for commuters. I warmly and enthusiastically welcome it connecting and expanding the existing green and red Luas lines. The impact of Luas cross city on other users of road space in Dublin remains to be seen. In the meantime, we are told by successive Governments that public transport is the way forward. For Dubliners this means buses, according to the Minister. Recently, the NTA has added walking and cycling to this, which is fine and welcome. Along with my colleagues I want to see public transport and other non-private car travel becoming the primary mode by which commuters travel to our city.
The problem is that the Minister has added only 20 buses to the bus fleet serving Dublin in 2017. In the absence of the major infrastructure, which will take years to deliver, the public will have the choice of using buses or private cars, walking or cycling. I acknowledge that Dublin Bus has made huge strides in recent times. I also applaud the NTA and the local authorities for the work done on the provision of quality bus corridors. In spite of the huge progress made over the years in the Dublin Bus service, there are still inconsistencies and large inadequacies in the service in particular areas.
Older people feel that the service neglects them at off-peak times. Digital display timetables often change within seconds leaving passengers stranded. A constituent from a part of my constituency that was once the Minister's constituency emails me regularly in exasperation at full buses passing her by or simply not turning up at the timetabled time. She emailed me last night asking me to include the following words in my contribution: "the urgent need to increase the numbers and frequency of buses, either public or private, from expanding urban areas in order to tackle capacity issues, relieve traffic congestion and provide practical choices for commuters". Ballycullen in my constituency is one such expanding area and Dublin Bus cannot expand the number 15 service to the area because the company does not have the money. In parts of Tallaght the low frequency of buses from 6.30 a.m. to 8 a.m. creates journey times of up to 90 minutes to the city.
The Minister has an awful lot of work to do to convince the public that buses are going to transport them on time every day from where they live to where they work. This is why there must be a democratic input into the decisions that are going to be made. The Minister is expecting people to choose public transport, cycling and walking over the private car in the absence of the infrastructure that was committed to by the previous Fine Gael-led government, in the absence of additional buses and additional routes, in the absence of radical changes that facilitate bus priority on major arteries into and out of the city, in the absence of real safety for cyclists on the main routes into the city, never mind safe places for them to store their bikes, and with only a few joined-up cycle links.
The Minister has stood by while the development of greenways into the city have been postponed. He has shown no ambition for the city bikes scheme, which is now an essential component of public transport, although there has been a huge appetite for years for this scheme in the suburbs of Dublin. How can the Minister expect private car drivers to abandon their cars in the absence of any strategy or investment in these key areas?
The Minister could be investing in the bus fleet, in opening up more routes to tender, and designing regional and localised park and ride facilities for buses. Localised park and ride facilities are going to have to become reality in order to make travel by bus a real option for people who live just that bit too far away from the nearest bus stop or who, worse still, have no regular and efficient bus service. Ten years ago, a Government thought it was prudent to include the provision of a Dublin transport advisory council in legislation establishing the Dublin Transport Authority. Its membership was to include transport experts, the CEOs of the four Dublin local authorities, a senior garda, members of the public and stakeholders such as those with disabilities. Its chair was to be a person with expertise in transport administration, so that it could advise and respond to NTA proposals. Quango it was not. If the Minister is proposing that public transport is the way forward – despite having paused Metro north and probably cancelled the DART underground – then the public, business and every other stakeholder has a right to a say about their bus service and how it can be improved, about what type of cycle ways they want and input into where they ought to be.
The Minister made a name for himself in the Seanad and in the Dáil, representing a good chunk of what is my constituency, as being a champion of the underdog, the shareholder and the toll payer. He possessed a bold, swashbuckling style. As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, however, he has seemed uninterested, lacking in motivation and desire to make a difference and certainly lacking in any vision, passion or dynamism to create solutions to the problems that face us. During Question Time today, the Minister said we do not have the capital. He needs to fight for capital. He needs to fight as hard for funding for the big projects this city needs as he is fighting for Stepaside Garda station. Others have identified that this funding is undoubtedly out there. The Minister needs to articulate a vision for the future of transport in Dublin.