With several big, interlocking transport projects moving forward in the city, councillors had lots to talk about at Thursday’s meeting of their Transportation Strategic Policy Committee.
On the agenda: traffic on the quays, changes with parking meters, and the blight of blocked cycle lanes.
Where the Cars Go
There was considerable debate about the plan to divert cars from parts of the quays – in part so the Luas Cross City will run smoothly, and in part to make way for the Liffey Cycle Route.
The length of the new Luas carriages means they cannot stop on either O’Connell Bridge or the Rosie Hackett Bridge, said Brendan O’Brien, Dublin City Council’s head of technical services.
To make everything fit and flow, cars travelling east along the north quays will have to turn left onto O’Connell Street when they reach it. They won’t be allowed to continue on to Eden Quay, or turn right onto O’Connell Bridge, he said.
The plan also includes adding more bus lanes along the north and south quays, with the new measures allowing for this.
As some see it, like Fine Gael councillor Paddy McCartan and Labour’s Dermot Lacey, the proposed changes will further prioritise public transport in Dublin, which is a good thing,
Others aren’t pleased. “We’d be totally opposed to the measures that are being outlined,” said Keith Gavin of the Irish Parking Association, which has consistently opposed planned changes to city-centre transport.
Richard Guiney, CEO of DublinTown, the city-centre business-improvement district, said the people he represents are worried about the impact of the transport changes on retail. “There are concerns amongst the business community,” he said.
(The most recent survey on attitudes to the changes found, on the whole, a positive response from shoppers.)
Other concerns were voiced over the possible impact of the diversion of cars through residential streets, which is part of the plan for the new Liffey Cycle Route.
“Option 7”, the current favoured route, proposes that through trips and city-bound trips will be diverted from the quays north onto Blackhall Place and onto smaller, more residential streets.
The key question is whether current vehicular traffic levels will fall, as has happened in other cities when road space was reduced, or just be displaced.
Some think traffic will head south, and that those who now use the quays for through trips, rather than to reach the city centre, will take different routes.
At the moment, though, most councillors seem worried that congestion will be a problem.
“The diversion to take the cars up off the quays (…) is madness,” said Sinn Féin Councillor Janice Boylan, who wanted to know if cyclists could be diverted onto smaller streets instead of cars.
Green Party Councillor Ciarán Cuffe, who chairs the committee, said he had received “dozens of representations” from local residents about the possible diversion of vehicular traffic.
O’Brien, of the council, defended the planned changes. “Currently we have large numbers of people who are using public transport coming in (…) who are getting badly delayed at this location,” he said.
“For us to think that we can just make those delays worse and not try and do something about it would be completely remiss of us,” he said.
Council Senior Engineer Chris Manzira says the next step in the project will be consultation with local residents and discussion with the council’s planning department.
A further report on the proposed quays traffic changes will be presented at the committee’s next meeting in April.
Pay and Display
Expect advertising on pay-and-display parking meters in the future.
Dublin City Council is going to rent the parking-meter machines, rather than buying them, said Parking Enforcement Officer Kevin Meade. That’s going to lead to some changes.
Meade said the parking meters are “rapidly depreciating assets”, which means they lose their value fast. In 2014, 726 of them were obsolete, he said.
Renting machines means that they won’t lose their value and that the council will have more flexibility around the parking-meter system in the future, he said.
Later this year, the council plans to roll out “pay and wave” stations with space for advertising, said Meade. That worried some councillors.
“I think that would have to be handled very carefully,” said Cuffe of the Green Party. “The last thing I’d like to see is a special offer on a slab of Budweiser appearing.”
Freeing the Cycle Lanes
Advocates for cyclists have been calling for more than a year for stricter measures to be taken against cars that park in cycle lanes.
On Thursday, a motion by Fine Gael Councillor Paddy Smyth finally reached the top of the list to be voted on by councillors. He wants vehicles that block cycle lanes to be immediately towed and impounded.
“If I parked my car out on Dame Street, blocking a lane of traffic, I’m confident it would be removed very quickly,” said Smyth. “I think we need to extend the same courtesy to cyclists.”
Smyth said he was “bewildered” that only 47 vehicles were towed from cycle lanes in 2015. More action was required.
The practicalities of implementing Smyth’s motion – at the moment – is an issue, said Assistant Chief Executive Dick Brady.
It would take tow trucks away from more pressing matters, he said. “Having said that I think it’s incumbent on us to have a look at the system we operate,” said Brady. “If it’s possible to improve, having regard to the cyclist and parking in cycling lanes, we should have a look at it.”
Councillors agreed Smyth’s motion and so it was passed.