Photo by Caroline Brady

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You may have heard about the new transport plan meant to discourage drivers who want to pass through the city from using city-centre streets, and you may have heard that Dublin City Council wants to know what you think about it.

But here’s the thing: if we want public transport – and more specifically, the under-construction Luas Cross City – to work, we may not really have a choice in the matter. These changes might be on the way whether we want them or not.

When one of city council’s transportation chiefs, Brendan O’Brien, laid out the new plans for councillors last Wednesday, what was the first objective he highlighted? Protecting the investment that has been, and continues to be made in public transport across the city.

It’s not entirely clear what he meant by this. But an educated guess is that he was referring, in large part, to the €386 million that’s being invested in the construction of the Luas Cross City from 2013 to 2017.

You see, the Luas Cross City may not work with the current traffic patterns in the city centre. The study makes this clear.

“As a result of the construction and future operation of Luas Cross City, the current transport arrangements in the core city centre will no longer have the road space or junction capacity to function in an efficient manner, and will require significant reconfiguration,” it says.

There are two issues. First is traffic jams, which would make the Luas trams just more vehicles stuck in traffic. Second is that O’Connell Bridge is too short – or the Luas trams are too long, depending on how you look at it.

The Luas Cross City will not have the kind of segregated right of way through the city centre that its Red Line cousin does (for most of its route). The Cross City trams will be sharing the road with other traffic, and will be subject to the same delays.

A picture of Westmoreland Street, whose four lanes were jam-packed full of traffic, was the next slide in O’Brien’s presentation. There clearly was no room for the Luas to glide through, which is why the plan proposes restrictions to reduce the number of cars there.

And it’s not just Westmoreland Street that needs to be decongested to make room for the Luas Cross City if it’s going to move any faster than a car stuck in traffic.

About 70,000 motorists cross the quays either side of O’Connell Street every day. That’s a massive figure for a city-centre location, which becomes even more boggling when you consider that 100,000 pedestrians traverse the same intersections daily. And the quays also have to put up with stopping buses, taxis and delivery trucks.

Two of the study’s six site-specific proposals have to do with limiting traffic on the quays. (The other four limit traffic in other locations, including the widely covered College Green area.)

The proposed restrictions would limit Bachelors Walk and George’s Quay to public transport, pedestrians and cyclists only. Such measures would mean many of the 70,000 vehicles passing through the intersection with O’Connell Street every day would be re-routed to orbital routes outside the city centre.

And that would make room for the Luas (and buses, for that matter) to slip right into the city centre and leave their passengers off with little hassle.

The second issue that needs to be addressed to preserve the €386 million committed to the Luas Cross City project, is O’Connell Bridge. The length of it.

The Luas trams going north or south over O’Connell Street might have to be signalled straight through, across both the north quays and the south quays. Because the bridge is probably too short for the tram to stop on top of it.

The trams currently being used on the Green Line are 43 metres long, and the bridge only has about 40 metres of road between its pedestrian crossings.

The plan is for 20 trams to cross O’Connell Bridge every hour. Signalling them all straight across would likely slow traffic on the quays from a crawl to a creep.

So if the Luas Cross City is going to work, some of the traffic on the quays basically has to be rerouted.

If the result of the public consultation is an overwhelming rejection of the proposals outlined in the transport study, DCC and the NTA could be in a quandary. To weigh in now, take the councils online survey here.

Anti-Car Discrimination?

O’Brien, who is the head of technical services in the city council’s Environment and Transportation Department, says that, despite the coming changes, private cars will still be able to reach city centre car parks. They’ll just have to learn and abide by the new traffic restrictions. Routes to parking areas need to be planned out before approaching the city centre.

“What we really want to do,” he says, “is to have cars rerouted from well outside the M50 – along the M50, and as they approach the city. So they don’t arrive at Bachelors Walk and try to make a diversion . . . if everybody ends up at Bachelors Walk and tries to turn away from Bachelors Walk, then we will have failed.

For car owners, this all looks like discrimination rather than transport planning.

“Much of it is universally welcome,” says Conor Faugnan, director of consumer affairs at the Automobile Association Ireland, citing initiatives like the Luas Cross City and the Dublin Bike scheme as important improvements to movement in the city.

“The overarching concern we would have,” says Faugnan, “is that shot through this document appears to be an assumption that every time you prevent a private car from moving, you’re doing the city a favour.”

Faugnan does not see the rationale behind many of the restrictions in the proposed transport plan, particularly the weekend traffic bans.

“The imperative for doing that does not come from transport, insofar that it exists at all, it comes from somewhere else. It comes from somebody’s vision of what would be nice in the city,” he says.

The study “strays well beyond what could reasonably be considered transport and becomes instead some form of quasi social engineering, which may be legitimate but at least let’s call it what it is – let’s not present it in the guise of a transport strategy when it’s clearly something more,” says Faugnan.

Let’s say that the transport plan’s changes are put into effect, and tens of thousands of drivers are rerouted around the city centre instead of through it. They have to take alternate “orbital” routes.

Kieran Binchy, Fine Gael group leader in City Council, is worried about what will happen on those orbital routes.

“It’s all very well to say we’re going to take the cars out of certain areas in the city centre but we have to talk about where those cars are going to go instead, and what the effects on traffic are going to be,” he said.

That issue isn’t addressed in the new transport plan, and when Binchy asked about it at the unveiling of the plan, O’Brien didn’t give a clear answer.

Willy Simon

Willy Simon is Dublin Inquirer's planning and transport reporter. Want to share a comment or a tip with him? Send an email to him at

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  1. also ‘please accept them because you aspire to a nicer city centre’ no. We have to have some collective ambition for the city beyond getting our cars through it.

  2. Hello Stephen, thanks for the comment! I agree with you. The study’s proposed changes would really improve life in the city centre for pedestrians, cyclists and people who just want to enjoy the place. I just wanted to highlight that it seems like the success or failure of the Luas Cross City depends on limiting traffic through the city centre.

  3. One thing I don’t understand in any of these proposals is what defines a private car? Is it only cars which are used by private individuals not taking passengers or does it extend to taxis as well?

    If it does not include taxis I think any of these plans are pointless. Any person who ever drives through town or walks will note that the vast majority of cars in town, I dare say four fifths, are taxis. Surely any plan should take into account that some limit needs to be set on City Center taxi numbers and perhaps a registration quota needs to be brought into place for Dublin taxis not dissimilar to what existed 20 years ago.

    Though having said that, removal of taxis will make travel into and around town nigh on impossible in evenings as early mornings for all us folks from the burbs as the only night transport extending beyond 11.30 are to be found on weekends only.

    I would love a situation where public transport in the city was an entirely viable option, but as things currently stand ans as current proposals seem to lack foresight I dont see any of them really running smoothly.

    I would believe the following things need to be thought about:
    -Fairs for the public, which for anyone who uses public transport will know, are scandalously high for the daily user
    -Reduction of taxi numbers in the city center(as already noted)
    -Some form of cyclist license (Im seeing all these cycle routes proposed left, right center, even on major routes, which I would deem foolish as most cyclists I see are dangerous b’s who think they own the road and can cross about it as if it were devoid of other users)
    -Regular public transit beginning at 4.30 am and finishing at 2.30 am,with higher fair cost after 12 at night, to make the service viable
    -Actually thinking out any of the routes that are proposed. Any of the ones Ive seen proposed defy any logic or logistic sense. Why close off College Green which is for better or worse the main nixus point for all central access routes? If roads like Westmoreland St are to have reduced flows should public paths thus be widened in an attractive manner to encourage footfall and improved use of building fronts for cafes etc.
    -If these changes are going to be so wondrous for public transit,does it then mean that bus corridors are abolished in the city center, or are they merely the only lanes to be left open?

    Maybe its just me being thick, but none of these proposals actually address any of the above in any detail, realistic or other

  4. I think anything that limits the amount of Traffic passing through our City is to be recommended. The Motorcar has been allowed to take over and destroying the ability to walk and ride our Bicycles in safety without having to constantly look over our shoulders for fear of being run down. The quality of life has been destroyed since the 1960ties for City dweller and visitor alike. Add to that the massive cancer forming Pollution from those fumes , especially Diesel from all those Buses and cars. Diesel has become very popular because of the Economy but it is worse than Petrol because of the Pollutants.

    I have often tried Cycling up Westmoreland St at evening after 4,00pm and the whole street was blocked by Buses 5 Abreast at least 40 in number all the way up to O’Connell Bridge and completely clear beyond it.

    Because of the extended Luas lines there will be no room anymore for the private car in the centre of the City. I am worried about the situation at College Green as regards Cycling. It looks like Cyclists will be wedged in between the two lines of the Luas and also Buses on the right of Luas. It could make it very awkward to turn right up Dame Street. I love the concept of the Cycleway proposed on the Nth Quays badly needed since the Luas was put in from Parkgate St Benburb St Abby Street, it took away a relatively safe route for Cycling.

    The fares on Public Transport are to dear and need to be lowered also the time needs to be extended to an all night service.

    I would like to see something done to remove Diesel powered Buses and Cars away from the City if it can be done. As already mentioned too many Taxies they are everywhere.

    I look forward to the City Traffic plan , I hope they get it right and not allowed to be dictated to by the Vested interests of the Motor Lobby and certain big busines Shop owners.

  5. I wonder how much of that 300+ million to restrict access on roads in the city is coming from private car tax…segregated cycling systems seen in cities like Berlin would probably suffice for the moaning cyclists across the city, I’ve driven and cycled in Dublin for years and I can honestly say that I’d rather drive the majority of the time not due to dangerous drivers, but the amount of unable cyclists.

  6. I was under the impression the Luas will cross the Llffey on Rosie Hackett Bridge?

    One issue that that was not addressed and does not seem to rank highly on the agenda is the question about Tour Coaches. There is never enough Parking space for tour coaches on Nassau Street, plus we have lost another 2-3 spots this year with Dublin Bus using the end section now for their own service.
    We had a record number of visitors last year, more to be expected for 2016 and the additional pressure of the cruise ship tourism. Also we do get a longer season now, with first groups arriving in March all the way through to November. So where do we go?
    Reality is that no other location is really suitable, most tour groups visit Trinity College, or the National Museum. There are a number of elderly people who can’t do a long walk from around Merrion Square etc.
    Also I remember some politician suggesting a drop of point at Sean McDermot Street a few years ago. This is just the place a tourist want to visit? Also reality is that there are very few places a coach can be safely parked without the driver sitting in his vehicle to ensure that no one is trying to break in. Yes, unfortunately this is a reality too. Also the idea that we have Nassau Street as a tour coach pick up/drop off point only just does not work in reality. Anyone working in the industry as a Driver or a Tour guide is aware about that issue but it seems the city planner didn’t consider it.

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