Councillors were presented with proposals to redesign College Green on Monday afternoon.
If all goes to plan, the design will be up for public consultation by next month, and College Green will be transformed by the summer of 2017.
The Cross City Luas line is due to be up and running by June 2017, and the already-congested street must be realigned by then to make way for it.
The council hopes to match the timing of the redesign with the construction of the tram lines to minimise disruption to traffic.
With the Luas construction works going on, College Green is already restricted for cars. Some drivers have been moved to call Joe Duffy’s Liveline to fume about being fined for driving up College Green.
But car owners better get used to it.
The council’s proposed design will mean a permanent ban on private cars on College Green. As for taxis? No decision has been made as to whether they will be exempt from the ban.
It has been decided that the taxi rank at Foster’s Place will be moved in the direction of Dame Street. So if taxis aren’t allowed on College Green, they will be forced to leave the rank and turn right onto Church Lane, along with all other private vehicles.
Room to Roam
The proposed plans may mean less vehicular traffic, but they leave more room for pedestrians.
The islands in the centre of College Green will disappear, and the footpaths on each side of the road will be significantly widened. (It’s unclear where the monuments will be dispatched to.)
The council estimates that 80,000 pedestrians move through the street during the day. This is expected to increase with the addition of Luas stops, and the plan aims to ease pedestrian congestion and create a civic space for people to enjoy the surrounding architecture.
A generous footpath extension in front of Bank of Ireland will accommodate a public plaza.
That plaza will be planned in detail in a separate document, and the council hopes to apply for planning permission for that in mid-2016. College Green is part of the city’s new tourist trail, the Dubline, and the council hopes the plaza will attract sightseers.
The large London plane trees in the centre of the street will be cut down to make way for traffic and allow for a clear view of the surrounding historical architecture from the plaza.
Even Green Party councillor Ciarán Cuffe, who has been known to chain himself to trees in the past, is glad to see them go.
What About Cyclists?
College Green is currently a hostile environment for cyclists, and it doesn’t appear that this redesign will do much to change that. Cycle lanes and bus stops will continue to overlap.
But Christopher Manzira, engineer for the council’s road and traffic department, had some reassuring news for bike users.
A number of plans for cyclists are currently under consideration and measures will be taken to ensure that the whole cycle network is comprehensive and fully linked up, he said.
Routes to encourage cyclists to travel up to Westmoreland Street and then onto Fleet Street are in the works.
“We are also looking at a contraflow cycle track on Lombard Street, which would bring you then to City Quay, where we are actually constructing a two-way cycle track as well,” Manzira said.
Most councillors were generally happy with the design.
But Cuffe, who is head of the transport committee, pointed out differences between the council’s written report, which he approved of, and the architect’s drawings, which he disliked.
“Really it’s a step backwards,” he said.
The diagrams in the written report show a T-junction at the top of College Green, which would slow down traffic. But Cuffe, an architect and lecturer in planning, said the architect’s drawings are different.
“My heart sank when I saw the engineer’s drawing . . . This shows a road layout that will facilitate fast-moving traffic,” he said. The drawing also shows a smaller plaza for pedestrians, and the creation of a “ghost island”, he said.
Although Manzira explained that the high volume of buses coming through College Green (approximately a quarter of Dublin Bus’s fleet) wouldn’t allow for a T-junction, councillors deferred their decision until the issue is resolved.
A special meeting will take place later this month to address Cuffe’s concerns, and councillors intend to vote on the plan at December’s monthly council meeting, so as not to delay the planning process.
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a civic space that we can be proud of as a national civic space,” said Cuffe. “We’ve got to get it right.”