Not many public consultation launches bring fleets of television cameras and rows of reporters.
But on Monday morning at the Civic Offices on Wood Quay, when Dublin City Council kicked off the public consultation period for the redesign of College Green, there was plenty of press.
In November, councillors were presented with a solid first-draft redesign of the area, and in February, a new proposal was presented to council members that addressed issues relating to traffic flow.
Now the council wants members of the public to air their views on the proposed changes, but they should focus on this plan and not wish for another.
“People shouldn’t be thinking that there’s three or four options” when it comes to the design of the plaza, said DCC’s director of traffic, Declan Wallace.
But there are some who still see issues with the redesign, and would like more details about the impact it might have on bus routes, cyclists, and businesses.
Shifting Bus Routes
If you’ve been following the plans, you probably know the broad strokes of what city engineers and architects want to do with College Green.
If the stretch were to be redesigned exactly as laid out in the latest plan, cars and buses would be banned from moving across College Green, with the creation a new public plaza running as far as Foster Place.
Church Lane and Trinity Street would be reversed, in order to allow traffic to access the area around the plaza for deliveries, as well as providing a turn-around option so that they may leave the area.
Taxis will be allowed to use the new tram route, which runs across the front of Trinity College, with taxi ranks provided for at the north of the plaza on Dame Street, “provided it doesn’t cause any problems”, said head of technical services Brendan O’ Brien.
In February, officials were yet to decide for sure where the many major bus routes would be redirected from the College Green end of Dame Street. Now they say they’ll move many of these onto the quays.
It looks like cars will be banned from Parliament Street, which will help the redirection of the routes heading to and from the quays.
Dublin Bus’s head of operations, Donal Keating, described this design as “probably the best option” for the service. He said that “30 to 40” bus routes in total will be redirected.
Concern About Effects on Businesses
In February, Dublin Chamber of Commerce CEO Gina Quinn said the proposed plaza was a “win-win” for the city. In a press release yesterday, she said the same.
But the chamber also raised concerns about the redirection of bus routes and the restrictions on cars. “The plan needs to be supported by hard evidence that it will work,” it said in yesterday’s release.
The group says “uncertainty remains as to whether traffic which will be pushed out of College Green can be accommodated on other already congested city centre streets”, and that if the design is not thought out properly, the “consequence will be that people won’t want to come in to the city centre”.
Graeme McQueen, media relations officer for Dublin Chamber, says the group will request clarification at a meeting with council officials on Thursday about how the redesign may affect businesses around the city.
“What we’re looking for are some statistics and analysis to be done of how the proposed changes will affect other areas of the city,” he says. “Particularly the quays – Eden Quay and Bachelors Walk, these are areas that are already heavily congested pretty much all day.”
Sara Morris, spokesperson for the National Transport Authority said there are measures in the Dublin City Centre Transport Study “to reduce substantially car traffic travelling through the City Centre, and specifically along the central sections of the quays”.
That should help to accommodate redirected bus routes.
Segregated Cycle Track
Under the proposed design, there will be a two-way segregated cycle track that will run along the side of Bank of Ireland.
It will be up to the design team to determine how best to continue the cycle track across the plaza, as the proposed design cuts the track off before the main plaza sweep.
Cian Ginty, of IrishCycle.com, is sceptical of whether the finished plaza will properly accommodate cyclists passing through the area.
“It’s a vast understatement to say that the city does not have a good record on the details needed to provide joined-up cycle routes,” he says. “Why should anybody take them on face value that they are going to get the cycle route across the plaza?”
But Green Party councillor Ciarán Cuffe says he’s determined to ensure that cyclists are accommodated as they cross the plaza.
“This is a corridor heavily used by cyclists and I don’t believe that they should be required to dismount,” he says. “I will be stressing this to the design team once they are appointed.”
It’s unlikely that the cycle track could run between the plaza and the road around Trinity College that will accommodate Luas and Dublin Bus movement, says Cuffe.
“I’m not sure if there is enough space for a separate north-south cycle lane down towards Grafton Street,” he says. “They may have to share the public-transport lane in this section.”
The public consultation period for this plan will end on May 24. Once the public have had their say, Dublin City Council will seek an architectural team to design the public plaza.
Another public consultation will be held by the end of the year to determine the final design.
As yet, we don’t know how much the changes to College Green will cost. At Monday’s meeting, city architect Ali Grehan said it would likely be “a couple of million”.