Council Briefs: Low-Emission Buses, and Getting Tough on Dog Poo

Electric Buses

The National Transport Authority (NTA) plans to make half of the urban public bus fleet in Dublin – around 500 buses – low-emission vehicles by 2023, NTA Chief Executive Anne Graham told Dublin city councillors last week.

And by 2030, all NTA vehicles should be low-emission, Graham said at a meeting of the council’s environment committee at City Hall. (“Low-emission vehicles” means all kinds of things, including hybrids, battery-electric, bio-gas, and H2-electric.)

The NTA also won’t buy any diesel-only buses from this July onwards, she said.

These are some of the moves the NTA is making to reduce emissions in the city, alongside reducing the need to travel (through greater integration of land-use in transport planning), and shifting more people to more environmentally friendly modes of transport, such as public transport, cycling, and walking.

Green Party Councillor Ciarán Cuffe asked why the NTA wasn’t trialling hybrid buses in the city. “Because we’re falling behind what other cities are achieving on this score,” he said.

That’s because the Department of Transport wanted to model how hybrids would affect emissions in the city before they could buy any, Graham said.

The NTA has also had “constrained funding over a number of years”, she said. Low-emission buses are 25 percent more expensive to buy than standard ones.

“So when we’re looking at investment in the fleet, our focus, given we had a growing demand in the city, our focus was on volume of buses initially, to ensure that we could meet that demand,” she said.

The NTA has given Dublin Bus funding for nine hybrid vehicles this year, said David Kane of the NTA. At the moment, those vehicles are being “kitted out” and emissions data from them is being collected by the Department of Transport.

“You may have seen a London red bus drive around Dublin recently. They’re actually measuring some of those types of emissions and other data available,” said Kane.

Cuffe said Transport for London has 3,240 hybrid buses (about 35 percent of its fleet of 9,396) and the NTA has nine on order. “I just think we could be moving way faster.”

Pollution in Dublin Port

When Laura Kearns, environmental health and safety manager at Dublin Port Company, gave the committee an update on air quality at the port, members asked that the port publish the data it has collected on air quality.

The largest port in the country has almost 8,000 ships passing through each year, and traffic has increased 36 percent in the last six years, Kearns said.

“We are a city-centre operation and we have huge volumes of activity from HGVs, ships, industrial processes, and we’re very aware and … conscious of the impacts these emissions could have on air quality,” she said.

Several councillors raised the issue of emissions of ships while at berth. Ships down by the Tom Clarke Bridge “seem to be generating or running under their own power for a long time … three or four days”, said Sinn Féin Councillor Ciaran O’Moore.

Kearns said the port has monitors in 18 locations, which keep track of various chemicals, such as sulphur dioxide and ammonia. One aim of the system is to figure out where the pollution is coming from – ships, road vehicles, or industrial processes, she said.

Kearns said she’d bring councillors’ request that the port publish its air-quality monitoring data to Dublin Port CEO Eamonn O’Reilly.

Fine Gael Councillor Naoise Ó Muirí, the chairperson of the committee, asked for a written response from Dublin Port Company.

On the Issue of Dog Poo

Last year, Dublin City Council issued just four fines for dog fouling in the city. “Of which only one was paid,” said Green Party Councillor Patrick Costello.

Since 2014, the council has issued 135 fines, of which only 83 have been paid, he said.

Costello and his party colleague, Councillor Claire Byrne, proposed a motion that the council should “take serious action in relation to dog fouling”.

“It’s utterly ubiquitous, comes up at every door,” said Costello. “From people worried about their kids stepping in it to wheelchair users having to roll through it.”

The motion proposes to provide free waste bags in places dogs might be, such as parks, and to install more dog-waste bins in problem areas.

In some parts of the city, though, the opposite has been happening – with the council ripping out bins in Dartry Park and Orwell Park

The motion suggested that the council write to the Minister for the Environment to ask for an increase in fines for dog fouling, and that the council use its entire allocation under an anti-litter grant scheme for one year to address the problem.

The motion also set out to introduce bylaws that would make it an offence to be with a dog without the means to pick up after them, said Costello.

Council Executive Manager Celine Reilly said: “If there’s no bin there, bring it home.”

Reilly said she thought enforcement was probably the only way to make some people clean up after their dogs. “And I’m not sure how we’ll do that because it’s difficult,” she said.

“If you’re not thinking about the fact of [what you’ll do with the poo], those softer measures are not going anywhere,” she said.

The committee supported the motion.

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