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The number of operators in the city’s traffic management centre has plunged from 12 this time last year to five now, according to an official in the council’s transport department.

The centre is a control room in the council’s Civic Offices on Wood Quay from which traffic engineers oversee the traffic lights system in the city.

Two staff were redeployed elsewhere, one resigned, one is on a career break and three are on parental leave, leaving five working in the control room.

The traffic control room is staffed around the clock, every day of the year.

Staff in the control room monitor traffic junctionsand arteries across the city on big screens, and manage traffic flows using the Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System (SCATS) technology.

They also handle a freephone line which members of the public can call to report an incident or a fault, say, a traffic light not working.

Councillors say the control room being understaffed may be an issue for traffic in the city. But the council didn’t respond to queries asking about this.

What Does it Do?

James Geoghegan, a Fine Gael councillor, got a tour of the traffic management centre in 2019 when he became a councillor, he says.

Inside, big screens show junctions and roads around the city. “It’s one of the more impressive pieces of infrastructure that I’ve seen in all of the city council,” he said. “I’m not a traffic engineer but it looks advanced.”

“It’s very impressive,” he says.“They control the sequencing of every single traffic light, every single pedestrian crossing.”

Staff can notify Gardaí about a broken light, for example, says Geoghegan, who can go to that location to manage traffic.

“On a strategic level they are changing the sequencing of lights at different locations, to do with flows of pedestrians, cyclists and car traffic,” he says.

It is largely up to technology, and the SCATS system, to calculate when traffic signals should switch and who should go when.

But within the control room, staff can change the sequencing of traffic lights in real time, as they see necessary, says Feljin Jose, spokesperson for Dublin Commuter Coalition, which represents public transport users, cyclists and pedestrians.

Not just in Dublin city, but also in parts of other county council areas: Fingal, South Dublin and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, says Jose.

The traffic management centre can make changes to prioritise bus flow, he says.

For example, when the G-spine – a new bus route that runs from Liffey Valley and Red Cow to Spencer Dock – was introduced it would sometimes get stuck behind cars on the South Circular Road between Emmet Road and Old Kilmainham Road.

“It was getting caught in traffic in that section, because there was no bus priority,” he said.

The wait times for pedestrians to cross are set, says Janet Horner, a Green Party councillor, who also visited the control room in 2019. “But if there is really heavy traffic, they reduce that down.”

Some crossings are timed, so at different times of day, pedestrians might be given more time to cross, she says. “And then other ones, I think they can shift, they can actually control in real time.”

Traffic flow is very interconnected across the city, she says.

“If you increase pedestrian time at the Five Lamps, it can cause a back-up that can delay the Luas,” she says. “It is very hard to just shift things in one part of the city, and not have repercussions in another part.”

What’s the Impact of Fewer Staff?

Geoghegan says that, from memory, there were two or three staff in the room at the time of his tour.

He would be worried if the traffic management centre didn’t have enough staff, he said. “Obviously if there’s an emergency, it would be very concerning if it is understaffed.”

“If it’s going to increase the risk in the city centre in terms of traffic management, obviously that would be concerning,” he says.

Jose says it may not necessarily be a crisis to have fewer staff in the control room, but he doesn’t know enough about how the staffing or rostering works, he said.

Says Horner: “If they are winding down staff in the traffic management centre, I wouldn’t automatically say that’s a bad idea.”

Staff are needed in other units within the transport department to move along active travel projects, she says.

“People will say we’re so congested, so we should have people helping to ensure the traffic is flowing,” she says. “But like our whole idea is we want public transport and walking and cycling.”

“Maybe our resources should be going into that,” said Horner.

Focusing on traffic flow means that other road users have to wait while the sheer volume of cars are pushed through, she says.

Geoghegan says the council’s priority is pedestrians. “And trying to allow for as much time as possible for them.”

Claudia Dalby

Claudia Dalby is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. She's especially interested in stories about the southside, transport, and kids in the city. Get in touch at

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