Solving Dublin's €2bn Congestion Conundrum

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By Graeme McQueen, 19 June 2017

Increased car sharing, better public transport and a bigger focus on cycling and walking infrastructure will all be required to avert a pending congestion crisis in Dublin.

That was the message delivered by speakers at a special breakfast briefing in Dublin this morning, which considered how people will move around the city in the decades to come.

A packed audience of over 100 attendees at the ‘Dublin 2050’ event, organised by Dublin Chamber in partnership with Fujitsu Ireland, heard that the cost of congestion in Dublin to the national economy is likely to rise to more than €2 billion per annum over the coming 15 years.

Speaking at the event in the Westbury Hotel, Dublin Chamber CEO Mary Rose Burke said the figure of €2 billion – which is based on forecasts by the Department of Transport – is likely to prove extremely conservative, unless urgent investment is made in Dublin’s infrastructure.

The aim of the 2050 series is to kick-start the debate on how to secure Dublin’s long-term future as a world class city and Tuesday’s thought-provoking contributions left attendees with plenty of food for thought. The key speakers were Laura Behan, Head of Climate Change Unit at Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport, Russell Goodenough, Client Managing Director for the Transport Sector, Fujitsu UK & Ireland and Dr. Melanie Bouroche, Trinity Future Cities Mobility Research.

Laura Behan emphasised the importance of alternative fuels for powering our cars and public transport as we look towards 2050. The Head of Climate Change considered the findings of the International Transport Forum which said that in 2016 car sharing operations could be found in 33 countries across 5 continents.  Laura said “Specifically, the forum examines the effect of replacing all car and bus trips in a mid-sized European city with automatically dispatched door-to-door services. The report finds that such systems can massively reduce the number of cars on city streets while maintaining similar service levels as today. They also result in significant reductions of distances travelled, congestion and negative environmental impacts. Not least, automatically dispatched, door-to-door services also improve access and reduce costs to consumers.”

Mary Rose Burke, CEO of Dublin Chamber, called for improvements to public transport infrastructure and longer term thinking when it comes to planning. “The year 2050 may seem far away, but projects like Metro North and DART Underground have very long lead-in times, and we must start laying the groundwork now. Dublin has already suffered enough due to short-term thinking. The DART Underground proposal, for example, was first discussed in 1971. Almost a half-century later, no progress has taken place. Real action is long overdue.” Mary Rose Burke said.

She added, “Enhancement of Dublin’s bus services, upgrades to the ticketing and payment system, improvements to cycling and walking infrastructure, and co-location of complementary services, should all be considered. These are all areas where substantial gains can be achieved in a short timeframe and with a relatively low outlay.”

Dr Melanie Bouroche examined the advent of the autonomous cars and the inevitable transition period towards driverless roads. Fujitsu’s Russell Goodenough also focused on the need for innovation in transport technology in order to positively impact the cities development. “We are witnessing an ongoing global evolution of the transport sector, whereby service provision is now determined by the need for personalisation and a human centric passenger experience. The rise of smartphone technology and modern communications mean that individuals are interacting with bus, rail and road modes of transport on a daily basis. Whether it is via an app or social media, citizens expect systems that work to facilitate their daily lives. As we look toward 2050, transport will be crucial to the development of Dublin and it is important that the city and its planners are open to new technologies, as well as providing a planning system that facilitates innovation and development.”