Alison Healy in The Irish Times tells us that The Progressive Democrats have presented a package of measures designed to improve the lives of workers who commute to Dublin from as far away as Monaghan, Offaly and Kilkenny.
Proposals in A Fair Deal for Commuters include treating the commuter belt as a single region for job creation, a circle of park-and-ride facilities outside the M50 and the acceleration of infrastructural projects along the commuter belt.
The document also repeats the proposal by Minister for Justice Michael McDowell for a "fundamental and speedy reform" of the stamp duty regime and says this must be part of the next programme for government. The PD package, which was described as "a contract with commuters", was outlined at a public meeting in Gormanston, Co Meath.
Mr McDowell said the "explosive growth" in the Dublin commuter belt was a serious challenge to Irish society. "The speed of population growth in the commuter belt has led to the creation of a massive infrastructure deficit in terms of roads and rail infrastructure, creches, schools and community centres and medical services," he said. It was adversely affecting people's quality of life now but it could also lead to severe social problems in the long term.
ESRI economist Dr Edgar Morgenroth said many people did not factor in the cost of commuting when considering where to buy a house. He commutes from Co Monaghan, driving 35,000 miles a year and said it cost him €17,500 per year to run his car, or 41 cent per mile. "That's a lot of money," he said,
adding that it could greatly reduce the gap between house prices in Dublin and a commuter county such as Laois.
Dr Morgenroth said we had a "terrible motorway network" and asked why an integrated travel ticketing system had still not been introduced in this State while other countries had introduced such a system before the last World War.
He also advocated high-density housing and said congestion charges would eliminate the "frivolous journeys" that some people often undertook.
Sirena Campbell, the PD's Meath East candidate, outlined the PD plan and said a database should be drawn up of workers and professionals living in the commuter region who were interested in working locally.
The PD plan proposes a circle of park-and-ride facilities around Dublin city and outside the M50 to reduce commuting time. Mr McDowell said the M50 had become a moat around Dublin, "a barrier that bars city-bound commuters from their jobs".