PROPOSALS TO ban all private cars and vehicles from parts of Dublin city centre could be implemented within a year, it has emerged.
The Dublin Transportation Authority proposals to allow only public transport into O’Connell Street, Westmoreland Street, College Green and Dame Street are being fast-tracked by the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, which claims they could be in place a year earlier then the original 2010 suggestion.
As reported in The Irish Times last March the plans would see cross-city traffic diverted onto a proposed new bridge between Marlborough Street and Hawkins Street. The Oireachtas committee has also recommended another bridge further down the river Liffey at Macken Street.
The committee will now report to Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey that the car-free proposals should be implemented as quickly as possible. It will suggest a target date of April 2009.
The proposals were originally drafted to accommodate work on Metro North, due to get under way in 2011, but the Oireachtas Committee believes they can lead to a shift towards permanent use of public transport, particularly buses.
Committee chairman Frank Fahey TD said that the only way to convince the public to take buses was to free up the centre of the city for them to operate efficiently.
Mr Fahey said figures produced by Dublin Bus that showed it takes 50 minutes at rush hour to get from Mountjoy Square to St Stephen’s Green concentrated the minds of the committee.
“You can’t have a reliable bus service until you first make bus priority the objective,” he said.
“The whole idea is to provide a high-frequency bus service and we’re satisfied that, if we do that, people will use it.”
The committee has proposed that the number of buses operating on Dublin’s streets be increased by 350 from 1,180 to 1,530 within two years. The buses would be sub-contracted from private operators by Dublin Bus.
It has proposed that the Railway Order, which the Railway Procurement Agency uses to free up land, be extended to fast-track the development of more quality bus corridors.
The committee’s proposals were also influenced by meetings with other bodies with responsibility for transport in Dublin.
“All the findings in this report are based on the discussions we had with these various groups. We are quite satisfied that the proposals within this report are possible and can be implemented” he said.
The report also includes proposals for more cycling, and workplace travel plans, which would encourage employers to draw up proposals that would get their employees out of their cars and on to public transport.
The Minister for the Environment John Gormley supported the plans. “I do know that the new sustainable transport initiative which is out to public consultation envisages more buses that come on time, that are comfortable, and more cycleways as well. It is an integrated package which would lead to a more pedestrian-friendly city,” he said.