Dublin is resorting to drastic measures to address the problem of worsening traffic congestion in its city centre.
The Irish capital hopes to prohibit the use of automobiles in vital parts of its downtown area by 2017 as part of efforts to alleviate worsening traffic congestion.
Despite its reputation as being the historic and picturesque capital of a country with a very modest population, Dublin has seen its traffic problems worsen severely over recent years.
The city was named the 10th-most congested in the world last year in a report released by Sat Nav manufacturer TomTom – a extraordinary feat given that Dublin’s metropolitan limits contain a population of little more than half a million.
Urban development experts say Dublin’s congestion woes are the result of the city’s knotted, historic streets being ill-suited to the demands of vehicular traffic.
Data issued by Dublin’s city council indicate that this congestion is set to worsen if current circumstances remain unchanged.
The city centre is already the arrival and departure point for as many as 192,000 journeys each weekday, a third of which are made by vehicle. The council expects number of journeys to increase by 42,000 – or an additional 14,000 car journeys per weekday – should current commuting patterns remain the same.
The city council’s new EU150 million plan to forestall this worsening congestion involves banning cars completely from certain key parts of Dublin’s downtown area.
Areas where cars will be banished include College Green – the triangle of space situated between the Irish parliament and Trinity College; Grafton Street – the area between Grafton Street and St. Stephen’s Green park; as well as the banks of the River Liffey at Bachelor’s Walk and George’s Quay.
The car lanes in the area between Grafton Street and St. Stephen’s Green park will be converted into paved, tree-lined pedestrian thoroughfares that are host to café terraces and restaurants.
Dublin’s municipal government is keenly aware that simply banishing vehicles from key parts of the city centre won’t serve as a cure-all panacea for its traffic woes. They are also investing EU368 million in an extension of the city’s light rail network that is scheduled to commence operation in 2017, just as the automobile prohibition is set come into effect.
In addition to expanding light rail capacity, Dublin also has plans to raise the frequency and capacity of other public transportation services such as bus and train, and will aim to create a network of cycle paths that is separated from automobile traffic streams “where appropriate.”
Dublin’s city council hopes that this achieves a reduction in the percentage of commuters who travel to and from the city by car from a third at present to just 20 per cent in two years.
The Irish capital is far from alone in its efforts to reduce vehicle usage, with other leading European cities including Paris, Madrid and Brussels unveiling similar ambitious plans to encourage drivers to become pedestrians and users of public transportation.
Concerns about worsening traffic congestion in Australia have also led to calls from sustainability experts such as Curtin University’s Professor Peter Newman for greater focus on walkability and public transportation in the country’s urban centres.