Just 14% of Dublin houses built within walking distance of public transport

Building housing and hoping for transport links after is ‘inefficient and risky’

Building housing "and then hoping public transport can be installed afterwards is inefficient and risky", according a soon-to-be published critique of urban planning in Ireland.

In Dublin, just 14 per cent of houses are currently constructed within walking distance of either a train station or a bus stop, consultancy firm EY Ireland says.

However, people who live within one mile of a station are 1.7 times more likely to use sustainable transport to get to work and 2.2 times more likely to not own a car.

There should be joint-delivery of public transport and housing in urban planning “rather than seeing them as two separate challenges requiring separate solutions”, it says.


With the Government planning to invest €2 billion in social housing, €1 billion in public transport and €500 million in sustainable urban developments, delivering value for money will be critical, the analysis says, yet “ transport and housing are currently seen as different challenges, requiring different solutions; each is led by a separate department and Minister”.

It says: “Currently new housing developments are largely built around the private car and assumption that every household requires a car-parking space.”

The analysis backs transport-orientated developments (TODs), a form of high-density, sustainable urban development, which seeks to maximise land-use in the provision of housing, employment, public services and public spaces within close proximity to efficient and reliable public transport.

These mixed-use developments are generally 400- 800 meters – or walking distance – from a transport hub.

The concept of has been around for a while, “but history is littered with failed attempts to make this happen”, it says.

Balanced regional development

It cites the case of Dublin’s massive Cherrywood development – a TOD with 7,700 new homes and amenities close by, but due to uncoordinated planning will take 15 years to complete in 2025 – in spite of a Luas link provided in 2010.

"Transport solutions need to be of the right scale and in the right place and delivered at the right time, while developments need to be aligned to public transport solutions and be ready to go when the transport is ready . . . they need to work together," said Annette Hughes, director with EY-DKM Economic Advisory.

“The good news is that the core objectives of the [forthcoming ] National Development Plan are to achieve balanced regional development and compact growth – both of which are essential for transport-orientated development – so we are already on a solid footing with a comprehensive plan in place for Ireland.

“We’re already planning to deliver at least 50 per cent of all new homes on infill and/or brownfield sites in the existing five cities and their suburbs and at least 40 per cent of all new homes nationally within the built-up footprint of existing settlements,” Ms Hughes added.

This would deliver more sustainable development in areas better served by existing and planned public transport, rather than commuter-belt housing development in locations with limited employment and public transport opportunities.

Public transport investment was going to be put into more densely populated areas with for example, development of a Luas in Cork city, and then building out better transport in suburban areas through Bus Connects "so that in these already developed areas people can be less reliant on private cars, therefore reducing emissions".

Joint financing

The report calls for urban planners and commercial developers to work together from an early point in the development cycle, and backs joint financing of housing and transport projects.

Developments close to high-quality public transport are likely to be more profitable than others, while levies may play a role in aligning incentives and in helping to ensure project delivery if targeted correctly rather than driving up house prices.

The EY report backs a “bring work to where you live” approach. The focus has traditionally been to try and move people closer to work but in crowded city centres such as Dublin this is no longer practical.

New developments need to combine opportunities to “work, rest and play”, while linking such developments to transport hubs will prevent urban sprawl, it says. “If work, schools and amenities are within walking distance and public transport stands ready to transport into the city centre, then a car should become an unnecessary expense.”

It is not sufficient to simply construct traditional developments along transport routes, it says. “Developments themselves need to be fundamentally different. They will need to be built around sustainable transport and attractive green spaces. This will allow for high-density developments, with fewer car parking spaces, whilst still delivering attractive and vibrant communities.”

With the 1 million extra people expected to be living in Ireland by 2040, longer-term planning for housing tied to future transport needs is required, Ms Hughes added. “That means adapting the development of apartment buildings to ensure appropriate reductions in car-parking provision to meet our climate change commitments, and continued investment in bicycle lanes and facilities so people can easily make their way to public transport.”

Cherrywood lessons

Cherrywood is a prime example of a development planned around a key transport node, EY Ireland says. "The scheme, however, was unable to maximise opportunities presented, and 10 years following the opening of the Luas Green Line extension, the development is still not finalised."

Following the opening of the Luas Green Line extension in 2010, Cherrywood was designated as a strategic development zone (SDZ).

It is ideally located around four Luas stops; between the M50 and N11 transport corridors, with Dublin Airport just 35 minutes away by motorway and the city centre 40 minutes by tram.

Its primary land use is to provide high-density employment, commercial uses, residential units and education. Upon completion, it should comprise more than 7,700 new homes, six schools, three public parks and leisure facilities, delivering “the perfect combination of work, rest and play”.

However the scheme was not approved until 2014, four years after the Luas line opened. Construction of the first 1,269 apartments only began in 2018. Completion of the project is now anticipated in 2025.

“This delay represents a lost opportunity, which could have been avoided if the housing development had been planned alongside the Luas extension,” the EY analysis concludes. While housing developments take a long time to build, work could have begun before the Luas extension was completed.

“Planning permission could have been sought whilst the work on the Luas was ongoing, meaning construction work could have begun as quickly as possible. 7,700 additional houses arriving 10 years sooner would have made a considerable impact on the Dublin housing crisis.”

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times