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The Debate: Will the traffic plan for Dublin improve life in the city?

The plan aims to reroute traffic travelling through Dublin city centre and on to somewhere else. But not everyone is in favour of it

Prof Brian Caulfield: Yes. This plan will transform our capital city for the better

The new Dublin City Centre Transport Plan has attracted plenty of attention – both positive and negative. When launched, many headlines declared that the plan would seek to “ban traffic from the city centre”. However, the reality of the plan is that it seeks to deter and/or reroute traffic in the core part of the city that does not have a destination there – a figure of about 60 per cent.

Why is the plan necessary? Dublin is the one of the most congested cities in the world. In 2022 congestion cost the city €330 million. Critically, we need to improve our air quality to be within World Health Organisation (WHO) levels, and finally we need to make public transport more reliable in the city by reducing congestion. There are positive steps being taken; recently, planning permission was granted for the first BusConnects corridors. But to make this multibillion-euro project a success, there needs to be free-flowing bus traffic in the city centre.

While traffic flow and management are at the core of the plan, there are other aspects that cannot be measured by data. The creation of multiple civic spaces, more green spaces (pocket parks, etc), and making the city core a nicer place to visit will ultimately transform our city for the better. The plan follows the trend sweeping across the world where city centre cores have been returned to citizens and private cars have been limited. Cities such as Paris, New York and London have all implemented similar schemes. These cities have extensive underground public transport systems, so of course that is a factor, but we can’t wait more than a decade for Metrolink. We have to take action so we can live in our city, reduce congestion and cut emissions.

Portland in the US established a similar pedestrianisation scheme after Covid. The results from that city show that footfall increased by 10 per cent. In Auckland, a similar scheme and shared streets initiative saw a 47 per cent increase in consumer spending and a 25 per cent decrease in car traffic. When cars were restricted in the city centre of Oslo, retail outlets saw a 10 per cent increase in customers.


For those global cities that have implemented changes in their urban realm, the one common theme is that change did not come easily or swiftly. But a key element to success in these projects was discussion and dialogue with the citizens of the cities, willingness to change plans and monitoring progress. This is also required in the Dublin plan.

More consultation is required with all of our city stakeholders to ensure the effective delivery of the plan. One of the legitimate fears that people have with the plan is that the displaced traffic from the core of the city centre may result in other routes becoming more congested, or that they are being turned away from the capital. But these fears can be allayed. A stronger statement on how these impacts will be measured should be provided by Dublin City Council, and equally more detail and how deliveries will be facilitated should be produced. In 2022 during the Citizens’ Assembly, it was discussed what powers a directly elected Dublin mayor should have, and it was explicitly recommended that transport should be a core part of the new office. In future, an elected mayor that speaks for the citizens of the city could, and should, champion such initiatives.

Our city faces several transport challenges. We have rebounded from Covid and the demand for transport services has increased, our population is increasing, we have a housing crisis that requires new developments to be connected with sustainable and reliable transport, and we must cut our emissions in transport by 50 per cent. The supply of space to move people in our city is finite. Therefore, we need to maximise how we use it. The core part of our city needs to be redesigned to ensure the efficient flow of people and not vehicles.

Prof Brian Caulfield is professor in transportation and head of department at the Centre for Transport Research, Dept of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, Trinity College Dublin

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Tim Lynch: No. Displaced traffic will make life miserable for those of us living in the city

I live in the city centre just off Pearse Street in Dublin, in an old neighbourhood which has welcomed many newcomers. It is a vibrant community where people look out for one another.

Dublin City Council published its draft transport plan for Dublin city centre last September for public consultation. Its proposed changes in traffic flows will adversely affect the lives of many residents in the city. That plan has now been passed unchanged in any manner.

It was supposed to incorporate the entire “central area”, between the Royal and Grand Canals. Instead, the council unilaterally, without offering any acceptable reason, reduced the geographic scope of the plan to what it terms the “inner core” area. This area is roughly based on a 1km radius circle with its centre around the Millennium Footbridge on the Liffey at Temple Bar. This woeful decision to reduce the remit of the plan has two major drawbacks.

Firstly, it means that the “nice things” such as refurbishment of existing and creation of new public spaces, the greening of streets, widening of footpaths and installation of cycling infrastructure is limited to this area. These improvements, which I and my neighbours warmly welcome, will be confined to tourist/shopping/commuter areas. Our street, Pearse Street, is a case in point. The “beautification” scheme will be limited solely to the Trinity/city end. The rest of the street, which we feel is badly in need of some TLC and has a higher concentration of residents living on or close to it, will be left untouched. The same applies to other communities outside the inner core.

The second major problem of greater negative impact will be the permanent diversion of traffic away from the inner core into surrounding areas. For us, this will mean the large volumes of traffic that currently travel up Westland Row on to Pearse Street, will be directed towards the Beckett Bridge and surrounding streets. We are already inundated with traffic in this area. Many Dubliners will have witnessed huge traffic queues backed up into surrounding areas, sometimes as far back as Ringsend village. We experience this horrendous traffic congestion daily, morning and evening.

There are many studies that show standing traffic has a greater pollutive effect than moving traffic, and this surge in congestion will increase pollution in our area. The Guardian published a major investigation into pollution levels in Europe last September. It provided an interactive map that showed pollution levels in our area scored 8.5, well more than the WHO target of five.

The only permanent air quality monitoring point in our area is at the Trinity end of Pearse Street. The council wants to push traffic away from this area, towards us. There is no proposal to establish additional monitoring points in the areas which will take significant additional volumes of traffic because of this new plan.

The council canvassed passers-by in the city centre for their views, but no residents were directly consulted. We do not expect to have a veto on plans, but we think that our views are at least as important as anonymous passers-by. There was also an issue with the consultative process. The plan/consultation was published mid-September 2023 but the supporting environmental reports were published later in October – so these went unseen by many respondents in their preparation of responses, ours included.These assessments, however, also do not offer any coherent reason for contracting the plan area. They assert that the displaced traffic will not be a problem, the evidence of which is a footnote referencing traffic modelling, which is not publicly available.

If the plan was the first phase of a more comprehensive one for the entire central area, it might be acceptable. As it stands, this plan should be rejected.

Tim Lynch is a resident of Pearse Street