LUAS CROSS-CITY: EFFECTS ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN DUBLIN BY JORDAN LAWLOR-GANNON, THIRD YEAR STUDENT – DEPARTMENT OF GEOGRAPHY

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Image source: Turgidson (2016) Luas cross city track laying on O’Connell Street. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/turgidson/ (Last accessed 20 November 2016).

Images such as this will be all too familiar to anyone who has been in Dublin city centre over the past three years. The short-term impacts which Luas Cross City (LCC) has had on the city centre can be seen all the way from O’Connell Street to Stephen’s Green. However the longer term impacts are not so visible, and have not been fully communicated to the general commuting public. In an attempt to address this I decided to examine the impacts which LCC will have on how people can access public transport in Dublin – particularly by focusing on the most used form of public transport in Dublin – Dublin Bus.

Background:

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Image source: https://www.luascrosscity.ie/route-map-and-alignment-drawings-2/

Luas Cross City is a construction project run by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) and funded by the National Transport Authority, while the new line when operational will be run by the private company Transdev. The main aim of the project is to fill the missing link between the Luas Green and Red lines which are currently separated by a 15 minute walk at the closest points. The new link will also extend north towards Broombridge station which is on the Connolly to Maynooth line, creating a further connection to Dublin commuter services (http://www.luascrosscity.ie/about/about-lcc/). Planning for the project started in early 2005 when the Railway Procurement Agency (merged to form TII in 2015) carried out a survey of Luas Passengers on their attitudes towards a future cross city connection, as well as station locations. Using this information the RPA moved on to full public consultation (https://www.luascrosscity.ie/about/public-documents/route-selection/). The original focus of consultation on Luas passengers not only presented a sample which would naturally be biased towards supporting Luas extensions, but also neglected to take into account the needs and wishes of the vast majority of public transport commuters in Dublin who travel using Dublin Bus (http://www.dttas.ie/sites/default/files/publications/corporate/english/transport-trends-2016/transport-trends-2016.pdf).

Existing Situation

Dublin is already a heavily congested city. According to the Satnav product TomTom, traffic congestion in the city adds on average 50 minutes per day to travel journeys, based on data collected from its satnav units which are used in the city (https://www.tomtom.com/en_ie/trafficindex/city/DUB). Bus congestion is to a large extent tied to this congestion in that buses operate on the same streets as private cars. Bus lanes vary widely across the city in both distribution and quality, however even when high quality bus corridors are in place they tend to be the focus of a larger number of high frequency routes which creates in lane congestion between buses, also compounded by bus bunching – when two or three buses on the same route meet up with one another. Although existing Luas lines generally do not have to deal with these problems, the nature of LCC means that trams on the new line will have to share road space with buses and cars. This will have knock on effects (for the existing green line which is generally for most of its run grade-separated from traffic) to the delays imposed by both car and bus traffic in the city centre as the turn around time for trams – the amount of time it takes for a tram to switch from inbound to outbound – will be increased. As it stands turn around time for green line trams at St. Stephen’s Green is totally independent of bus and car traffic, due to the separation there of the Luas line from regular street traffic. However when the new Luas line is implemented the turn around point will be moved to the north end of O’Connell street where a loop will be provided to allow trams to turn right onto Parnell Street, back down Marlborough street and south towards the old terminus at St. Stephen’s Green before on to the southern suburbs. During this time the Luas will be at the mercy of street traffic, particularly when the bottlenecks of Dawson Street and College Green are taken into account. Bunching will no longer be a problem associated with buses in Dublin as the new Luas line will be open to this form of congestion.

Dawson Street

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Image source: Joanes, R. (2016) Building the LUAS Cross-city tram line. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/110691393@N07/ (Last accessed 20 November 2016).

Before construction of LCC began, Dawson Street was a one way, with two northbound lanes turning left onto Nassau Street. It is an important focus for several high frequency bus routes, mainly the 39a, the 46a and the 145. These three routes alone account for 302 scheduled buses passing down Dawson Street per day – a constant stream. This is of course not even considering the other 18 routes which both use and stop on the street throughout the day. When LCC is up and running, the street layout will be changed completely from its original one way configuration. Instead it will have two lanes (one in either direction), with a loss of one northbound lane to allow for a southbound tram lane (exclusively for use of trams). This single northbound lane will be shared by buses, trams and car traffic, as well as being the location for the new Dawson Luas stop, key city centre bus stops and new Luas stop at the Nassau Street end.

— Map of Dawson street available: http://www.lccdawsonnbstop.ie/Downloads/draftro/Luas_Cross_City_Dawson_Northbound_Stop_Drawing_LBXD000GA29007A.pdf

 

College Green (http://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/bus-concerns-on-the-new-luas-cross-city-line-1.2478013) as well as O’Connell Bridge (http://www.dublininquirer.com/2015/06/17/please-accept-these-transport-plans-or-this-could-get-awkward/) have also been identified as areas where busses and trams will be in competition with each other for road space, and where congestion will become likely unless a large scale, long term solution can be found.

The Future: conflict

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Image source: Murphy, W. (2016) LUAS tram crashes into bus. Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/ (Last accessed 20 November 2016).

Although the possible solutions to these issues have not been publicly discussed with Dublin commuters, the one thing that is clear is that when the first LCC trams begin use of the new network, a huge reconfiguration of traffic routed in Dublin City must take place. This means a huge change in how the people who use the city centre for work, education and leisure access transport – both private drivers, taxi users, bus users and also Luas users. Due to the huge amount of spending which LCC represents, the dice seem loaded towards tram transport over bus so as to ensure the protection of investment in the project. However hopefully this will not at the expense of more practical solutions to Dublin’s traffic issues such as bus rapid transport. The one thing that is for sure is the fact that competition between buses and trams is set to enter the streets of Dublin as soon as works are completed on the new line – though hopefully not as literally as in the above image.

 

Sources used:

http://www.lccdawsonnbstop.ie/Downloads/draftro/Luas_Cross_City_Dawson_Northbound_Stop_Drawing_LBXD000GA29007A.pdf

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/bus-concerns-on-the-new-luas-cross-city-line-1.2478013

http://www.dublininquirer.com/2015/06/17/please-accept-these-transport-plans-or-this-could-get-awkward/

https://www.tomtom.com/en_ie/trafficindex/city/DUB

http://www.luascrosscity.ie/about/about-lcc/

https://www.luascrosscity.ie/about/public-documents/route-selection/

http://www.dttas.ie/sites/default/files/publications/corporate/english/transport-trends-2016/transport-trends-2016.pdf

BOOK LAUNCH – ASSISTANT PROFESSOR SUSAN P. MURPHY

Responsibility In An Interconnected World: International Assistance, Duty And Action In Springer Studies In Global Justice (2016) – http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-319-31445-7.

This monograph opens with an examination of the aid industry and the claims of leading practitioners that the industry is experiencing a crisis of confidence due to an absence of clear moral guidelines. The book then undertakes a critical review of the leading philosophical accounts of the duty to aid, including the narrow, instructive accounts in the writings of John Rawls and Peter Singer, and broad, disruptive accounts in the writings of Onora O’Neill and Amartya Sen. Through an elaboration of the elements of interconnection, responsible action, inclusive engagement, and accumulative duties, the comparative approach developed in the book has the potential to overcome the philosophical tensions between the accounts and provide guidance to aid practitioners, donors and recipients in the complex contemporary circumstances of assistance.

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Assistant Professor Susan Murphy (centre) with Professor Iseult Honohan of University College Dublin (left) and Professor Deen Chatterjee (S.J.Quinney College of Law; Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs; and Oxford Human Rights Consortium).

The book

  • Examines the interplay between different types of moral obligation within the complicated, contemporary circumstances of international assistance
  • Uses case studies focusing on some of the most complex and troubled regions of the world to links theory to practice
  • Develops a practical framework to guide actions and evaluate outcomes in complex and uncertain circumstances

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Professor Deen Chatterjee launching the book.

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Professor Iseult Honohan (centre) giving remarks.

THE URBAN – RURAL DIVIDE IN IRELAND BY MARK O’SULLIVAN

I am a person from County Clare who, like many, has made the move to our nation’s capital. I have a unique viewpoint on the differences between urban and rural Ireland and I have witnessed first-hand, the division of these two communities. I will discuss what divides us and how government policy reflects this.

It is clear from the lack of media coverage that rural communities have been hit hardest by the financial crisis. Services have been decimated along with increased unemployment and emigration of young people with 80,900 people leaving the country in the year to April 2013 (http://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/er/pme/populationandmigrationestimatesapril2015/). We have flocked to urban centres for education, a career and a means to sustain a good quality of life. The lack of jobs and investment have led to the decay of rural Ireland. In contrast, urban areas enjoy jobs, wealth and diversity. I believe that the lack of investment and the prioritisation of Dublin over rural areas are the cause of the divide. In the UK, the government has plans to invest in the north of England to create a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ which is being proposed to attract investment and to counteract the dominance of London in the UK economy (www.bbc.com/news/magazine-32720462). We can learn from our neighbours and implement the same strategy along our western seaboard. Can we bridge the divide and unite together to form a stronger and more equal Ireland?

Post offices and family run businesses define villages across the country, but, are under threat due to lack of investment in the community. The disintegration of communities in rural areas is highlighted in this link (http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/rural-post-offices-under-a-new-threat-34889711.html). The main streets of every major town in Ireland have empty premises leading to the demoralisation of the local population (www.midwestradio.ie/index.php/news/19279-25-vacant-premises-on-castlebar-s-main-street-at-present-according-to-local-councillor). In contrast, both Henry and Grafton Streets in Dublin have near full occupancy, along with high levels of trade.

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Flooding is a major issue for both businesses and houses in rural Ireland, especially on the River Shannon and River Lee. Flood defences are not being provided (http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/flood-hit-cork-expecting-more-with-high-tides-as-business-owners-slam-lack-of-flood-defences-729052.html). Investment in rural Ireland can be seen as a nuisance as there is not enough people living there for it to be financially viable leaving rural homes and farmland to flood while defences are put in place in urban areas like Ennis, Co. Clare. All areas should be protected as they provide either a home or a job for somebody and leaving anybody without these two essentials puts an unnecessary and avoidable strain on the state.

We are a nation divided by inherent localism. Some rural TDs believe that rural Ireland is being left behind by the capital for instance in the lack of investment in transport and communication infrastructure, echoing the notable divides described in the Hunger Games movies! From a rural perspective, city dwellers have all the jobs and services while the rural community is thrown some scraps when a local TD has some bargaining power. The regeneration of Dublin’s Docklands is a good example of this. Dublin, yet again, is the focus of the government’s investment, renewal, regeneration and recovery. The classification of this area as a Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) along with the exponential growth of the capital’s economy is creating a tension between rural and urban populations at both a local and national viewpoint. Projects such as this are exacerbating the problems of rural and urban Ireland. This highlights the concentration and preference of the local, over the national interests of the country in urban areas.

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There is however another divide that exists but is not so clear from the outset. The lack of community and trust between people who walk Dublin’s streets is something alien to country dwellers (http://www.irishtimes.com/business/lack-of-housing-policy-is-hurting-community-spirit-1.471325). In rural areas, everybody knows their neighbours and greets them when they walk down the street. The silence on packed rush hour buses is sad from my point of view. Technology has a part in this but I believe it isn’t the main driver. People not knowing their neighbours and the subsequent loneliness are more of the problems that urban dwellers have and which drives the two populations even further apart.

The electrification of the country after the Second World War also clearly shows the urban-rural divide. A prime example of this is when Ballycroy, Co. Mayo was the last village in Ireland to be electrified in 1964, a whole 17 years after the first ESB pole was erected in north Co. Dublin (http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/let-there-be-light-the-day-all-ireland-went-electric-1.2845679). This division and prioritisation is also happening today. Urban areas are now being prioritised with faster broadband speeds and even the availability of broadband over those in rural communities. 4G speed mobile data is only available in major urban centres and you’re lucky if you can even find any internet in parts of the rural landscape. We can learn from our mistakes in the 1940s and 50s and have the speedy and extensive rollout of high speed broadband to all areas of rural Ireland. We can help bridge the divide by doing this.

The unequal distribution of resources and opportunities, national and local state interferences and capital disinvestment are all responsible for the divide in Ireland. I believe that there is little co-ordination between the different state agencies and politicians that manage and control this country. Decisions are made with no consideration of the national implications. Now, more than ever, we need an urgent review of planning policy with a view to concentrating development in the areas which need it most. We need a structured response, investment in rural Ireland and leadership from government. We need to bridge the urban-rural divide, to bring people from both of these communities together and to eliminate inequality and unfairness in this country. In the words of an African proverb, ‘if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together’.

 

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY BY THIRD YEAR STUDENT – DEPARTMENT OF GEOGRAPHY

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The lesson of how not to do something (the bad and ugly..!) and the positive story of lessons learned and how something can be turned around and a much more positive story generated (the good..!) Ballymun flats seemed like a great idea at the time. Representing forward thinking, progressive planning and new modern construction techniques. It was well intended for sure; the idea of construing a new town to respond to what was a serious housing crisis. Sadly the approach was fundamentally flawed; it was 100% public housing, built around a roundabout, without any appropriate supporting infrastructure such as shops or schools. Easy to look back at it now and wonder what they were thinking, but hindsight is a great thing..! Work first started in 1965.

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Irish Times Mcdermott Tower 2005 Photographer: Alan Betson

It was planned that most people would be housed in high rise flats. Other amenities were to be constructed at the same time, in time for the first tenants, but these were delayed and tenants were left largely in isolation without having some basic services to support them. A bad start to the projects. The development also suffered from a range of other problems such as poorly maintained lifts and faulty heating, all critical issues for families living in high rise buildings. Ultimately Ballymun was a failure and the area and its peoples experienced huge social problems and widespread deprivation; with consistent drug use, poverty and crime. In his book “The Construction of Dublin”, architectural journalist Frank McDonald called it the Irish state’s “worst planning disaster”. But at the time it was considered a wonderful vision of the future of planning and many people wanted to move there. Ultimately it was decided that the high rise Ballymun flat scheme was a failure and the only solution was to demolish the flats. Now the challenge was to recognize what had gone wrong, learn from the mistakes made and avoid repeating them. Some key lessons learnt were that housing and people must be supported by infrastructure from day one and that social mix is very important. With regard to this latter point in the Rowntree Publications (2205) “A good place for Children” it is noted that regeneration is more likely to be successful by creating the right mix of people including involving some residents who are better off financially. The authors feel it provides

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many benefits to include an understanding and appreciation of social difference, provides a balanced demographics to an area, broader educational influences and exposure to different ways of life for all. A specialist company was set up by Dublin City Council to demolish the existing flats and to plan and undertake the construction of a new town of Ballymun. Critically the new Ballymun moved away from the high rise flats model previously used in favour of lower rise accommodation. Most importantly the new housing is a mix of public, private, co-operative and voluntary housing. Delivering one of the key criteria of urban renewal, namely social mix. It also included and delivered at an early stage in the regeneration project parks, sports areas, a major city Council office, health and leisure facilities, a new hotel and a shopping centre. All contributing to local employment and people working and doing business in their own community. Ballymun now is viewed as a positive and enlightened example of urban regeneration, but maybe most importantly it shows that mistakes can be fixed and that we can learn from our mistakes.

“The only real mistake is one from which we learn nothing”.John Powell

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 Biblography:

Ballymun Regeneration (2007) Terenure Diversity In the Ballymena Regeneration Catchment Area.

Peter Bodkin (4th March 2015) ‘This is everything that went wrong with Ballymun’, The Journal, 15/11/16.

Olivia Kelly (2016) ‘Regenerating Ballymun: new aspirations, old problems? ‘, IrishTimes, 15 11, p. .