The planning of Dublin’s transport should be founded on a clear sense of priorities, based on (a) travel patterns and population, (b) the optimum use of resources available eg. street space, land use, finance, (c) investing in sustainability.
One would expect the National Transport Authority (NTA) to pay particular attention to the implications of the data in reports it has commissioned. However, recent work by the NTA pays scant regard to the public transport needs of those living between the City Centre and Dublin Airport. Despite NTA evidence, there is still an obsession with a City Centre-Airport rail link and journey times on this corridor.
An NTA report has shown travel demand is greatest inside the M50 during the morning peak ie. 1. between the canals and the M50 – the Inner Suburbs – with 27% of journeys in 2006 and 18% in 2030; 2. inside the canals – between the Inner suburbs and the City Centre – with 13% in 2006 and 15% in 2030. (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Travel Demand in Dublin Morning Peak 2006 and 2030
Source: National Transport Authority Greater Dublin Area Draft Transport Strategy 2011‐2030 2030 vision April 2012. Chap 4 p.9 (link)
This travel demand reflects activity in Dublin’s Core Economic Area as shown in Figure 2 (prepared by Justin Gleeson, based in Maynooth University). However, in its do-minimum planning for enhanced public transport, the NTA has not focused on Dublin’s Core Economic area. The NTA’s current Do-Minimum assumes DART Underground (the Yellow line on the map) as well as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to link the City Centre with the Airport and Swords. Neither will enhance public transport within the Core Economic Area, nor enhance access to the Airport from the central business district.
Figure 2: Dublin Core Economic Area, 2011
This is a proposed 8.6km line from Docklands to Inchicore, mostly tunnelled, costing up to €4bn. This will add another rail link between the Docklands and Heuston/Inchicore. These areas are already linked by LUAS (Red line in Figure 2). There will be another rail link between these areas when the Phoenix Park rail tunnel (Orange line in Figure 2) is opened for use by commuter trains in 2016.
It is not at all clear this €4bh investment will enhance development potential. Much of the DART catchment (dotted line along the coast in map) area is coastal. DART Underground itself will not improve public transport links between the Airport and the Central Business District.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) link City Centre –Drumcondra- Airport-Swords
The NTA also plans to link Dublin Airport/Swords to the City Centre with a BRT service through Drumcondra. A public consultation on this concluded in November 2014. (see here)
This is puzzling, as a previous NTA report found that this route has forecast demand that greatly exceeds the capacity of BRT in the current 2030 infrastructure scenario and also exceed the 3600 ppdph in the 2030 scenario. (see Figure 1) This 2012 report concluded that a BRT solution does not cater for the public transport needs of the northern section of this corridor over the longer term….the Swords to City Centre section was not progressed further within this report. (my emphasis)
Table 1: Bus Rapid Transit Demand Analysis
Source: National Transport Authority: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Core Dublin Network. October 2012. Figure 41 p.53 (link)
An NTA 2014 Route Options Assessment on the Swords/Airport-City Centre BRT shows that, with one exception, passengers forecast exceed the proposed BRT capacity. This report assumes that the present bus network will still be in place. This means that regular bus services will still run on the same roads as the two separate BRT services on the Dublin Airport/Sword-Drumcondra-City Centre route.
( see Summary tables 10.5 and 10.6 for the result for the opening year 2018 and the forecast year 2033 for 2 route options. National Transport Authority Swords/Airport to City Centre. Route Options Assessment Volume 1 : Main Report (October 2014) p. 187 (link)
This report also states that It is anticipated that demand will increase following a reorganisation of Dublin Bus routes.
BRT may appear to be a cheap option. It is nasty on two grounds
- it will be overflowing from the day it starts;
- being diesel powered, it contributes to air pollution and thus damages human health.
In a recent article (Irish Farmers Journal 30 May 2015), Colm McCarthy pointed out that “…recent studies have been showing that air pollution in European city streets has worsened and the shift to diesel (cars) is being blamed…Diesel engines produce lower levels of carbon dioxide but also emit two other nasties. These are low-level pollutants in the form of particulate matter (think of soot) and nitrogen dioxide and these do not disappear into the upper atmosphere… He pointed out that “Policy makers have long been aware that high emissions in built-up areas of either particulates or nitrogen dioxide are damaging to human health, aggravating respiratory conditions including asthma”
NTA commissioned yet another study to appraise longer term options for Fingal/North Dublin (NTA AECOM November 2014). A key criterion in assessing options is the journey time between the Airport and the City Centre.
However, another NTA study of Dublin Airport passengers found that:
- Three quarters (75%) had a journey time of less than one hour to the Airport, with almost half (46%) having a journey time of less than 30 minutes;
- Less than one seventh of trips (14%) were business related;
- Three quarters of all trips were either for holiday/leisure (nearly half) or visiting friends/relatives (over one-quarter);
- Less than one third of the trips originated in City Centre/South part of Dublin City.
Figure 3: Dublin Airport passengers – Purpose of travel
Source: National Transport Authority Survey at Dublin Airport 2011.Fig. 3.11 p. 22 (link)
This suggests that the vast majority of passengers using Dublin Airport may not be very time-constrained in how they access the Airport. Most passengers are not bound for our capital’s Central Business District. Those passengers who are time-constrained have the option of taxis (which can use bus lanes) and/or using the Dublin Port Tunnel to access Central Business District. Consequently, in assessing options for public transport in north Dublin, travel times between the City Centre and the Airport should not be the sole or even the major criterion.
North Dublin city not being provided with enhanced public transport
The NTA is pursuing a do-minimum strategy for that part of Dublin’s Core Economic area between the Royal Canal and the M50. It seems to be forgotten that more people live in the north part of Dublin city (306,425 in Census 2011) than in either the south city (221,186), Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown (206,261), South Dublin (265,205) or Fingal (273,991). This has been so over the past 20 years, as is clear from Figure 3.
Figure 4: Population Dublin 1991 – 2011
The singular focus on BRT shows that the public authorities have learnt very little from the first LUAS line from Tallaght to Abbey Street. The late Judge Sean O’Leary was the Inspector appointed by the government to consider for the first LUAS planning applications. In 1998, he reported that “Having considered the evidence, the Inquiry is satisfied that in order to create similar condition of loading and unloading, ease of access and certainty…. that buses do not represent a viable alternative to the proposal” (for on-street light rail).
The BRT Core Network Report supports this assessment. A comparison of the passenger carrying capacity of BRT with light rail and metro summarised is shown in Figure 5. Note that this states that higher capacity BRT is not appropriate for Dublin.
Figure 5: Public Transport Mode Capacities
Source: National Transport Authority: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Core Dublin Network. October 2012. Fig.3 p.4 (link)
Comparative investment costs for different public transport modes are indicated in Figure 6.
Figure 6: Comparative Investment costs – buses, BRT, LRT/LUAS, Metro
Source: National Transport Authority: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Core Dublin Network. October 2012. Fig.2 p.3 (link)
Neither the proposed BRT nor the single LUAS line on the route now advocated by the Railway Procurement Agency (see Sunday Business Post 3 May 2015) can provide sustainable public transport for this part of Dublin. This proposed LUAS line goes under Glasnevin Cemetery in a new tunnel. This adds to the cost of a LUAS line that will not serve the centre of Dublin’s north city core economic area shown in the map. Moreover, it is well away from important major trip attractors/generators eg. Mater Hospital, Mountjoy Prison, Croke Park, St. Patrick’s College, Whitehall, Santry, Beaumont Hospital.
This RPA proposal ignores the results of a 1996 Dept. of Transport report which compared three LUAS lines then being considered. It is clear from Table 2 that a LUAS from the city centre through Drumcondra to Ballymun had much better potential for passengers than the two LUAS lines which were actually built. This confirms the results of recent NTA work which suggests that passenger demand can best be met by an on-street LUAS line for this central route in the north part of Dublin’s Core Economic Area.
Table 2: A Comparative Socio-Economic Evaluation of the Tallaght-Ballymun/Dundrum Light Rail Lines. Final Report 1996. Oscar Faber.
Source: Department of Transport, Energy & Communications. A Comparative Socio-Economic Evaluation of the Tallaght-Ballymun/Dundrum Light Rail Lines. Final Report 1996. Oscar Faber.
NTA notes that the higher investment costs of light rail(LUAS) are offset by lower operation costs. (see Figure 7). Light rail (LUAS) vehicles carry more passengers than buses. Thus less drivers are needed than for bus-based systems carrying the same number of passengers. Buses have a shorter life than LUAS vehicles, even if the maintenance costs are higher. Buses are also less energy efficient and pollute more at point of use.
Figure 7: Public Transport – Investment v Operating Costs
Source: National Transport Authority: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Core Dublin Network. October 2012. Fig.21 p.27 (link)
The capital expenditure envisaged for DART Underground and BRT would be much more cost-effective if invested in
- extending LUAS CrossCity (now under construction) to create a north city LUAS loop (taking in Finglas, Charlestown, Poppintree, Ballymun, Santry, Beaumont, Drumcondra) with spurs to the Airport and to DART at Howth Junction (see Figure 8);
- A Docklands loop to link the existing Green and Red on-street LUAS lines as put forward by the Dublin Transportation Office in 2002.
Figure 8: Dublin Core Economic Area with proposed north city/Airport-Swords proposed LUAS lines superimposed (orange line)
Our public authorities are still using arbitrary criteria for planning public transport. The feuding public sector baronies are still stuck in the property development whimsies of the early 2000s. This is not the evidence-based transport planning which Robert Watt (Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform) claimed as an example of civil service reform. (Commentary on public service reform is mired in the past Sunday Business Post 22 February 2015).
We deserve better. To promote competitiveness and social cohesion, Dublin needs integrated and sustainable public transport. Achieving this needs quiet, consistent competence to bring working and living conditions to the levels of well-run European cities. It would be a start if our public authorities drew the appropriate conclusions from their own reports and invested accordingly.
Ireland After Nama Guest blog post by Donal O’Brolchain
Donal O’Brolchain lives in Drumcondra, Dublin 9. He has been active in residents’ association for the past 25 years. As Secretary of Drumcondra 2005, he led residents’ support for the Dublin Port Tunnel during the 1990s, as part of a set of mutually reinforcing measures to improve transport in Dublin. This included a core light rail/LUAS system in Dublin. This support was to implement a local area plan for Drumcondra district which seven residents’ association commissioned and funded from their own resources. This was launched in 1994.