Dublin: College Green redesign

Dublin City Council intends to pedestrianise College Green, which is currently one of the busiest junctions in Dublin’s city centre. This action forms part of a plan of redesigning the area, including the construction of a tram line (Luas Cross City), due to be completed by the end of 2017.

Overall, I would view the proposal as a step in the right direction of creating more public space in the core city centre and attempting to maximise the benefits of Luas Cross City. However, some of the proposed solutions for the new traffic arrangements for public transport may have a negative impact on the achievement of project’s goals. In particular:

  1. Channelling heavy tram and bus traffic through shared lanes in Lower Grafton Street and Dawson Street.
  2. High level of tram and bus duplication along the St. Stephen’s Green – Parnell Square corridor.
  3. Introducing additional bus traffic to already congested streets like Bachelors Walk or Parliament Street.

In light of the above, a redesigning of city centre bus routes appears to be urgently needed. As a result, most of them would be moved out of the College Green area, while maintaining the service they provide both within the city centre and as cross-city routes.

Shared lanes

I am concerned about the consequences of forcing high frequency trams and north-south bus routes with combined high frequency to use the same lane. Incidentally, the second page of the Consultation Document (link) present the issue explicitly: a bus blocking a tram, negatively impacting on travel times, punctuality and reliability of public transport.

I believe that the issue is partially caused by a disproportionate amount of buses planned to remain in the area after Luas Cross City completion. 36% of all Dublin Bus routes are expected to be passing through Lower Grafton Street at least in one direction, representing over 1,000 runs per direction per working day. In this context, allowing taxis to use the same shared tram and bus lanes can only make the problem worse, given the strong presence of taxis in Dublin city centre.

Duplication

The existing proposals would see trams and buses competing not only for limited road space (see above) but also for passengers willing to travel between St. Stephen’s Green, O’Connell Bridge and Parnell Square – unnecessarily in both cases. I believe that introducing a high frequency north-south tram link into the city centre presents an opportunity to reroute most of the north-south bus routes either to other corridors in the city centre or entirely outside of the city centre. Examples of such alternative corridors are:

  • Gardiner Street/Amiens Street – City Quay/Pearse Street – Westland Row – Dawson Street/Kildare Street/Merrion Square – St. Stephen’s Green.
  • Dorset Street/Berkeley Street – Parnell Street/Dorset Street – Capel Street – Parliament Street – South Great Georges Street/Lord Edward Street.
  • Utilising North and South Circular Roads (or Parnell Road) as a city centre ring road for buses.

Realigned bus routes would still provide access to the core city centre by making sure each bus route has connection points with at least one of the Luas lines.

More congestion elsewhere?

Re-routing some of the city centre buses from College Green to surrounding streets may increase congestion there and may negatively impact travel times of these buses. The proposal recognises the need for “additional bus priority measures” on impacted streets, unfortunately it does not specify what measures are planned. In line with the Dublin City Centre Transport Study (link), I would suggest that a bus corridor, similar to the one currently in operation at College Green, with limited access for deliveries, will be required. Based on the proposed shape of the city centre bus network, the following streets would be in scope:

  • First priority – Bachelors Walk and Quays (sections identified in the College Green proposal), D’Olier Street, Parliament Street, Dame Street.
  • Second priority – Westmoreland Street, Dawson Street, Kildare Street, South Great Georges Street, O’Connell Street.

Summary

I believe that redesigning city centre bus routes would be the most appropriate action in order to address the threats outlined above, without negatively impacting the functions performed by these routes at present. Such a redesign would have a target of maximising the efficient use of existing and constructed infrastructure.

The major benefit would be a significant increase of chances for the College Green project’s success, as measured by the end-customer (citizen, passenger) satisfaction. Ultimately, it would also contribute to the long-term goals of sustainable transport in Dublin by attracting more passengers to public transport, reducing congestion and improving quality of life in the city.

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