Traffic on the M50 toll has increased by 18% in the last two years, with last year's average journey time during the morning peak increasing by 13% on 2015. The cost of this congestion to the Dublin region is €350 million per year currently - and will rise to €2 billion in 2033 if nothing is done to address it. Anne Graham, CEO of the National Transport Authority (NTA), delivered these stark facts to delegates at the Sunday Business Post Commercial Property Summit 2017, which took place in Dublin's Aviva Stadium on 15 June. She outlined how traffic congestion goes hand in hand with a growing economy. "All economic activity results in people moving and travelling, whether it's to travel from home to work, home to school, or home to the gym, cinema or sports ground. We make, on average, 3.2 [car] trips per day and the highest concentration of those trips is made in the morning peak. These total number of trips are increasing as the economy recovers and is estimated to increase by 25% in 20 years." She said that the role of the National Transport Authority was to plan for this travel demand and to ensure that as many of those trips are made by sustainable modes as possible. "But there are many things working against us in achieving that objective," continued Graham. "These include:

  • Dispersed development of the city region which increases the journey time of our essential trips;
  • Development of a low density city which is hard to serve by high capacity public transport; and
  • Inconsistent funding of transport infrastructure."
The adoption of the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area in 2016 was a key development, according to the NTA CEO. This sets out the plan for transport developments to support the local and regional authorities' land-use plans for the region. It supports the integration of land use and transport planning which, if implemented, would result in a more attractive and liveable city region. Said Graham: "In developing the city to compete globally, there are a number of things that we must do:
  • Reduce the need to travel by build housing and employment centres closer together;
  • Plan new developments adjacent to both existing and proposed public transport;
  • Think about how people will access new developments by public transport;
  • Get investment in land transport as a percentage of GDP back to steady state levels of just over 1% (it is currently 0.5%); and
  • Direct that increased investment to improvements in public transport."
The Government’s current capital plan recognises that rail projects such as Metro North and the DART Expansion Programme have long lead-in times.

Transforming the bus system

The immediate priority of the NTA is to transform the bus system, said Graham.  She said that the Authority had published the BusConnects programme to transform Dublin's bus services on 29 May. "This sets out how we can radically improve the bus system for a spend of €1 billion," she explained. This programme aims to deliver:
  • A network of next generation bus corridors on the busiest bus routes to make buses faster, more predictable and more reliable;
  • Introduce Bus Rapid Transit on three of the busiest corridors;
  • A complete redesign of the bus network (this work has commenced already);
  • Cashless payment system to speed up boarding;
  • State-of-the-art ticketing system to allow credit and debit card or mobile payments linked to payment accounts to make payment more convenient;
  • Simplifying the fare structure;
  • Implementing a new modern bus livery;
  • New bus stops with better information; and
  • Transition to a low-emission fleet.

"The programme is the only way forward to keep the city moving and keep the city’s economy growing," concluded Graham.

A Dublin Area Bus Network Redesign Survey is now open, to help improve the service. Take the survey here.  In your next eJournal (4 July), we will feature a detailed breakdown of the BusConnects programme, which includes new bus corridors, road surfaces, cycling infrastructure, bus stops, vehicles and IT.