Submission to BusConnects on Northside Core Corridors
5 May 2020
My submission to the NTA below on their revised proposals for Blanchardstown to City Centre, Ballymun/Finglas to City Centre, and Swords to City Centre Core Bus Corridors below:
The delivery of the BusConnects Project is critical to the future of an efficient and effective public transport system in Dublin and will be pivotal in achieving the targets set out in the Government’s 2019 Climate Action Plan to reduce overall emissions in the transport sector of 35% to 40% by 2030. I am fully supportive of the objectives of BusConnects to discourage car-use through the delivery of better and more efficient public transport, safe cycle routes and enhanced pedestrian facilities.
The North Inner City will be greatly impacted by BusConnects as three of the Core Bus Corridors will pass through our communities. The urban villages of Stoneybatter and Phibsborough will experience huge changes as will the communities in the Markets Area and Dorset Street. It will be essential to ensure that our inner-city villages are not decimated in the process to become bus corridors facilitating the maximum number of people being transported to the City Centre in the fastest possible time. It is extremely important to be aware of the communities living along the Bus Corridor and to ensure that nothing in BusConnects will damage those communities.
Blanchardstown to City Centre Core Bus Corridor
As Chairperson of Stoneybatter Pride of Place, I have led a 10-strong delegation of residents, businesses and community representatives to meet with the NTA on several occasions. That process has led to a number of significant and welcome changes being made to the original Emerging Preferred Route (EPR). However, a number of difficulties remain. Stoneybatter Pride of Place has submitted a very comprehensive submission prepared in consultation with their 400+ mailing list and large following on social media and regular attendees at the Pride of Place monthly meetings.
Prussia Street & Aughrim Street
The introduction of a 24/7 Bus Corridor on Prussia Street, a partial one-way system on Aughrim Street and the rerouting of all northbound traffic up Aughrim Street is the crux of the issues for Stoneybatter.
Residents on Aughrim Street are massively opposed to this proposal, notwithstanding the modifications for a partial one-way system on Aughrim Street and the enhanced green space at the junction of Manor Street and Aughrim Street. Moreover, the one-way system on Aughrim Street will inhibit round the clock local access to the village by car.
The proposal for the Bus Corridor on Prussia Street and to turn Aughrim Street into a main arterial route out of the City should be the subject of an Environmental Impact Statement before any planning application is made to An Bord Pleanala.
The NTA has proposed a complex series of left and right turn restrictions to prevent the rat-runs emerging on the residential streets off Aughrim Street and Oxmantown Road. However, these restrictions will inhibit local movement and prevent access to the village.
The Manor Street / Stoneybatter Traders’ Association have made a submission highlighting the adverse impacts restricting access to the village will have on local businesses, which are now struggling for survival.
The danger is that Manor Street and Stoneybatter will lose their village appeal as buses from Meath and Dublin West, crammed with passengers who have no business in the village, zoom through en route to the City Centre. To make matters worse, out of town commuter traffic, seeking to avoid the complex traffic systems being proposed for Phibsborough and the Cabra Road, will be encouraged to travel northwards through Stoneybatter and Manor Street and on through Aughrim Street. Stoneybatter will be chock-a-block with both bus and car traffic polluting the air while local people are impeded from accessing the village and residential streets are turned into main thoroughfares.
It is not hard to understand why residents and businesses in Stoneybatter are so concerned about the proposals.
Residents believe that the 24/7 bus corridor on Prussia Street and Bus Gate at Prussia Street/Aughrim Street/Manor Street are excessive and unnecessary. These and the one-way system on Aughrim Street should be relaxed at out of peak times to facilitate local traffic. Bus Connects should also seek to divert west bound commuter traffic away from Stoneybatter through alternative routes such as Phoenix Park.
Manor Street & Stoneybatter
A number of other important issues for Stoneybatter have emerged during the consultation.
The introduction of a continuous cycle lane on Manor Street and Stoneybatter in both directions is welcome. However, there is considerable concern with the proposal to locate the southbound cycle lane to the rear of the parking bays on the east side of Manor Street, removing four trees in the process and apparently reducing the footpath width. While on the West side of Manor Street, residential parking will be removed.
The removal of four trees will be strongly resisted by residents’ groups who have tended to those trees since they were first planted on the street. It was very disappointing that the NTA did not overtly reference the removal of four trees, but rather just marked out 14 of the 18 existing trees on the route map (map 32).
The proposal for a shared footpath/cycle lane will also be problematic. The recent COVID-19 highlights the importance of wide footpaths and good pedestrian facilities. BusConnects provides the opportunity to look at upgrading pedestrian facilities and widening footpaths where necessary.
North Brunswick Street/Grangegorman
The proposals for North Brunswick Street/George’s Lane and Grangegorman do mark an improvement. Grangeogorman/Rathdown Road and Kirwan Street will be protected from rat-running. It will also be important to minimise traffic on those streets with the imminent arrival of a further 10,000 students to TU Dublin at the Grangegorman Campus. However, the measures put in place here will put additional pressure on Stoneybatter, Manor Street and Aughrim Street.
Public Domain/Greening Initiatives
The proposals for the enhanced green space at the junction of Aughrim Street/Manor Street/Prussia Street has been broadly welcomed by the community. However, they are concerned that the proposal to route all northbound commuter traffic through Aughrim Street will negate the benefits.
BusConnects presents a real opportunity for environmental enhancements throughout the Village, particularly at the Green and also at the new cycle lane pedestrian space at North Brunswick Street. Dublin City Council has recently launched a “Greening Stoneybatter” initiative. However, the Greening Team have been informed that the BusConnects Route is not within their remit. There should be scope for the BusConnects Team and the Council’s Greening Stoneybatter Team to collaborate on environmental projects in Stoneybatter.
Stoneybatter residents are requesting that the impact of BusConnects on air quality be monitored to ensure compliance with World Health Organisation Guidelines. I would strongly support this request.
Ballymun & Finglas Core Bus Corridors
Griffith Avenue to Harts Corner
The NTA has listened to the public outcry against one of its original proposals which was to widen St Mobhi Road and remove all the existing mature trees and some of the gardens to make way for a dedicated public transport corridor. The new proposals are more sensible. They will allow for the retention of all the trees and gardens on St Mobhi Road and the cycle lanes will be placed behind the trees. The diverted traffic will travel towards Glasnevin Hill and on to Ballymun Road and Finglas.
To compensate for the increase in traffic, residents of Glasnevin Village are promised substantial urban realm enhancement and pedestrian improvements. This should be done in consultation with local residents and business groups. Dublin City Council’s Greening team who have been working on projects in the City Centre should also be consulted on any proposals.
There is a proposal to remove four existing trees to accommodate an additional south bound cycle track on the western side at the bottom of St. Mobhi Road and between the Tolka and Botanic Avenue. While there are no houses or gardens at this point, nevertheless it should be possible to locate the cycle lane without removing trees. This proposal should be revisited.
The Metrolink station on St Mobhi Road which is also being planned by the NTA has been greatly modified since the original proposals which would have destroyed the grounds of Na Fianna GAA Club. However, the busy one-way over-ground bus service combined with the equally busy underground transport system will be problematic for commuters and will create logistical problems for the area. It requires complex planning. Consultation with local residents, businesses, traffic enforcement and in particular the Griffith Avenue and District Residents’ Association (GADRA) will be important.
The decision to continue to provide a bus service along Home Farm Road is welcome. There was widespread concern at the proposal to remove the local service provided by the No 11 Bus.
Phibsborough to Broadstone, the Markets Area & The Quays
Segregated cycle lanes will be provided from Griffith Avenue to Harts Corner and a two-way segregated cycle track will continue along the Eastern side of Prospect Road to the Royal Canal Bank and along Blacquiere Villas to the North Circular Road. This will enable cyclists to avoid most of the traffic in Phibsborough. A new underpass will allow cyclists to continue under the North Circular Road and along the Royal Canal Bank to the Broadstone. A two-way cycle route will proceed from Western Way to Coleraine Street and this should maintain a safe route for cyclists as far as North King Street. The NTA are content to say that cyclists will continue south to the Liffey along “quiet streets”. Beresford Street is the most direct route and is parallel to Church Street. However, it is narrow, two-way and busy.
There are no quiet streets in the Inner City and BusConnects should revisit this proposal and provide a preferred route or routes for cyclists with necessary safeguards.
At Phibsborough it is proposed to place an island of trees in the middle of the road from Cross Guns Bridge to Connaught Street. This will give some welcome greening to an area which is traffic-polluted. Phibsborough Village Urban realm improvements are proposed which would widen the street at the Shopping Centre and give extra space for buses. The NTA does not appear to have liaised with the Shopping Centre owners who have made no provision for giving extra space for bus lanes there. Moreover, planning permission has been granted for the redevelopment of Phibsborough Shopping Centre which envisages a different layout from that suggested by BusConnects.
Clarification is required to determine the space available for bus lanes and urban realm enhancement at the Shopping Centre.
For the most part there will be two bus lanes and two general traffic lanes on the Phibsborough Road south of Doyle’s corner and down to North King Street.
Together with BusConnects and the Metrolink Station at Cross Guns Bridge/Whitworth Road, Phibsborough will be transformed into a public transport nexus. Already Phibsborough is one the busiest private traffic and public transport junction on the Northside of the City. There is still considerable work to be done by the NTA to protect the village of Phibsborough which is very much in the eye of the traffic storm.
At the junction with North King Street the southbound bus lane will cease but will be reinstated at Mary’s Lane and will continue on to the Liffey. There is no reference in the new proposals to vehicular traffic having access to Coleraine Street either from Constitution Hill or from North Brunswick Street. In the original proposals such southbound traffic was prohibited from turning left on North King Street and was diverted into Coleraine Street. This was a major bone of contention with local residents as it would create a rat-run though the narrow streets of Coleraine Street, Linenhall Street, and Lisburn Street and the Kevin Barry House Flat Complex.
It is not clear from the maps or text if eastbound traffic will be allowed access North King Street from Constitution Hill or from Brunswick Street. It is important that such traffic be allowed access to this main arterial route to the north city suburbs and to the airport. Clarification is required here too.
The Constitution Hill/North King Street/Church Street Junction is a major transport hub. There are no proposals in this document to give it special public realm treatment. This should be addressed in consultation with local residents and business groups and with the Dublin City Council Greening Team.
As the public transport route from Griffith Avenue to the Quays is sharply downhill and entirely residential, consideration should be given to a 30km per hour speed limit along most if not all of the corridor.
SWORDS TO CITY CENTRE CORE BUS CORRIDOR
The Swords to City Centre Core Bus Corridor is 12.5 kilometre corridor and is estimated to reduce the bus travel time by half for the journey. It is a direct route from Pinnock Hill, Swords to the end of Dorset Street Lower where the traffic turns left into Frederick Street, Parnell Square East and into O’Connell Street.
The return traffic loops westward and northwards on Parnell Square West into Granby Row and back onto Dorset Street Lower.
The North Inner City
The new proposals are a considerable improvement on the original Emerging Preferred Route(EPR) which was published in November 2018. The EPR was extremely contentious in its proposals for the final leg of the core bus corridor from Dorset Street Lower to the Liffey. It proposed to access the City Centre through Gardiner St and Mountjoy Square which would have been quite intrusive on residents and quite dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. The present proposals are much less intrusive on residential, environmental and architectural areas and make better provision for pedestrians and cyclists. They far better address the concerns of Inner-City residents and propose a much superior route for the bus corridor.
Griffith Avenue to Dorset Street Lower
The bus corridor between Griffith Avenue and North Frederick Street is direct and continuous. It contains traffic and bus lanes in both directions along the entire route. There are segregated cycle lanes and footpaths in both directions between the two junctions without major interference with residential properties. However, some private gardens and mature roadside trees are to be removed for road widening between Griffith Avenue and Home Farm Rd on the east side of Upper Drumcondra Rd. This should be reconsidered.
On the western side the proposed new boundary line and the narrow strip of land acquisition between Millmount Avenue and Botanic Avenue should not present a problem as it is all public land. However, it is not clear what form the proposed widening of the bridge over the River Tolka will take. Will there be widening of both sides of the bridge and will it be in sympathy with the old structure?
The NTA should clarify the design and treatment they propose for the bridge.
Drumcondra Road Lower with its broad mature, tree-lined space should provide a perfect area for good traffic treatment with ample provision for well laid out pedestrian, cycle, bus and general traffic lanes. Drumcondra Road Lower is also a spacious Boulevard full of potential. It seems unnecessary to remove the existing maturing trees along the central island between St Anne’s Road and Whitworth Road and replace them with a similar number of new trees. However, it appears that at least nine maturing trees on Dorset Street Lower between Binn’s Bridge/Portland Place and Belvedere Rd will be removed and not replaced while the remaining trees along the road will be r.etained in the central island.
This appears to be prompted by road widening requirements but it will damage the appearance and treatment of the street. It should be reconsidered
The Royal Canal Greenway is a large-scale environmental project being carried out under the auspices of Dublin City Council. The canal/railway road junction at Binn’s Bridge is a major interconnector and will require complex treatment to accommodate all types of traffic that will criss-cross the bridge.
There is no indication in the maps or text of any extra treatment being provided.
Full consultation between the NTA and DCC is required to make this a safe passageway for all traffic but especially pedestrians and cyclists.
It is not clear if the right turn into Synnott Place is being retained and how it will be treated as the present right turn is crude and dangerous. The three new trees on Synnott Place are welcome.
In conclusion, the Core Bus Corridor from Swords to the City Centre can and should be the most impressive of all the corridors. It is the main entrance to the city from the North. It serves daily commuters and visitors and tourists from Dublin Airport and from Northern Ireland. It deserves high quality treatment. The sum of its parts must fit together. The NTA must protect the urban villages of Santry and Drumcondra and enhance the shopping street that is Dorset Street which is a central shopping street on the Northside. At the same time, it must provide a safe, integrated and effective transport system.
Since the new plans were published by the NTA, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a new dynamic for all physical movement. Health and safety have become a bigger public travel consideration than hitherto. New safe distancing protocols will undoubtedly require a new approach to the width and treatment of footpaths and may require some of the present proposals to be revisited.
I welcome the modifications that have been made by the NTA to the original plan. The substantial changes made to the areas south of Dorset Street Lower and particularly, Gardiner Street and Mountjoy Square is welcome evidence that they have listened to public
The present proposals are a considerable modification and considerable improvement on the somewhat grim original proposals. However, there are still some issues that need to be revisited.
For BusConnects to succeed the following issues need to be addressed as part of the overall package of proposals.
- The introduction of a Congestion Charge for commuter traffic travelling within the Canal Ring would reduce inner city congestion. This solution has been proven to work in London and other major cities including Stockholm, Milan, Singapore and Valetta.
- Greater provision of Park and Ride facilities. The current proposals have no Park and Ride Facilities along any of the Northside Corridors. These should be provided at several points along the routes. Parking should be free and incorporated into the price of the bus ticket.
- Link-up with the Railway lines, Luas and Metro. With the planned development of Metrolink and the major interconnector at Phibsborough, it will have the potential to remove a large quantity of commuter traffic from the roads.
- Low Fares – We support a standard fare of €1 or €2 to encourage people to use the bus. The NTA’s proposal for one fare for all public transport for up to one hour is welcome.
- Legislation on traffic enforcement is essential . If BusConnects is to have any credibility the NTA, not the Gardaí, must take responsibility for policing the BusConnects project and any resulting traffic restrictions.
- A 30km per hour speed limit should be the norm.
- Greening of bus shelters is becoming a major feature in some European Cities such as Utrecht. We urge Bus Connects to carefully examine the possibility of greening all the Bus Shelters on the new Core Bus Corridors.
- If BusConnects is serious about the climate change targets it will be essential to ensure that the BusConnects Fleet comprises low-emission vehicles only. I was very disappointed to learn that Dublin Bus has acquired a 100 strong fleet of high-polluting diesel buses in July 2019 ahead of a ban on the procurement of such vehicles. Fossil fuel buses must be phased out.
- In a number of areas BusConnects provides a real opportunity to provide significant public realm improvements, such as in Stoneybatter, Phibsborough, Drumcondra, Glasnevin, Dorset Street, Broadstone and North King Street. These include greening projects, tree/shrub/flower planting, upgrading footpaths and cycle lanes.
- It will be essential that all public realm improvements for the BusConnects project be properly disability proofed to ensure highest possible compliance with design standards. Consultation with Disability Groups needs to be stepped up.
I look forward to the public consultation to take place in the Autumn and trust that a planning application to An Bord Pleanala will not be made until greater progress is made on these issues.
Cllr Joe Costello