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Friday 24 January 2020

Congestion charges on agenda again to tackle city gridlock

Traffic is now increasing faster than it’s forecasted to
Traffic is now increasing faster than it’s forecasted to

Drivers in the capital could be hit with congestion charges as the proposal is back on the table to try and tackle Dublin's traffic gridlock.

Parking bans and fees to travel on untolled roads are also being considered as possible ways of tackling choked traffic in the country's cities.

The measures are being considered after warnings congestion will continue to worsen as the population grows, bringing with it increased business costs, stress, pollution and a reduction in quality of life and inward investment.

A report for the Department of Transport warns of the growing problem.

"Traffic is increasing and increasing faster than it's forecasted to. It is necessary to take decisive action to reverse this trend," it said.

Crush

The warning comes as we face another week of traffic chaos with the pre-Christmas rush, poor weather and the normal commuter crush combining to bring streets to an anticipated standstill.

However, studies in Dublin, Cork and Galway show that transport issues are not just confined to this time of year.

Many stretches of key commuter roads rate now category five or six on a congestion ranking system, one being the best and six the worst, while wider sections are on category four.

Strategy

Transport policy is aimed at reducing car use to 45pc nationally by next year but it remains at around 65pc.

A strategy for the greater Dublin area, where the cost of congestion is set to approach €2bn annually by the end of the next decade, aims at a reduction to 45pc by 2035 but it is already conceded that is unlikely to be achieved without new measures.

Meanwhile, the number of commuting trips nationally is expected to rise by 35pc come 2040 - and that forecast is based on population and employment growth figures the report describes as "conservative".

The report warned that building more roads is not the answer as it encourages more people to drive.

"Increasing road capacity, while also costly, runs the risk of increasing the proportion of transport demand which is made up by private car movements," it said.

Ideally an increased supply of public transport would be the first response but Dart expansion and MetroLink in Dublin and the Bus Connects projects in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway are medium to long-term projects.

Even then, measures to deter car users would be needed, such as congestion charges for entering city centres.

The model used in Stockholm is considered of most relevance for Dublin.

Eleven of the country's roads are tolled and the report points out this is to recoup the cost of construction rather than influence patterns of use. A more extensive road use charging system may have to be rolled out.

Tight restrictions on parking are proposed, such as the removal of on-street parking, higher parking charges and caps on the number of spaces provided in new developments.

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