Wednesday, 23 September 2015
Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions
Dublin City Centre Transport Study
4. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the proposals of the National Transport Authority and Dublin City Council contained in the Dublin City Centre Transport Study to restrict access to private cars and reduce the number of parking spaces in Dublin city centre; and his views on whether limited parking availability poses a risk to retail custom in the city centre. [32182/15]
The Minister is aware that the Dublin City Centre Transport Study seeks to restrict access to private cars and reduce the number of parking spaces in Dublin city centre. I would appreciate the Minister's views on that in light of comments from the business community, which has very grave concerns as to the impact of this on retail business within the environs of the city.
The Dublin City Centre Transport Study, to which the Deputy refers, is a study that was jointly carried out by the National Transport Authority, NTA, and Dublin City Council, DCC, to assess transport-related issues in the core city centre area in light of changes resulting from the Luas Cross City project in particular. The study covers all modes of transport, including walking and cycling, as well as car and public transport. The study was published by the NTA and DCC in June and there was a very significant public consultation process on it over the course of the summer, which generated substantial interest from stakeholders. I understand that more than 7,700 submissions were received in response to the consultation process and that a factual report on these submissions has been submitted to the city council's strategic transport policy committee.
I am advised by the National Transport Authority that, along with Dublin City Council, it is engaging individually with some of the key stakeholders concerned, notably some of the large retailers and car park operators in the city centre, and a number of meetings will take place with these stakeholders over the coming weeks before the authority and the council report back to DCC's strategic transport policy committee. I welcome this level of engagement on this important matter and I am assured that all key stakeholders are being given the opportunity to have their views and concerns known and understood.
I hoped the Minister would have set out his views at the outset. He is aware that should the parking restrictions and reductions proposed by the NTA and the Dublin city executive be implemented, this could have a damaging impact on retail business in Dublin city centre. I ask again whether the Minister will outline for the House his views as Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and as a Deputy in the area? As the Minister is aware, under his guidance the NTA has made the transport plan into a war on private motorists and cars in general. I believe that is a naive approach.
If we look at some of the other studies that have been done, it is clear that if the proposals as outlined are implemented, this will have a very destabilising effect on retail activity within the city centre. In recent years, we have all agreed with changes to planning laws which have restricted the development of a doughnut effect, in other words, the pulling of retail activity into large centres on the outskirts of towns and cities. I believe the intended proposal, based on what has been published, would have that hollowing-out effect on the city centre of Dublin. This would have a damaging impact on the life of the city overall. I would like to hear the Minister's view on this.
I believe the Deputy is overstating the situation somewhat in describing it as a war under way in regard to car users or the use of cars in the city centre. I have had the opportunity to meet many of the retailers concerned about these plans. I also am aware of the concerns of organisations which run car parks. The Deputy has pointed out that I represent many of the areas that are affected by this and I am aware of that.
In regard to my view on the matter, I support the objectives of Dublin City Council and the National Transport Authority. The reason for this is that much of the work they are doing is driven by the fact that the cross-city Luas will be operational across the centre of the north side of the city in 2017 and, due to this change, there will be a need to make changes in how traffic flow is organised in the city centre, as has happened with the bus gate in College Green. One-on-one meetings are now happening directly with retailers and car park owners who could be affected by this change. I believe we can find a medium through which we can deal with the concerns they are articulating while protecting the huge investment of the taxpayer in the expansion of the Luas.
I take the Minister's point. We all accept the principle of the modal shift away from the car towards public transport for appropriate journeys. However, when it comes to shopping and general retail interaction, a car is required by shoppers. The study recommends the shutting down of multi-storey car parks in the city centre, despite that compared with other cities, Dublin has an under-supply of car parking spaces for the retail area. For example, Dublin has 10,000 car parking spaces, the same number as Bristol which is one third the size of Dublin. This puts into context our position from the international perspective.
While I fully accept the necessity to move people away from cars to public transport for appropriate journeys, I believe shutting car parking spaces in the general vicinity of the retail infrastructure of the city will have a long-term negative impact on that business. This will lead to a hollowing out of activity in the city centre. This has happened in cities across the United States and in some parts of Europe. It would be a wrong and regressive step if this study is implemented. I would like to see the Minister take an active role in meeting the business and retail communities to try to ensure we get a more balanced approach.
I will meet more representatives from the Dublin retail industry tomorrow to hear their views on the matter. The Deputy referred to the potential for hollowing out of the city centre. Few developments are more capable of doing huge damage to the vibrancy of our city centre than immense levels of congestion and the inability of people to travel into the city because of the lack of availability of quality public transport.
From the point of view of transport, my objectives in regard to the development of our city centre are clear. I want to have a city centre that is more attractive to live, sell and invest in. To achieve that, we need projects like the extension of the Luas green line to deliver the kind of modal shift to which the Deputy referred. Intensive consultation with individual businesses is under way to see how we can come with a way of doing this which does what it can to meet the needs of the different stakeholders in the city centre. I reiterate that all this is being done to ensure the €370 million investment the taxpayer has made in the cross-city Luas project works in the way intended.