BusConnects Shankill

BusConnects Shankill

Currently there’s a lot of talk in the area about BusConnects and the changes proposed in Shankill village. Here’s a little outline of what’s involved and

Consultation Process

Right now we are at the very being of this project phase and people are being asked to put in their thoughts on the proposal. There is still a lot of work to be done and nothing is set in stone right now.

Following this consultation process the BusConnects project will prepare a statutory application for their proposed works – this will take into account submissions to the consultation, and will include environmental impact assessments and will seek to optimise the engineering of the project.

Then in 2020 to proposal goes to An Bord Pleanála, who will then run a statuory consultation process, an oral hearing, and will decide on the project – to approve, approve with conditions, or refuse the project.

What I am saying here is that we are at the start of things – there’s a lot of work yet to do and a lot of voices and needs to take into consideration.

So right now the best action for any of us to take is to make submissions to the project.

Shankill Village – Trees, Pedestrians, and Cyclists

Shankill is home to gorgeous mature trees and we should be doing our utmost to protect biodiversity given everything we know about the impact of habitat loss, and I will be pushing for this in my submission. My colleague Ciarán Cuffe has also called for the BusConnects plan to focus on saving more trees (read here). However, to save the trees, we will have to deprioritise cars in the area.

We must be mindful too of pedestrians and cyclists in the area and ensure that the village is accessible to people of all ages and abilities, and ensure that we have footpaths and cycle lanes that are of a safe standard.

Any changes in the area should also be done in light of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government’s Design Manuel for Urban Roads and Streets. Evidence has shown that free flowing traffic can inadvertently increase speeding in an area as drivers are given a false sense of security. Widening the road through Shankill could have this impact, making pedestrians and cyclists in the village more vulnerable.

De-prioritising cars: the move to public & active travel

However, to avoid widening the roads in Shankill and to protect trees, we will have to deprioritise car use.

We need better public transportation links, particularly with proposed housing developments in Woodbrook and Shanganagh Castle. Congestion may not be bad right now in Shankill, but it could grow significantly with these developments if we continue as is. The only way to avoid such potential congestion in our village and over reliance on cars is to get people moving to active and public transport.

While a train station is being proposed for Woodbrook we still need to provide for people traveling in towards places such as Cabinteely, Stillorgan and UCD. Buses too, unlike trains and Luas lines, can be adapted and have their routes changed to suit user needs.

Putting BusConnects to the side for the moment, we will still need to stop traffic from building up in the village and this means reducing the number of cars driving through, and prioritising pedestrians, cyclists, and buses in that order.

This might mean giving buses priority through the village . It might mean diverting cars (like residents in Inchicore are asking). It would also mean creating better active and public transport links for children going to school in the area, to reduce the congestion and stress of school runs.

Reducing the number of cars on our road will have hugely positive effects, not just for congestion problems, but for air quality, for reducing carbon emissions, for safer roads, for noise reduction, and for healthier living.

So what now?

As I said at the start, there are still many steps left to go in this process.

All in all, I think that now is the time to ask the NTA to be more creative with how they promote public transport and reduce car use, and to consider the impacts the current proposal would have on local life. We need a detailed plan that takes consideration of the peculiarities of every stage along the route.

What I will be calling for in my submission

In my submission I will be asking the NTA to:

  • prioritise the needs of pedestrians and cyclists in the design;
  • commit to working with affected residents and businesses throughout the process
  • adopt an inter-disciplinary approach to ensure landscaping (including green infrastructure and tree planting), urban design, spatial planning and urban regeneration are at the heart of the process;
  • adopt a Universal Design approach to ensure the concerns of people with disabilities are central to the process
  • strongly commit to retaining mature trees where possible, and if not possible, to ensure replacement with mature trees from the outset
  • present options for reducing car traffic in the area

I am also asking that the NTA produces actual stop-by-stop timings for current bus routes and proposed stop-by-stop timings for the changes that Bus Connects will bring so that we can have a clearer sense of what changes are necessary. Green Party candidate in Limerick, Breandán MacGabhann, has completed such surveys on routes in his city, and you can see his work here.

It’s worth checking out Ciaran Cuffe’s submission to BusConnects here which gives a great overview on what we should be asking from the process.

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