Friday, 30 September 2011

Dublin congestion charging ruled out for now

The Irish Herald reports that Transport Minister, Leo Varadkar, has ruled out an introduction of congestion pricing in Dublin in the medium term.   Dr. Varadkar has been Minister since March, after the Fine Gael party roundly defeated the Fianna Fail party in the general election in February, so has had a chance to consider transport policy.

He was responding to the government's National Transport Authority proposing a congestion charge for driving into downtown Dublin as part of its draft transport strategy for the city through to 2030.  The previous government had endorsed the concept as being part of a long term strategy.

However, it has been ruled out because the Minister believes Dublin's public transport system is not good enough to provide an alternative to motorists.  He insists that motorists have a viable alternative to commuting by car.   Dublin already has a commuter rail system, light rail and an extensive bus network.

I don't think congestion pricing must be limited to ensuring all motorists can have an alternative mode, when there are other alternatives, which could be changing time of travel, or even route (depending on the design of the congestion charge).  It simply isn't viable to ensure all have an alternative, but certainly what public transport exists should be seen as being a major useful alternative.   Alternatives include public transport, cycling, walking, telecommuting, off peak driving, changing destinations and car sharing.  Congestion charging is likely to shift demand in a wide range of ways, not just a shift to public transport, as important as that is.

See the Dublin Demand Management Study of around six years ago for a rather basic consideration of congestion charging (and other measures) for Dublin.   However, I suspect a key reason for not considering congestion charges for Dublin for now, is the economic situation (and the simple fact that congestion in Dublin has notably reduced in the past few years due to the economic crisis).   So for now, this politically controversial idea, will be parked, until Dublin's economy revives enough for congestion to get back to the levels of five or so years ago.

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