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Opinion:Carrigaline Transport Strategy Offers Once in a Generation Opportunity for Systematic Change

Writes Ciaran Dineen

“There are decades where nothing happens and there are weeks where decades happen” stated Vladimir Lenin. That is perhaps the angle you could take when you consider the new Carrigaline Transportation and Public Realm Enhancement Plan (TPREP) strategy, the draft proposal of which was published this week.

From the outside looking in, the design initiatives put forward seem like a natural course for any town to take when it has struggled for so long to move away from a traffic-filled, choked, void, towards a friendlier, sustainable and more progressive suburban centre.

Of course, those inside the walls of the castle know the true state of affairs and the delivery of such a strategy could not only have a fundamental positive impact on Carrigaline for the next 50 years, but may prove to be a litmus test for national and metropolitan strategic policy, which could change the course of Irish society for the better.

It really does not need to be reiterated, but past planning policy in Carrigaline has led us to where we are today. Traffic dominates the town and not only does it make those who have to endure miserable, lengthy commutes angry and frustrated, it also is an act of vandalism to our Main Street, creating untold noise and air pollution, disregarding the health and wellbeing of residents.

The Western Relief Road, which is an important supporting actor in this story is however by no means the silver bullet, and while it will help to remove large trucks and haulage vehicles from our core centre, the policy of building roads is akin to punching another hole into your belt, it does not solve the underlying condition.

Carrigaline TPREP from my perspective has one main priority in the immediate future and that is to reduce the number of cars on Main Street with the aim of making it a more people-friendly town centre. The report is riddled with comments about how poor pedestrian permeability is in the core area. There is a need therefore to move away from the ‘status quo’ and towards the Jane Jacobs concept of ‘eyes on the street’, which notes the crucial importance of vibrant street life to creating a safe urban environment that allows social capital to be built up within the community.

The plan is also reflective of national and regional policy and the need to prioritise a Town Centres First approach, with dozens of towns all around the country currently clambering to register for the Collaborative Town Centre Health Check Programme (CTCHC).

The dream scenario would have been to ban cars altogether from being allowed to travel through the Village and it is likely that such requests will be made during the second round of public consultation. However, from a road capacity point of view, transport planners have perhaps come to the conclusion that it is simply not possible to propose such a solution.

Nevertheless, there is evidently a shift towards sustainable transport and mobility, and the introduction of what is effectively a bus corridor from the Church to the Bridge is by no means insignificant. However, cycling infrastructure in the short-term vision is somewhat underwhelming and early observations from many cyclists, both experienced and non, is that the proposal fails to provide a plan for protected or segregated lanes.

Therefore, whether the new network will provide enough of an incentive to help support modal shift requires some consideration. The report predicts that with all proposed measures between now and 2040, car journeys will reduce by 15% in Carrigaline, with public transport, cycling and on foot journeys all increasing by 33%, 309% and 63% respectively.

It is inevitable that this report is likely to ruffle some feathers, particularly in relation to the new proposed parking measures along Main Street. What has been suggested is that there will be raised pads positioned along the town centre, providing three different functions during the course of the day; deliveries in the morning, parking in the afternoon, and alfresco dining in the evening.

It is in my opinion however, high-time that we embraced such thinking and moved with the times towards a vision that resembles somewhat of a modern, progressive European City, and together with enhancements to the public realm and potential opportunities to open up the waterfront, Carrigaline could become the capital of South-Cork, bringing with it local economic growth, tourism and employment opportunities.

Once the initial reaction dies down and there is an opportunity to reflect during the next phase of public consultation, the question we must ask ourselves as a community is do we want to be good citizens? We must attempt to leave this place in a better state than what we have inherited and strive towards creating a town in which we want to see our children and grandchildren grow up.

We cannot be held back by the status quo and be subjected to the tyranny of the contented class. There is an opportunity before us to deliver a vision of change that will impact generations to come. In 30 years’ time you may be asked what type of citizen you were when all of this was going on. I know where I will stand, I hope you do too.

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