The National Transport Authority is currently running a public consultation process on proposals for a Bus Rapid Transit Corridor between Swords/Dublin Airport and Dublin City Centre. This was discussed on 13 November, at a seminar in Dublin, organised by the Chartered Institute of Logistics Transport (CILT) – http://www.cilt.ie/– in association with the Engineers Ireland http://www.engineersireland.ie/
Drive for Bus Rapid Transit
Many cities are now selecting Bus Rapid Transit schemes as they offer an affordable alternative to building rail systems. There are two acronyms used to describe the new systems – BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) and BHLS (Bus with High Level of Service). The CILT has estimated that throughout the world today – “…about 200 BRT/BHLS systems are in operation or development, with their high carrying capacity being implemented for €3 to 10 million per kilometre equating to 10-25% the cost of rail-based modes to achieve equivalent capacity”. http://www.cilt.ie/
These new systems use buses on roads, or on dedicated bus lanes, to quickly and efficiently move passengers to their destinations. Dedicated bus lanes separate BRT buses from mixed traffic, allowing them to travel more quickly. This could be good news for early morning traffic as commuters might consider shifting from their cars to bus transport when the advantages of the bus are greater than those of the car.
The National Transport Authority, which is driving the BRT agenda here in Ireland argues that – “BRT is a high-quality, high-capacity, and effective form of public transport, offering attractive multi-door vehicles, off-board ticketing and frequent services along key strategic corridors using a priority bus lane”. www.swiftway.ie
Helping the Environment
The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that transport accounts for almost one-fifth of total greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland – see http://www.epa.ie/. BRT systems help reduce emissions by reducing the overall amount of vehicle kilometres travelled in a city, by shifting commuters to high-capacity buses that can carry up to 160 passengers at a time.
Fewer vehicles transporting the same amount of passengers reduces traffic congestion, and presents the opportunity to replace older, more polluting vehicles. The incorporation of modern fuel efficiency technologies into BRT buses and better driver training can also contribute to lower fuel consumption and emissions.
TheNational Transport Authority (NTA) has proposals for BRT systems on three corridors, under the brand-name Swiftway. The routes are:
· Blanchardstown to UCD
· Clongriffin to Tallaght
· Swords to Dublin Centre City
The NTA is currently holding a public consultation on the Swiftway BRT Scheme for the Swords/Dublin Airport to Dublin City Centre corridor.Closing date for submissions has been set for Friday, November 28th. Following the assessment of submissions made, the NTA proposes to submit an application for planning permission to An Bord Pleanála early in 2015.
With BRT fast heading towards a reality in Ireland, CILT in association with the Engineers Ireland, held a seminar on the matter on13 November. Those attending the seminar heard presentations from practitioners from Cleveland (USA), Madrid (Spain), Barcelona (Spain), Amsterdam (The Netherlands) and from a number of local experts. Dr. Dorothy Chan, International President of the CILT gave the keynote address. The four thematic sessions for the seminar were:
· BRT as a new layer in the Transportation System of Dublin,
· Network Integration and Economic Potential of BRT,
· BRT and Engineering Design and
· Financing of BRT.
The Road Ahead
Will it be all plain sailing? Very rarely are transport projects rolled-out smoothly. Looking at the NTA website it is clear that all the right steps are being planned to develop this first BRT scheme. What is particularly vital is consultation and the NTA is engaging in that process. The importance of early and ongoing involvement of the communities and stakeholders, along the route, during the development of a project is crucial. It is also imperative that the NTA plan carefully on managing the reduction in available road-space for commercial traffic; the adequacy of access arrangements affecting businesses along the route, and access for taxi services and cyclists. The big challenge for the NTA is to deliver a BRT scheme that is designed and implemented in a way that clearly demonstrates the capability to deliver a high quality public transport service, at a fraction of the cost of rail-tracked systems.
Tom Ferris is a consultant economist specialising in Public Sector Governance, Better Regulation and Transport Economics. He was Senior Economist in the Department of Transport until February 2006. Since then, he has undertaken consultancy projects for the World Bank, the OECD, the High Level Group on Business Regulation, and a number of private sector companies. He is an occasional lecturer in public sector economics at NUIG, UCC, and Public Affairs Ireland and he writes regularly for PAI Publications. He holds a Masters degree in economics from University College Dublin and a Fellowship from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport.