Dec. 11, 2017, 1:02 p.m.
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The ever-so-predictable traffic chaos that hit Dublin city on Monday morning, the first working day of operation of the new Luas Cross City, could be just teething problems as commuters adjust to the new kid in town.
However, what is just as likely is that these are embedded structural problems which cannot by ignored if the city is to have a hope of extricating itself from gridlock.
Reports from the early hours were of delays to buses and the new tram, let alone the private car, but by 8.30am, the city was at a standstill.
Passengers on some trams said it took more than eight minutes to travel from the Luas stop on Dawson Street to the College Green while one bus travelling in the opposite direction took 22 minutes to cover 200 metres from Pearse Street Garda station to the gate of Trinity College.
As many as six trams were lined up from O’Connell Street to College Green, unable to move.
The city’s streets are stuffed. There are simply too many vehicles trying to use the same narrow space, and the margins are so tight – figuratively and literally – that no one can afford to make a mistake.
The city’s public transport providers, Dublin Bus, Luas operator Transdev, and its transport officials, Dublin City Council and the National Transport Authority were not oblivious to these problems, or “challenges” as they mostly prefer to call them.
Pinch points
A substantial number of pinch points were identified – essentially covering the entire city centre section of the line, from St Stephen’s Green to Parnell Square.
The areas of greatest concern were turning from Dawson Street into Nassau Street and Nassau Street into Lower Grafton Street, where buses would unavoidably block the tram if they crossed the dividing white line, even by a couple of centimetres; the area around the top of O’Connell Street where trams run in three directions; College Green, where in advance of the proposed pedestrian and cycle plaza, traffic is running back and forwards over the line to and from Dame Street; O’Connell Bridge, where if motorists block yellow box junctions, the trams could block the quays; as well as the general amount of shared running - with vehicles driving on the tram tracks though almost all of the city centre.
Currently, this is all being dealt with through the medium of traffic management – instead of banning cars, vans and taxis from any areas they are being “managed” with the use of traffic signals and yellow box junctions.
On Monday morning, at least, relying on the good behaviour of the Dublin motorist didn’t work out. It is early days yet, but it is looking pretty likely that the only solution will be to take the private car out of the equation in the heart of the city.