Updated: Sep 5
Dublin Commuter Coalition presents Destination Dublin: a vision for how central Dublin can become a better place to live, work and visit, by making it a destination – not a thoroughfare.
In 1758, the Wide Streets Commission was formed and began to reshape Dublin City over the next hundred years. Their vision created the central core of the capital that still remains as we know it to this day. Unfortunately, over time, priority on the wide Georgian streets and civic plazas they created, has been given over to private cars and other vehicles.
Dublin City was then and still is now, a destination – it’s a place people work, socialise, shop, visit and live, yet the way we organise public space within the city centre prioritises and incentivises people to go through it, rather than to it. Dublin Commuter Coalition is calling for change in how we see and use our citys following decades of poor management and policy. Creating a city where people have space to roam, to sit, to play, to meet friends and enjoy their surroundings free from congestion, noise and pollution.
The concept we would like to realise is to re-organise Dublin City Centre from a place we send traffic through, to a place people travel to.
The current challenges we face as a planet, we also face as a city. Climate change, fresh water depletion, deforestation, air & water pollution and the struggle to feed a planet of billions. In order to meet these challenges, change will start at a local level, led by the community. Dublin Commuter Coalition have identified a number of key changes that could be made to Dublin’s Core to create a far nicer space for people:
Modal filters within the core city centre to
Pedestrianised College Green
Dedicate the quays for public transport and active travel
Private vehicle restriction & footpath widening on D’Olier Street
Removal of private vehicles from O’Connell Street
Public seating rolled out across the core city centre
Parklets & tree planting within the city centre
Grafton Street and Henry Street are the two most popular and well trafficked streets in Dublin. Capel Street’s pedestrianisation project has been well received over the last year and we’re sure the future for Parliament Street and College Green will be the same. There comes a point in cities when roads & streets are no longer valuable to society as a connection for cars between two points. The streets themselves become the destination, and Dublin Commuter Coalition believe the time has now come to create a Dublin that serves people rather than vehicles.
How it could work
Whilst there are many great options and arguments for re-allocating space on the core streets, Dublin Commuter Coalition has designed one solution that would achieve the goal of a more pedestrian friendly city.
The main priority we have considered, is to eliminate the possibility of private cars from transiting across the central core in either North-South or East-West directions.
We are also proposing to create an effective, continuous pedestrianised area from the Ambassador Theatre to St Stephen’s Green. This would also intersect into Temple Bar at College Green and Henry Street onto Capel Street via O’Connell Street.
Walkable core streets are destinations for tourism in cities all over the world, and Dublin is no different. Pedestrianising Grafton Street was an incredibly controversial decision, taking eleven years from its first trial in 1971 to full pedestrianisation in 1982.
Nobody in Dublin would consider reversing this incredibly successful change to what is now considered the capital’s premier shopping street.
The main thoroughfare of Dublin is arguably its main street; O’Connell Street is an essential part of our public transport network but recently, it has been the central focus of anti-social behaviour and negative media attention. We in Dublin Commuter Coalition believe it is now time to introduce elements of pedestrianisation to our main street. We are proposing the closure of the western side of the road to all traffic except for the Luas and closing the street to private vehicles entirely. The eastern side of the street would allow two way traffic for buses & cyclists only.
As with Henry Street and Grafton Street, access for deliveries would be facilitated in the pedestrianised area before 11am to ensure businesses would still have the necessary access they require.
With O’Connell Street and Grafton Street Pedestrianised, and College Green already off-limits to private vehicles; the next obvious step would be to pedestrianise Westmoreland Street, whilst simultaneously installing the long-talked about College Green Plaza. This would create an effective pedestrianised zone running from St Stephens Green shopping centre all the way to the Ambassador Theatre, bisecting the city and creating a natural east-west modal filter.
Regarding public transport
D'Olier Street would become the central link for buses crossing the city and again, we are suggesting removal of private vehicle access from this street. D’Olier street is already six lanes wide so is more than capable of handling two way public transport while removing the existing car parking. This would create a far more pedestrian friendly area, allowing the venues, shops and restaurants to utilise the new outdoor space for additional seating.
The Quays would also become a public transport only streets, facilitating commuter buses travelling across the city and dramatically reducing their transit times by no longer sharing space with other vehicles. Blue badge holders would also be able to access these streets.
The ongoing BusConnects project is fundamentally changing how we get around the City. The focus of our public transport system is changing from many historically direct routes, to a connected network where users switch between more frequent, faster services. This reduces the overall volume of routes running across the city centre which makes it much easier to create pedestrian friendly streets.
The quays are heavily congested for the majority of the day, taking cars up to an hour to get from Heuston Station to Connolly which is clearly not fit for purpose. This has the added detrimental effect of creating very poor air & noise quality on an important environmental artery: the River Liffey.
The Tolls on the East Link bridge, Port Tunnel and M50 encourage vehicles crossing the city, to go straight through the centre, rather than taking the routes around it. A daily commuter who must travel with their vehicle across the city would face a minimum monthly fee of €76 on the East Link Bridge or €92 on the M50.
In order to make Destination Dublin a success, we would need to remove the tolls on both the M50 and the East Link bridge to encourage north-south traveling vehicles to avoid the Core of Dublin City Centre. This action, alongside modal filters making it impossible to get across the core area in a private vehicle, will dramatically reduce the congestion level in Dublin.
Regarding car parks
When discussing Dublin’s central core, it’s important to recognise the importance given to access for private car parks. There have been ongoing calls to pedestrianise South William Street, an area of the city that is already a pseudo-plaza that allows access to cars due to a single car park.
There are many ways to address the challenge this car park presents in order to facilitate closing the street to cars. One frequent call is to change the direction of entrance but this has been claimed to be too costly by the operators.
Dublin Commuter Coalition believes a potential answer lies in a more ambitious solution, by pedestrianising more of the area and redirecting traffic. This would retain the existing exit & entrance to the car park on South William Street but allow the vast majority of the area to become fully pedestrianised.
The solution lies in also pedestrianising part of Wicklow Street, traffic would become one directional, looping North on Clarendon Street and rejoining George’s street via Exchequer Street. Vehicles exiting the car park on South William Street would turn right when exiting to also join this loop.
With that you would extend the current pedestrian area from Grafton Street onto Wicklow street, helping to increase footfall in the area and allow cafes & restaurants to offer outdoor dining options.
The only car park that remains a challenge in our vision for Destination Dublin is Arnott’s Car park, which has its entrance off O’Connell street. We are proposing that the entire western side of O’Connell street be pedestrianised and a new public plaza be built beside the GPO, which would be a challenge for this car park.
There may be a solution on Abbey Street at the car park exit by re-orienting the delivery bays or by utilising Williams Lane as a new entrance instead of retaining access via O’Connell Street. It would be vitally important to begin engaging with the car park operator immediately to find a mutually beneficial solution to the city and people.
Looking to the future
It’s very clear looking ahead that the ‘core zone’ could be expanded to Christchurch & Dublin Castle on the western side, creating a new ‘historic’ core and central tourism point. On the eastern side, the core zone could very easily be expanded to include Custom House, creating a central plaza in front of the building while dramatically improving the safety of Beresford place and Gardiner Street.
We believe that Dublin needs a progressive and ambitious plan for creating a greener, friendlier and safer city. Destination Dublin is not a plan that needs to be implemented overnight, but rather a goal to work towards over the next ten years as we approach the 2030 Paris Climate Targets.
It is very clear that what we’re doing is not working for residents, it’s not working for tourists, it’s not working for active & public commuters and it’s not working for drivers. Dublin could be more than just a place to drive through, or commute to, it could be a destination, a third place where people go without the obligation of spending money to be there. A large, lively, walkable civic plaza where people want to be, rather than a convenient place to drive across or hop on public transport.
— Dublin Commuter Coalition
Interested in supporting this and other initiatives promoting sustainable transport in Dublin? Become a member of Dublin Commuter Coalition today! Click here to learn more and sign up.