Ireland stands to benefit in a big way from investing in public transport

While the absence of physical contact with families and friends is obviously the most difficult aspect of lockdown for most of us, one of the other aspects of ordinary life that I miss is hopping on a crowded Luas to go into town.

Having lived in south Dublin for 30 years, my commute options were either an infrequent and unreliable bus service, a stiff uphill cycle home, or an exhausting journey by car. However, the advent of the Luas put me within 30 minutes of the city centre at all times of the day. Unfortunately, it will still be a while before I get to enjoy that Luas ride to the metropolis, but that day will eventually come.

While the current crisis has seen city centres close and public transport reduced to a skeleton service across most big EU cities, this will have to be a temporary phenomenon. Over the past two centuries, from the industrial revolution onwards, population and business has become ever more concentrated in urban centres. While the coronavirus pandemic may see a small blip, it’s likely that the long-term trend to city living will continue.

Although today’s need for social distance makes mass public transport a key risk area, under normal circumstances good public transport is key to the successful functioning of cities.

Cities with poor public transport – think Los Angeles – rely disproportionately on cars, and tend to be characterised by frequent gridlock, low-density urban sprawl, and lengthy commutes. This model is not sustainable environmentally. Those working from home in lockdown are now realising how much time they lose on commuting to work.


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