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Cork City councillors slam BusConnects plan
The NTA was roundly berated for its €600m public transport plan for Cork by city councillors, some of whom stated their desire for the plan to fail.
If planners and bureaucrats from the National Transport Authority are wondering how the public forums planned for later this month in Cork city will pan out then the contributions from Cork city councillors should give them a good idea what they’re in for.
The answer: a very, very rough ride.
At a meeting last night, one councillor called the BusConnects plan “horrifying” and said what’s being proposed by the NTA is a “shot in the dark.”
For nearly a full hour, councillor after councillor stood up to give their take on the BusConnects plan which would increase the number of people using public transport in the city fourfold by 2040.
The ambitious plan involves 12 new sustainable transport corridors (STCs) as well as expanding the numbers cycling and walking by 33%.
This month the plans for BusConnects will go before the public when officials from the NTA hold a number of public forums across the city to outline the proposals which have been drawn up by the transport body.
The proposals include 54 kilometres of new cycling and walking routes as well as 75 kilometres of new dedicated bus lanes. Under the plans, bus journey time would be cut in half across most of the 12 proposed corridors.
Engage with the people of Cork
One of the main concerns voiced by councillors from all parties was that the NTA was failing in its communication strategy and that what was needed first and foremost was an extension of the consultation process beyond the September deadline.
An amendment tabled by Cllr Tony Fitzgerald (Fianna Fáil) asked that the NTA organise “local community forums to discuss the impact of the proposed BusConnect routes” and how the new routes and plans would impact residents.
Of the dozen councillors who spoke on the amendment, only Cllr Lorna Bogue said that she regularly travelled by bus. An Rabharta Glas/Green Left councillor said that the people she notices who travel on buses are “carers, passengers with disabilities, students and mothers with children.”
“If you want this to succeed you need to listen to us,” Bogue said. “We’re not being listened to.”
It was a message echoed by nearly every other councillor who said that the NTA was Dublin-centric and was failing to engage with or listen to representations from Cork.
Cllr Terry Shannon (Fianna Fáil) opened his contribution by stating that he wants BusConnects to fail.
“I do not want this scheme to succeed,” Shannon said, before going on to use the term “balmpot” to describe the bureaucrats working on BusConnects.
Cllr Shannon did not say whether he ever travels by bus.
Cllr Dan Boyle of the Green Party said plans like this will involve “breaking eggs”, but a scheme such as BusConnects is necessary if there is going to be a modal shift in how we travel.
He pointed out that the city council is fully behind the concept of a 15-minute city, but he said “you can not have a 15-minute city if you only rely on cars.”
Councillors raised issues about compulsory purchase orders (CPO) which could be enacted to make way for bus corridors. However details, they said, were very thin on the ground.
Another criticism was that BusConnects was drafted from Google Street View and that not enough “on the ground consultation” was done.
Cllr Mary Rose (Fianna Fáil) said the the NTA has "fallen at its first hurdle" and that the first stage of consultation is not acceptable
She said that "ideas were thrown at a wall to sees what sticks" and that the proposal shows a lack of local knowledge. She asked that the consultation be pushed out by two months from its September deadline.
That comment was echoed by Cllr Fiona Ryan (Solidarity Party - People Before Profit) who said that the NTA had a “deplorable communication strategy,” adding that it was “an active attempt to create panic with the least amount of detail.”
Cllr Ryan also said that more information was needed about which companies would service the new routes, asking if they would be tendered out to private contractors.
Several councillors said that their questions or considerations were not taken seriously by the NTA. Others questioned the efficacy of the proposed “bus gates”, sections of roads that would be used only by buses or bicycles.
"I wondered very early on had people from that side been on the ground and seen what they were proposing," Cllr Mick Nugent of Sinn Féin said.
Ciarán Meers, chairperson of Cork Commuter Coalition and a member of the NTA’s Transport Users Advisory Group told Tripe + Drisheen that “councillors have the opportunity to actually lead on this issue - to engage with the public, to liaise with the NTA, and to come up with solutions that result in a better scheme with better results for everyone in the city.
“Instead, it seems that a great many councillors are gearing up to lead a cynical anti-campaign that benefits no one.”
Meers recognises that the plan is imperfect, but he said what’s proposed goes a long way to improving the quality of the bus services in Cork city. He added that the open consultation period - “the third of this entire project” - provides an opportunity to have meaningful impact on the real outcome.
Councillors will confer again next Monday at a special meeting in City Hall to discuss the BusConnects proposals at length. Cllr Boyle asked that there be a more sober atmosphere so that there could be “an informed debate.”
There will be six public forums to discuss the new bus corridors proposed by BusConnects. The meetings which will take place this month beginning next week and will be held in Ballincollig, Tivoli and Douglas. Times and dates here.
You can access BusConnects in full here.