Extra 5,000 workers will show car use in the city is not viable

A “boots on the ground” approach to consultation is required to deliver Cork City’s ambitious movement-and-transport strategy, following the suspension of the St Patrick’s St afternoon car ban.

Given that an additional 5,000 people will be working in the city centre within 36 months, a planning expert said we must accept that cars are not an “ingredient of city centre success”.

Writing in today’s Irish Examiner, Will Brady, of UCC’s Centre for Planning and Education Research, said he has yet to see a city that has regenerated its urban core by encouraging car-use and incentivising city centre car-parking.

“Evidence overwhelmingly supports the concept of improving city centres through improved traffic-management and prioritising other transport modes,” he says.

“This ultimately improves footfall, and, after all, pedestrians bring life, and pedestrians spend money.”

His comments follow the suspension, on Friday, of the controversial St Patrick’s St afternoon car ban, a key element of the City Centre Movement Strategy (CCMS).

The latter is designed to prioritise public transport and take through-traffic out of the city centre.

Introduced on March 27, the 3pm-6.30pm daily car ban created a time-regulated bus lane on the city’s main street.

Will Brady, of UCC’s Centre for Planning and Education Research
Will Brady, of UCC’s Centre for Planning and Education Research

However, traders claimed it decimated footfall and led to a reduction in their takings.

Despite indications that the move had reduced journey times on two key suburban bus routes, traders insisted the ban be scrapped.

It resulted in city councillors voting unanimously on Friday to lift the restrictions and pause the roll-out of that phase of the CCMS until August 9, so as to facilitate consultation.

They agreed to maintain parking incentives, which include free park-and-ride in the afternoon and two hours of free parking in council-owned car parks at Paul St and North Main St.

However, they also reaffirmed their support for the CCMS, after a warning from the head of the council’s transportation directorate, Gerry O’Beirne, that the city will face “crippling congestion”, until there is an effective response to its increasing transport demands.

Fianna Fáil councillor Sean Martin said it is now vital that City Hall adopts a “boots on the ground” approach to engagement over the coming months, to explain the CCMS vision.

He said independent consultants should be hired, if required, to drive that process forward.

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