I’M sure the Labour Party were devising their bus strategy for a long time but I’d say they hurried its publication along after Dublin suffered it’s worst ever traffic jam two weeks ago.
Anyone with a half-decent plan is bound to get a hearing as it is now plain that our traffic situation is in meltdown.
Any ideas which can have an immediate impact will have to be one based on buses. This is good news because only buses have any chance of reaching around this sprawling city.
Labour want to increase the number of buses in Dublin from the current 1,100 up to 1,600. In order to get people out of their cars the party proposes building park and ride sites outside the M50.
By the way, the reason we don’t have any park and ride sides is down to the Dept of Finance from what I hear from officials and politicians. Buying land and kitting it out so that cars can stand on it for free doesn’t look good on the books.
If this is so then it is a policy that has cost us dearly as some 200,000 cars cross the M50 heading for the city every day. There is no other way for many of these motorists to use public transport other than to park near a bus stop. This has been talked about and promised for the last twenty years and nothing has been done.
The second thing the party wants done is to complete the Quality Bus Corridors. This is a no-brainer if we are to find place for the 500 extra buses. But local Labour councillors might be less enthusiastic as many of the plans for the QBCs have been fought tooth and nail by local residents. Along the main arteries we are going to have to force the QBCs through. Will Labour have the backbone?
The third idea is to charge a flat fare of one euro for all journeys throughout Dublin. This would greatly simplify the transport system, speeding up the loading of buses and making it easier to check whether people had the right fare. It is the right policy but a costly one and Labour doesn’t say how it would be funded.
One critical problem with buses is the image problem. Most motorists simply don’t want to travel on buses. Perhaps the solution is a new class of commuter bus service with single seats, a small worktop and access to the internet. A service that could offer our present work-mad commuters an extra two working hours a day might persuade more of them to leave their cars at home.
Labour have upped the ante with this new policy. If the other parties don’t come up with similar radical plans, it’s certainly worth a vote.
Rabbitte a liability?
All of these plans are grand. But what good are they if Labour don’t get into power?
The problem here is leader Pat Rabbitte. He has absolutely set his face against a coalition with Fianna Fail. This is a mad policy.
We are now six months from a general election. Barring a miracle Fine Gael and Labour are not going to be able to form a government. Fianna Fail will be able to choose from the PDs, the Greens and Sinn Fein.
If the Labour Party wants to have any chance of getting these policies implemented it might have to choose between Fianna Fail and Pat Rabbitte.