A MOVING STORY
At the “Decongesting Europe” event, the final conference of the FLOW and TRACE EU projects, the city of Dublin presented some of its work on tackling congestion. Chloé Mispelon of Polis interviewed, Ciarán Cuffe, the city’s elected official tasked with addressing the issue of mobility
Ciarán Cuffe chairs Dublin City Council’s Transport Committee. He is passionate about walkable, bikeable, and liveable cities. He has served two terms in Ireland’s national parliament, and was a Minister of State with responsibility for climate change, planning and sustainable transport. In Government he reformed the Irish planning system to focus on evidence-led decision-making and published legislation to tackle climate change. He also chairs a Masters Programme in Urban Regeneration and Development at the Dublin Institute of Technology. He is currently undertaking an MSc in Cities at the London School of Economics and holds degrees in architecture and urban planning from University College Dublin.
Polis [CM]: Dublin has been very visible in the FLOW-TRACE final conference, Decongesting Europe. What were the reasons for this visibility?
Councillor Cuffe [CC]: I’m pleased with that. Our transport team is involved in several projects focussing on car free area and also on improving public transport, walking and cycling. We also have been able to build on strong in-house competencies in traffic modelling. We work closely with national level too.
CM: Could you give an example of a key project that you are working on?
CC: I would say that our main project currently is the pedestrianization of College Green [a three-sided plaza in the city centre]. It is our flagship project because it is the heart of the city for symbolic reasons but is also a huge transport meeting point where people coming into and crossing the city collide.
CM: How did you convince your city colleagues to go for pedestrianisation?
CC: The arguments we used are mostly safety and volume of people that would be able to cross. This is a bit different than our traditional approach, when we usually focus on environment and social benefits.
CM: …and how did you convince the public?
CC: We have been working for two years to understand the challenges of the place, we have been engaging with several stakeholders: hotel managers, car park operators… We have organised workshops with citizens. The city architect, for instance, hosted a workshop very early in the process. We are using the “planning for real” tools which is based on 3D models and triggers bottom-up approaches. The overall process is still a work in progress: public enquiries are taking place this week.
CM: What was (or is) the hardest part of this project?
CC: Making changes to bus routes. The city centre is quite dense so we had little possibilities for rerouting. This will imply that passengers will have to walk a bit longer distances between modes. That was something difficult to get through. We also faced lots of concerns of extra traffic in parallel routes from residents and businesses.
CM: Are there other projects in the pipeline?
CC: In the north of the city we will redevelop Mountjoy Square and we would like the inner city to become a cultural quarter. We will reuse the tools used in the FLOW project on College Green to reallocate road space.
CM: You have been a city councillor for 27 years, what is the most striking thing you have noticed?
CC: The vision of the city has changed. Internationally too. We have moved away from car-dominated cities to people-friendly cities. We have somehow learned from our mistakes. We now focus on more people on the street, better landscaping, more activities, better for women, more child -riendly. I am very inspired by the work of Jane Jacobs. Already in the ‘60s she understood the issue of comprehensive redevelopment, even though the road agenda was highly prevalent at that time.
CM: Thanks for sharing your thoughts and good luck with the implementation of the pedestrianisation scheme. We are looking forward to seeing how it transforms the city centre.
Chloé Mispelon is a project officer at Polis