MSc in Sustainable Transport and Mobility

Three years ago, I wrote an article describing how excited I was to be starting a Masters in TU Dublin. I thought it would be interesting to review my experience after finishing the course, in the hope that it might be useful to people who were thinking of applying. I’m told there might be one or two places remaining for the January 2023 intake if you are quick (apply here).

Classmates

I appreciate this is a variable factor but by far the best aspect of the course for me was working with my fellow students on the course. There was a fairly good mix of gender and age, and we were a mix of people working in the private sector, the public sector, and those of us from more diverse employment backgrounds who were coming from an activist background. Most modules contained quite a lot of group work and we quickly got to know each other well, with an active and sometimes raucous WhatsApp group discussing not only upcoming deadlines but general transport developments both in Ireland and further afield. I think we all learned a lot from each other and we’ve continued to meet semi-regularly since graduating.

Broad range of modules

The range of modules we studied was vast, ranging from the social science of behavioural change, to architecturally-related placemaking, to the sometimes challenging maths of transport modelling. It really is a well-rounded course and no matter what your academic background you will find some modules relatively familiar and others unlike anything you’ve studied before.

TU Dublin students touring Grangegorman campus

The importance of transport and mobility

During the course I was frequently reminded of how relevant our subject matter was to important and current issues in policy, which was a definite advantage for me as I was working in politics for most of my time on the course. In particular, challenges in climate, health and social equity. It felt like we were going to graduate with an awful lot of really useful tools to solve policy problems that many feel are relatively intractable.

Influential lecturers

Over the two years that I was studying on the course, at least 6 of my lecturers appeared in front of various Oireachtas committees: Lorraine D’Arcy, Dave O’Connor, Odran Reid, Suzanne Meade, Helen Murray O’Connor and Sarah Rock. I think this is evidence of the esteem that our lecturers were held by policymakers and it felt good that politicians were getting the same exposure to good practice as we were.

Dissertation

For many of us, the dissertation was the most challenging part of the Masters. We were all busy people with jobs and families and it was a challenge to fit in enough time for original research. I did struggle at times to keep going with my dissertation and I’m certainly grateful to Rose Anne for putting up with me as I got ever more grumpy towards the deadline, but I did submit on time, and I was fortunate enough to have a paper on my research accepted to the Irish Transport Research Network Conference (Public transport deprivation in County Limerick and the development of an effective rural public transport network – PDF), this paper was also covered on the front page of the Irish Examiner.

Summer School

Despite Covid restrictions we did get to have an in-person summer school: ours was hosted by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and it was fun to have our proposals to extend the famous Coastal Mobility Route assessed by Conor Geraghty and Robert Burns. We also had a guest input from one of the lead authors of DMURS.

Summer school in Blackrock

Should you do this course?

In a word, yes! If you care about problems that matter and don’t mind having your brain slightly melted at their complexity, this is the course for you. It’s a course that’s fundamentally about people, and it is key to solving the singular challenge of our age: the climate crisis. I’m more than happy to chat to anyone considering applying for this course (contact details here) and it has certainly changed my outlook on life.

Timetable for bus services from Killaloe/Ballina to Limerick from 23 Oct 2022

The twin towns of Killaloe and Ballina are served by the 345 service from Limerick to Scariff via Killaloe, and the 323 service from Limerick to Nenagh via the University of Limerick and Ballina.

Here is a summary timetable for travelling to/from Limerick to Killaloe by public transport. The service has expanded significantly with 12 buses each way per day Monday to Saturday, up from 3 buses each way in 2020 with no weekend service.

Monday to Saturday

Out: depart for Limerick

Return: depart Limerick Bus station

Return: depart UL

06:53B

06:45B

07:01B

07:26K

08:45K

07:53B

09:45B

10:05B

09:36B

11:30K

10:24K

12:45B

13:05B

12:39B

14:15K

13:12K (13:09 Sat)

15:45B

16:07B

15:37B

16:45B

17:09B

16:17K (16:06 Sat)

17:40K

18:35B

17:45B

18:09B

19:22K (19:19 Sat)

20:25K

21:33B

20:45B

21:01B

K=Killaloe St. Anne’s, B=Ballina Church

Sunday

Out: depart for Limerick

Return: depart Limerick Bus station

Return: depart UL

07:21K

08:20K

09:35B

11:00B

11:17B

09:49K

11:00K

13:21K

14:15K

14:07B

15:45B

16:05B

16:51K

17:50K

19:05B

21:00B

21:15B

Notes

K=Killaloe St. Anne’s, B=Ballina Church

Bus Éireann has full timetables for the 345 Scariff-Killaloe-Limerick service and the 323 Limerick-Castleconnell-Ballina-Nenagh service.

All Ballina buses serve UL, Castleconnell and Nenagh. All Killaloe buses serve O’Briensbridge and Scariff.

All buses from Limerick Bus Station to Killaloe and Ballina serve Arthur’s Quay 7-10 mins later.

Submission on Iarnród Éireann draft December 2022 timetable

I would like to suggest a new 06:00 service from Dublin Heuston to Cork Kent with a connecting service arriving at Limerick Junction from Limerick. These services would allow passengers from Dublin and Limerick to arrive in Cork before 9am.

A suggested timetable is listed below. I do not believe it would conflict with any existing or proposed train paths.

DUBLIN Heuston 06:00
Portlaoise 06:46
Thurles 07:15
LIMERICK (Colbert) 07:00
Limerick Junction 07:30 07:35
Charleville 07:59
Mallow 08:14
CORK (Kent) 08:45

Submission on Fr Russell Road Cycle Scheme Phase 1

Intention of the scheme

Given the fact that the current carriageway width of Fr. Russell Rd is 7.5m and the scheme proposes to reallocate some of this road space away from the private car, I would like to express general support for this scheme, however I believe some aspects could be improved.

Carriageway widths

From the Part 8 planning report:

“DMURS includes guidance on carriageway widths and recommends that designers should minimise the width of the carriageway…Low to moderate speeds should be encouraged on the roadway with the recommended width in DMURS being 6 – 6.5m”

DMURS does state that the preferred carriageway width on Arterial and Link streets are 3.0m and 3.25m. However given the limited room for footpaths and cycle lanes on Fr. Russell Rd. I believe that consideration should be given to narrowing the carriageway width to 2.75m, which would give more room for active travel modes. A roadway width of 5.5m is still within DMURS guidelines for an Arterial or Link street. This would allow space to widen the cycle lanes beyond 1.5m which is very narrow.

diagram from DMURS showing the maximum carriageway width of 5.5m to 6.5m for Arterial and Link streets

Consideration of a bi-directional cycle lane and other design aspects of a similar active travel scheme in Dun Laoghaire.

road diagram showing a proposed 2-way cycle track in Dun Laoghaire

Fr. Russell Rd is not too dissimilar to the R112 Taney Rd between Stillorgan and Dundrum in the Dun Laoghaire County Council area. Coincidentally this road is also subject to a proposed active travel route: , and it may be useful to consider some aspects of this scheme, in particular:

  1. A 3m bidirectional which was considered better than 2 x 1.5m lanes
  2. Continuous cycle lanes and footpaths over side junctions, with set back used so that cars cross the cycle lane and footpath at a more perpendicular angle
  3. Bus stops inline with the road carriageway
  4. Unsignalised pedestrian crossing points across the cycle lane at bus stops

Submission on the revised draft of the Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy

The proposed strategy is not consistent with the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021.

A reduction in emissions of 35% over 2018 levels by 2030 proposed in the Strategy is not consistent with the national climate objective, and when taken with 2030 targets from other draft plans published by the Authority in 2022 (Greater Dublin Area: -37.5%; Waterford -26%) raises questions of how the Authority is performing its functions consistent with the provisions of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021.

“(1) A relevant body shall, in so far as practicable, perform its functions in a manner consistent with—
(a) the most recent approved climate action plan,
(b) the most recent approved national long term climate action strategy,
(c) the most recent approved national adaptation framework and approved sectoral adaptation plans,
(d) the furtherance of the national climate objective, and
(e) the objective of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the effects of climate change in the State.”.
– Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021

The proposed strategy is not consistent with the National Planning Framework

map of the NTA's proposed doughnut settlement pattern for Limerick

The Modelling Report notes that “The NTA, in association with Limerick City and County Council (LCCC) and Clare County Council (CCC) prepared a Planning Datasheet for the 2040 Land-use Scenario for the application within the LSMA Transport Strategy. This Planning Datasheet has been used as the baseline land-use scenario for all modelling of the strategy options and preferred strategy.”. This planning data sheet assigns the majority of population growth in a ‘doughnut’ arrangement on greenfield sites at the periphery of the city. This is in direct contravention of the policy outlined in the National Planning Framework where 50% of growth in regional cities will be developed within their existing built-up footprints. Furthermore, concrete plans being progressed by state agencies (e.g. the Land Development Agency’s plan to deliver over housing for 6,000 new residents on the lands surrounding Colbert Station) have been ignored in the proposed Planning Datasheet.

National Policy Objective 3b
Deliver at least half (50%) of all new homes that are targeted in the five Cities and suburbs of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford, within their existing built-up footprints
– National Planning Framework

The proposed strategy is not consistent with the National Sustainable Mobility Policy

The National Sustainable Mobility Policy sets out a target of a 10% reduction in kilometres driven by fossil fuelled cars by 2030. The Strategy proposes an increase in road capacity through the fact that it “commits to delivering the N/M20 Cork to Limerick Scheme and the N69/M21 Foynes to Limerick Road” as well as proposed roads to open up development lands in the suburbs. The Strategy fails to address any induced demand that will be caused by these projects in the Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area. Outside of the city centre area, the Strategy fails to identify any measures that could reduce road capacity that would result in traffic evaporation.

Targets
To deliver at least 500,000 additional daily active travel and public transport journeys and a 10% reduction in kilometres driven by fossil fuelled cars by 2030 in line with metrics for transport set out in the Climate Action Plan 2021

National Sustainable Mobility Policy

The proposed strategy is not consistent with the Authority’s own guidance on bus network design

The Authority published an excellent consultation as part of its work on the Cork BusConnects project which outlined two fundamental issues relating to bus network design: the tension between coverage and ridership; and the importance of interchange in providing a coherent public transport network that can deliver modal shift. Unfortunately the proposed bus network for Limerick consists of a series of meandering routes optimised for coverage with few interchange possibilities. Exacerbating this is a proposed traffic arrangement for the city centre which insists on directing buses through O’Connell St, away from the bus and rail station and preventing effective interchange between services.

A well-connected network is key to high patronage. Interchange must be easy and reliable so that people can reach many destinations in a reasonable amount of time, at a reasonable cost.
Bus Network Redesign Volume I: Choices Report – BusConnects Cork

Submission on Draft Killaloe-Ballina Town Enhancement Plan

I live in Limerick City but I stay in Killaloe a number of times a month.

Killaloe and Ballina are not pleasant places to walk and cycle. There seems to be a lot of SUVs in the town and a lot of parking on footpaths.

The construction of the new bridge and bypass of Killaloe offers a really good opportunity to transform both Ballina and Killaloe for the better. A great aim would be to make it possible for people of all ages to independently travel between and within Killaloe and Ballina.

The old bridge should definitely be closed to motor traffic after the new bridge opens. To have cars still on it at any time of day would represent a significant failure.

Serious consideration should also be made to close the current R463 in Killaloe between the old bridge and the link road from New St to where the public toilet block is by the canal – it was built itself as a bypass and it should be converted to pedestrian and cycle use after the new bypass is completed.

After the bypass is built, streets in Killaloe and Ballina need to be transformed. Most streets, especially on the Killaloe side, should be made one-way to make room for segregated cycle tracks at least 2m wide to allow people of all ages to cycle safely.

Main Street should have all parking removed and the only traffic should be deliveries before 10am. The current situation where cars mount the footpath as they drive down Main Street is unacceptable.

In the context of the climate crisis and the need to make Killaloe and Ballina a great place to live and to visit whether or not you own a car, I urge you to take the opportunity to direct all traffic on to the new bypass, retaining access for cars but reorienting the roads and streets of Killaloe and Ballina towards people.

Town is dirty, let’s do thirty

Submission on Limerick City and County Council Road Traffic (30 kilometres per hour Special Speed Limit) Bye-Laws 2021

We’ve spent a lot of time and money over the last few decades in Limerick, building bypasses:

Map of bypasses built in Limerick
Bypasses completed in Limerick in recent decades. Satellite imagery from Google.

Limerick is on a crossroads between, Cork, Galway, Kerry and Dublin. We built a lot of bypasses to facilitate this interurban traffic that had no real business passing our doors. But, despite promises of a future city that would be focused on people (just one more bypass!), none of our streets ever changed, and the interurban traffic was replaced with intraurban traffic.

If we want a better Limerick, a more prosperous Limerick, a more inclusive Limerick, one place we can start is our streets. The current proposal is a fairly modest expansion of the 30km/h zone into a few more housing estates in Limerick City, most of which are on the northside. This is welcome, but it is a small change. We are not proposing to expand the 30km/h area in our city centre, and the majority of the city centre, where we were promised that pedestrians would come first, is still a 50km/h zone. The towns and villages of County Limerick are similarly prioritised for motor traffic.

Map showing Limerick 30km/h zones
Limerick City Centre, proposed 30 km/h zones are in blue

I would like to suggest a different approach, that we make all built up areas of Limerick City, and our towns and villages in Limerick County, a 30km/h limit, with certain exceptions, for reasons of safety, noise pollution, air pollution and climate.

Safety

The Road Safety Authority says that cutting speed from 50km/h to 30km/h will change the probability of a person in a car killing a person walking from 50% to 10%.

The main reason for this dramatic difference in the probability of fatalities is that the kinetic energy of the car is proportional to the square of the velocity: ½mv2. What’s also worth mentioning in passing is that the other variable in the equation, the mass of the vehicle, has also changed, the best selling car in Ireland last month was the Hyundai Tucson which has a real world weight of 1.8t, in contrast to the slightly under 1.0t of the Toyota Corollas who used to drive the city’s streets back in the 1990s. We need a reduction in speed limit to compensate for the motor industry’s tendency to build much heavier cars.

We need to cut the speed limit in all urban areas to save lives. The headlines below all refer to different cases of pedestrians being killed by people driving cars in Limerick.

Noise pollution

Limerick is a noisy city, and it is affecting our health. The European NGO Transport and Environment says that reducing the urban speed limit from 50 km/h to 30 km/h reduces noise by 3 decibels, or approximately halving the background noise, allowing more of us to leave our windows open, or to converse comfortably on our streets.

noise-map-of-limerick
Limerick City Noise Action Plan

Air pollution

We are exceeding the recommended level of particulates. Even during lockdown in April, we were exceeding WHO-recommended levels of particulates in our city centre.

Air Quality Report for Limerick, April 2020

Reducing the speed limit would particularly help reduce NOx levels from traffic.

Climate

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 mandates that the next two carbon budgets, covering the period to 2030, must represent a 51% reduction in emissions over 2018 levels and also mandates that a public body (which includes Limerick City and County Council) must, in so far as practicable, perform its functions in a manner consistent with the national climate objective (net zero by 2050) and the objective of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the effects of climate change in the State

The planet is literally burning and we need to do everything we can to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, 20% of which in Ireland comes from transport. We need to encourage people to walk, cycle, or take public transport in urban areas. Reducing the urban speed limit will make driving less attractive.

Exceptions

Once the 30km/h default urban speed limit is established in Limerick, we can then look at very limited exceptions, perhaps on one or two of the many bypasses that have been built in the city, where the limit could be increased back to 50km/h. Critically this should only take place where there is a comprehensive safety audit and the provision of infrastructure to ensure that pedestrians and cyclists are physically segregated from traffic travelling at 50km/h, including at junctions.

Vehicle ownership and per capita kms driven by Irish county

Which counties in Ireland drive the most and least? What are the car ownership rates in each county? Ranking by kms driven per capita. Private cars only. Vehicle and km data from the CSO Transport Omnibus 2019. Population data from the earlier 2016 census. Link to a CSV file with the data.

# County of owner Private Vehicles km (million) Pop Cars/ person km/ person
1 Roscommon 33,755 668 64,544 0.523 10,350
2 Tipperary  81,247 1,497 159,553 0.509 9,382
3 Wexford 77,634 1,379 149,722 0.519 9,210
4 Carlow 29,216 524 56,932 0.513 9,204
5 Leitrim 14,931 286 32,044 0.466 8,925
6 Clare 58,669 1,052 118,817 0.494 8,854
7 Westmeath 42,201 780 88,770 0.475 8,787
8 Mayo 62,069 1,121 130,507 0.476 8,590
9 Kerry 73,292 1,259 147,707 0.496 8,524
10 Waterford 58,966 978 116,176 0.508 8,418
11 Offaly 35,304 656 77,961 0.453 8,414
12 Meath 91,552 1,612 195,044 0.469 8,265
13 Longford 17,731 336 40,873 0.434 8,221
14 Kilkenny 45,473 815 99,232 0.458 8,213
15 Cavan 32,907 617 76,176 0.432 8,100
16 Monaghan 26,560 493 61,386 0.433 8,031
17 Wicklow 70,299 1,143 142,425 0.494 8,025
18 Galway 117,293 2,069 258,058 0.455 8,018
19 Kildare 106,621 1,782 222,504 0.479 8,009
20 Limerick 90,784 1,549 194,899 0.466 7,948
21 Laois 35,886 670 84,697 0.424 7,911
22 Sligo 29,610 515 65,535 0.452 7,858
23 Cork 264,071 4,231 542,868 0.486 7,794
24 Donegal 66,327 1,163 159,192 0.417 7,306
25 Louth 53,144 889 128,884 0.412 6,898
26 Dublin 552,558 7,370 1,347,359 0.410 5,470

Transport and Mobility

This January I will be starting an MSc in Transport and Mobility in TU Dublin.

I’ve been a bit of a transport nerd most of my adult life, from being on the national committee of Rail Users Ireland when I was in Dublin, to being involved with Limerick Cycling, Liveable Limerick, An Taisce, Get Limerick Moving, and the Irish Pedestrian Network once I moved back to Limerick.

After so many false starts, starting with the excitement ahead of Transport 21 in the early ‘00s and continuing through the ‘00s and ‘10s, I think we’re finally at the stage where we’re realising how we can use transport as a tool to transform our economy, our society, and our environment.

Enabling the sustainable mobility of our population will have untold benefits. Our economy will have a great future once we can decouple its growth away from carbon emissions and gridlock. Our society will benefit from becoming more compact and more connected, both with each other and with places of work, education, and entertainment. Providing top quality facilities for people to walk, cycle and take public transport will improve our cities, towns, and villages. Supporting active transport will have a real impact on the health of our population.

an abandoned car in a park

Transport currently makes up 20% of Ireland’s emissions. We need a pathway to get this down to zero, and quickly. Electric vehicles are not a panacea and we need to find ways of prioritising walking, cycling, and public transport to grow our economy and increase social mobility without the limiting factors of carbon emissions or traffic jams.

Mobility affects many areas of life. Solving mobility means considering where we build houses, offices, shops, and schools. It means properly considering cells of activity in communities to make sure they are properly served. It means applying inclusive human-centred design principles to make mobility accessible to all. It means efficiently using all the arms of the state to deliver effective solutions.

cyclist giving a lift to her friend

There may not be a semantic difference between the terms “transport” and “mobility”, but I prefer to think that “transport” involves the outputs of investment: the cycle lane, widened footpath or tram service. I like to think of “mobility” as the outcomes or the “how it works” for people: it’s the safe cycle to school with a friend, a convenient commute to a new job, an easy trip to a hospital appointment, a Saturday adventure with a grandchild. There’s always a temptation to focus on the hard engineering of transport but considering mobility requires you to think of the person making their journey, and trying to make it as attractive and effortless as possible.

It’s going to be a balancing act travelling to Dublin to do this course while maintaining my commitments to work as well as the voluntary commitments I have in Limerick. But I really feel it’s worth it, because with the inevitable national shift away from funding roads to funding public and active transport about to get underway, we need access to the latest research and best practice in Limerick. Many of the mistakes made in the east of the country haven’t yet been made in the mid-west, and I believe we can use a relatively small investment in mobility as a force multiplier for economic growth and social inclusion outside Dublin.

I’m looking forward to it.

Limerick Pedestrian Network

Pedestrians should be top of the transport hierarchy but this can be difficult without a dedicated organisation to advocate for their needs. Neasa Hourigan was so frustrated last year by the inaccessibility of Dublin’s streets for pedestrians, especially walking with her daughter who has a visual impairment, that she set up the Dublin Blockers Twitter account to document some of the barriers Dublin’s pedestrians face in simply trying to get around. She later formed the Irish Pedestrian Network to try and formalise a group to advocate for pedestrians, inspired by the recent success of various cycling advocacy groups.

Neasa came to Limerick in September and there was good attendance for her meeting in Narrative 4. There was a sense that we needed a group in Limerick to be a local presence for the Irish Pedestrian Network, to be a voice for better facilities for pedestrians in Limerick City, and throughout the towns and villages of County Limerick.

A lot of people who attended the meeting in September got involved in the campaign to improve the plans for O’Connell St. The fact that we were unable to persuade councillors and officials to accept that even part of our main street should be reserved for pedestrians makes the establishment of Limerick Pedestrian Network even more urgent. Now that the council has passed plans for O’Connell St, it’s time to formalise a voice for pedestrians.

There will be a meeting on Monday 11th November 2019 in 2 Pery Square at 7pm to try and establish a steering group. The task of the steering group will be to properly establish the Network over the next six months, reaching out to different groups to make it as inclusive as possible, and linking in with groups who are already working in this area. No matter how we travel, almost all of us start and end our journeys as pedestrians. If you’re at all interested in helping to give a voice to footpath users, especially those with mobility needs, I hope you’ll consider coming along.