Wednesday, May 7, 2008

An Absence of Choice

I've been using the local train services here in Antibes to get about on trips to Cannes, Nice and Monaco. The trains are all electric and the services are both cheap and efficient, i.e.: they run on time every time. Interestingly the price of diesel and petrol locally is much higher than back in Dublin - at least €1.35-€1.40 a litre. An added incentive I guess to use the public transport system.

There is no doubt that the seemingly inexorable rise in the price of oil will act as a further curb on people's use of private transport. So also will plans to ban cars from city centres - as is now being proposed for Dublin and Cork. As illustrated for the German city of Münster in the photo, getting people out of cars and onto buses or bicycles does make a hugh difference to traffic congestion.

But getting from here to there (the presence of real transport options) is the tricky part. Dublin is neither Boston nor Berlin (both of which have excellent metro systems). Right now we have an absence of choice in relation to transport in Dublin relative to the needs of the population. Frankly if a lot more of us left our cars at home and took the bus, Dart, train or Luas the system couldn't handle it.

But the rising oil price will drive more and more consumers to seek alternatives, and they won't be waiting patiently for the Dublin metro to arrive. The logical (though politically unpalatable) thing to do is to end Dublin Bus' monopoly of a key element of the transport system; get rid of our ludicrous legislation from the 1930s controlling bus services; and let anyone with a licence and insurance provide a bus service. Then build the power stations that will allow us to migrate to a mainly electric transport system (private and public).

Lower prices, more choices, few carbon emissions. I would have thought that could be sold to the increasingly angry commuters of the Greater Dublin Area. Their counterparts in the Great Nice Area seem happy with the outcome.

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