The value of public transport

Alanna Gallagher has a piece on the impact of the Luas on house prices in today’s Times. It’s a mix of facts and anecdotes that reminds us of some of the positive effects of proper public transport in a city. At the same time, the fact that people are willing to pay a hefty premium for being near a Luas station reflects badly on transport options in the rest of Dublin.

Bike paths to somewhere

Olivia Kelly reports that the national cycle path network has been unveiled. As is all too common, there is no trace of this with the Department of Transport or the National Roads Authority. There is a powerpoint from January 2010, though, which is consistent with Kelly’s description.

I’m all for cycling. I cycle to work. I wish more people would cycle, so that there are fewer cars on the road (they’re a menace, not just to women). A proper cycling policy is one of the few ways in which carbon dioxide emissions can be cut fast.

The national cycling network disappoints. Its primary aim is to connect Ireland’s main towns. People do not commute by bike from town to town. The distance is too large. Bike commuters travel from the near suburbs to the city centre (and back).

The cycle paths are for recreation so. It is instructive to compare the NRA’s proposed network to the one proposed by Failte (page 19). The Failte one takes the cyclist through a scenic landscape from one place of interest to the next. The NRA one takes the cyclist on the shortest route from population centre to population centre.

Bikes are not cars. You use them in a different way for a different purpose.

Electric vehicles in Spain

Like Ireland, Spain hopes to buy the world supply of electric cars many times over. The Guardian reports that the Spanish scheme is somewhat behind target. One competitor less on the road to electrified transport!

Dublin to Cork in less than 10 hours

A trained cyclist can probably do it in that time. An all-electric vehicle would manage in three and a half with a bit of luck. The drive is about 3 hours, but the car would need to be recharged half-way through. If there is no queue at the “fast” charging point, you need at most half an hour. But as batteries wear or your driving style does not get you the nominal range, you would need to re-charge twice. And maybe you’re out of luck and need to recharge at the kerbside rate (60-90 mins) or from a standard socket (6-8 hours).

The government announced its support for electric vehicles yesterday: No VRT and a €5000 grant. In addition, the ESB gives away electricity and is investing in infrastructure, all courtesy of the shareholders (aka taxpayers).

All-electric vehicles are not yet ready for prime-time. They are fine for city driving and the perfect choice for those who can afford a second car and want to polish up their green image.

The current investment will not result in any intellectual property for Irish companies. Given the dire state of the public purse, it would be better to let others pay for the demonstration of all-electric vehicles and roll them out in Ireland when (if?) the technology is ready.

Dublin Bikes

he Irish Times has a story reminding us of the runaway success of Dublin Bikes, the bike rental scheme in Dublin city. The question is why is this so popular? It strikes me that Dublin is small enough to cycle but too big too walk, while motorised public transport is inconvenient and taxis too expensive.

Dublin Bikes copies Velo’v in Lyons, which was introduced in May 2005. There is no academic literature on who uses these bikes and why (but there is work on the trips taken). Bike rental is typically presented as a complement to other forms of public transport. A look at the station map suggests that Dublin Bikes are used to get around the city, rather than get into the city. Bike rides would thus replace bus rides and walks. Assuming that Dublin Bus did not respond by changing routes or frequencies, that means that Dublin Bikes does not reduce emissions and increases congestion by putting more bikes on the road.