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Free public transport 'not the best way to spend money' - Cuffe

A Green Party MEP has suggested offering free public transport, to encourage people to leave thei...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.40 22 Sep 2021


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Free public transport 'not the...

Free public transport 'not the best way to spend money' - Cuffe

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.40 22 Sep 2021


Share this article


A Green Party MEP has suggested offering free public transport, to encourage people to leave their car at home, may not the best way to spend money.

Ciarán Cuffe was speaking as Wednesday marks International Car Free Day.

The event encourages motorists to give up their cars for 24 hours - but events appear to lacking in Ireland this year.

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Amid suggestions to offer free public transport as an incentive - like Luxembourg has done - Mr Cuffe told The Hard Shoulder this may not be the best approach.

"Whenever this comes up it's a kind of a hoary old chestnut - I often ask if we had that amount of money to give free public transport, would that be the best use of the money?

"And maybe we should really use the money to improve walking and cycling, or provide lower fares all the year round, or buy more buses or trains.

"Free public transport: lots of people jump at the idea, but I actually think what we need to do is make public transport more accessible to all and improve the frequency and reliability".

Asked about current capacity issues, he says people will use it if it is there.

"That's true, but one of the interesting statistics is that 80% of those coming into the city centre to shop are not using the car.

"So actually public transport is the real people mover - 40% by bus, I think 20% by DART and Luas, and then people who travel on foot are another 20%."

And he says Ireland could learn from elsewhere in the European Union.

"I think we could certainly look to Brussels, look to Paris - and maybe with a bit of imagination and a little bit of enthusiasm across the political spectrum.

"It shouldn't just be left to the Greens to talk about this stuff".

Earlier this year, it was suggested that proposals to bring in free public transport could be cheaper than fines Ireland gets for breaking its carbon targets.

Brian Caulfield, associate professor in the School of Engineering at TCD, was reacting to recommendations of an Oireachtas committee report.

The Joint Committee on the Environment and Climate Action examined at how Ireland can reduce transport emissions by 51% by the end of the decade.

Prof Caulfield told Newstalk in context, the changes are not that extreme.

"It does seem very radical, the move they they're looking to make - but if you put it in context: we've eight and a half years to reduce our emissions in transport by 51%.

"Last year, during the pandemic, they only fell by 17% when we were all working from home."

On the idea of free public transport, Prof Caulfield said costing it would be "huge".

"All of the public transport operators that operate in Ireland bring in an awful lot of money, so the costings would be huge.

"But the bigger question is what's the cost of not doing it? How much will the State be panelized if we miss our carbon targets - and the bigger, bigger question around climate change".

Main image: Composite image shows a Dublin Bus on College Green in Dublin city, and commuters on the Luas in Dublin. Picture by:Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

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Ciaran Cuffe Green Party International Car Free Day The Hard Shoulder

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