4. Redesign

The previous chapter described the key dynamics driving car dependency in Ireland. It assessed the potential of current and planned policies to trigger a transformational move away from the car-dependent system and concluded that many of the interventions in Ireland have been channelled towards policies with a low potential to transform the car-dependent system. The analysis also identified some interventions that are focused on policies with a high transformative potential, although these are currently implemented on a small scale. It observed that Ireland has an opportunity to increase the pace and depth of climate action by refocusing its efforts and attention towards the transformative policies and actions identified. The new SMP already includes a number of actions that go in this direction, and this chapter provides recommendations that can serve to enlarge and complement its action plan. Ireland has also an opportunity to reflect the analysis and recommendations in this report in the new Climate Action Plan 2023. Because the car-dependent system is also at the source of many other negative impacts, refocusing efforts to shift away from car dependency is also an opportunity for Ireland to align its climate and wider well-being agendas.

This chapter is structured as follows:

  • Sections 4.1 and 4.2 focus on how Ireland can better align its decision-making processes and priorities to trigger transformational change for the transport sector.

  • Sections 4.3 and 4.4 focus on ways to mainstream and enlarge the scale of implementation of two policies with high potential to change the system structure via creating new feedback loops (see Chapter 3). The first (road space reallocation) touches directly on, and has the potential to shift the system away from, the induced demand dynamic, while also helping to reduce sprawl and provide better conditions for sustainable modes. The second (scaling up shared on-demand services) touches directly on, and has the potential to shift the system away from, the sustainable modes low-attractiveness trap, especially if combined with road space reallocation and increased efforts to improve public and active transport infrastructure and services.

  • Section 4.5 addresses how Ireland can refocus its electrification strategy to support, rather than hinder, transformational change and the implementation of transformative policies. As discussed in Chapter 3, combining electrification efforts with transformative policies and shifting the system away from car dependency, can make these efforts more feasible and effective.

  • Section 4.6 reflects on how Ireland could increase the attractiveness of brownfield development. This report does not include a full analysis of sprawl and the residential system, and thus does not offer a fully-fledged set of recommendations on how to address it. However, addressing car dependency leads to addressing sprawl. Improving the attractiveness of brownfield development was seen to be a key issue to help reverse sprawl throughout the project. Some of the discussions during the workshops focused on this point; this section builds on them and on good international practice.

  • Section 4.7 discusses how a nationwide communication strategy could help enable and trigger transformational change. It describes the main components that would have to be included and suggests ways of developing each of the components

  • Lastly, section 4.8 explores ways in which rethinking current governance structures and institutional arrangements could trigger transformational change.

As illustrated in Chapter 2, the pursuit of car independence will have a different shape and scope in different areas of Ireland. Nonetheless, a key message of this report is that refocusing efforts towards transformative policies is not restricted to urban areas. They should be applied, and can bring major benefits, to people living in diverse conditions. Recommendations should be particularly aware of and addressed to isolated populations. Box 4.1 makes some key distinctions in the shape and scope of the transformation in different areas and the role of different policies in different types of area.

While the main topic of this chapter is how to scale up actions with a high transformative potential, as discussed in Chapter 3, this does not mean that other actions are not necessary. Policies with a low or medium transformative potential are important and their effectiveness can increase when embedded in transformative policy packages. Transformative policy packages are those in which policies with a high transformative potential, such as road space reallocation, the mainstream of on-demand shared services and communication efforts to reverse car-centric mindsets are prioritised. Non-transformative policy packages are those in which other policies (with low and medium transformative potential) are prioritised, while policies with high transformative potential remain on the margin, often implemented only as a pilot programme or on a small scale. Table 4.1 summarises the impact of policies when implemented in transformative and non-transformative policy packages. The Table also sheds light on the synergies that emerge between policies with a low or medium transformative potential and those with a high transformative potential when the latter are prioritised (i.e. in transformative policy packages).

Setting the conditions for policy synergies is also crucial to advance change. A common question for policy makers is how to sequence actions to balance constraining car use and creating alternatives to cars. Policies with high transformative potential make it easier to combine and harmonise both these aims. Road reallocation, for example, has the potential to simultaneously constrain car use and enable the conditions for sustainable transport modes to become significantly more attractive vis-à-vis the car. The mainstreaming of on-demand services can contribute to bridging the accessibility gap of sustainable alternatives much more rapidly and effectively than improvements in traditional public transport and active mode facilities could on their own. As a result, by shifting priorities towards transformative policies, restricting car use can be done much sooner, as this goes along the creation of alternatives.

The systemic approach promoted in this report also reveals the constraints that the current system creates and normalises. The inequalities that shifting away from car use may bring are often emphasised, while the constraints that privileging car use currently imposes on much of the population are ignored. As discussed in Chapters 1 and 2, redesigning transport systems to deliver sustainable accessibility can open the door to fulfilling ambitious climate goals as well as improved and more equal access to opportunities (see Box 4.2 for a summary of potential benefits). This said, the implementation of the recommendations in this chapter will require positioning equity, health and other priorities at the core of the redesigned system- along with the goal of reducing GHG emissions. Special attention should be paid to the way different changes and specific projects address local challenges, especially in highly rural/remote areas, and how they affect disfavoured groups. Communication efforts (see section 4.7) are also key to making the real costs of the current transport system visible, and moving the discussion away from constraining or punishing car users towards the opportunities and benefits of the proposed transition.

This chapter builds on the policy assessment in the previous section to provide guidance and policy direction for refocusing efforts and scaling up policies identified as having a high transformative potential. Recommendations pull together information from interviews, ideas generated in the workshops (see Box 4.3 describing the session dedicated to new strategies), OECD expertise and international best practice. It acknowledges a number of efforts in the right direction currently being implemented in Ireland, and suggests ways to build on them. These discussions are not exhaustive: further discussions among the stakeholders and a process of multi-level, multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder policy co-creation to explore other actions (and further explore the details of recommendations) will be needed.

Achieving Ireland’s ambitious climate target – a 50% reduction in transport sector GHG emissions by 2030, relative to 2018 (Department of the Taoiseach Ireland, 2021[10]) – requires transformational change in the direction of a low-demand, high-access and low-emission system.

Ireland has ambitious stakeholders, as the workshops showed, ready to challenge the current system. Many good initiatives are under way. The National Sustainable Mobility Policy states that Ireland needs to switch away from private car use and revive city and town centres (Department of Transport, 2022[11]). It also explicitly states that “[t]here is a need to rebalance transport movement in metropolitan areas and other urban centres away from the private car and towards active travel and public transport. This will require a greater allocation of available road/street space to be given to sustainable mobility” (Department of Transport, 2022[11]). However, current sub-targets are misaligned with the goal of transforming the system. Priorities and efforts also need to be rethought across government to avoid contradictions.

Ireland’s current sub-targets assign excessive weight to vehicle and fuel replacement, expecting this to account for 67% of the transport sector emission reductions by 2030 (Table 4.2). They reflect the assumption and reinforce the mindset that the current car-dependent system will prevail, needing only to be “fixed” via electrification and better fuels. The unambitious current sub-target for active travel and public transport further reflects this thinking. A target of 0.5 million additional public transport and active travel daily journeys in 2030 corresponds to fewer than 0.1 journeys per capita per day. These additional trips would raise the mode share of active travel and public transport from 21% in 2019 (Central Statistics Office, 2020[12]) to 25% by 2030. It is unclear to what extent these additional journeys would replace private car travel as opposed to further increasing mobility.

The current strategy and emission reduction estimates ignore systemic feedback loops, long-lasting stocks, and different actions’ impacts on mental models (see the detailed discussions in Chapter 3). These include

  • reinforcing car dependency in mindsets and behaviours by promoting private EVs as the main solution to climate mitigation in transport

  • increased car use and urban sprawl due to reinforced car dependency, intensified by EVs’ low operation costs (rebound effect)

  • underestimating the time and effort it takes to change a large vehicle stock

  • deepening inequality and putting public and political acceptance at risk with regressive EV subsidies.

These sub-targets are driving budget decisions and efforts towards actions now perceived as “the most certain”, but which, as shown in Chapter 3, have low potential to trigger the transformational change needed to achieve climate targets. Meanwhile, actions with higher potential to trigger a systemic transformation, which this report recommends, remain marginal. Already, even when adopting the optimistic assumptions about the abatement potential of planned actions, Ireland has identified a shortfall of 13% in reaching its 2030 target for transport (see the second-last row in Table 4.2).

The rest of this chapter discusses how climate sub-targets for the transport sector, and policies and actions central to attaining them, could be revisited in the light of the findings of this report.

Ireland’s climate policy needs to reduce its excessive reliance on actions that replace parts of the system (vehicles and fuels) while maintaining the system itself. As already noted, current estimates often ignore feedback loops between actions, longer-term feedback loops and wider well-being outcomes. They assume that many aspects of the current system are unchangeable, meaning that the current system must persist. While actions targeting demand management (including road space reallocation, congestion and parking charges), and shared on-demand services are now reflected in some policy documents (e.g. SMP), their role has not been translated into the sub-targets for the sector reflected on the CAP 2021 (as shown in Table 4.2. ).

Discussions around the additional measures required to meet the 2030 transport sector target are already recognising the limitations of replacing private vehicles with electric ones and increasing focus on policies with higher transformative power. As mentioned in chapter 1 (and shown in Table 4.2), a 0.9 MtCO2 emission reduction (13% reduction) gap has been identified. Early discussions on the additional measures that might be required to close these gaps focused on road pricing and low-emission-zones. These discussions have been evolving, and according to the DoT, there is ongoing modelling addressing the 0.9 Mt gap to the target. The modelling is focused on delivering additional levels of abatement via a comprehensive set of measures that go beyond technological change. These include policies that this report has identified as having medium and high potential for transformative change and others: reduced trip rates based on a recalibrated Alternative Future Scenario for Travel Demand; parking constraints and the removal of free workplace parking; road space reallocation and pedestrianisation of city centres; congestion charging; improving capacity and frequency on public transport services; reduced public transport fares; increased fuel costs; targeted uptake of electric vehicles focused by intensity of use; behavioural change programmes & area-based mobility management (e.g., School Streets); reducing the number of ‘Escort to Education’ private car journeys; reduced car ownership levels; reduced speed limits; and eliminating fuel tourism. This Gap to Target modelling will inform discussions for this year’s Climate Action Plan update (Department of Transport, 2022[13]).

The role of transformative policies will need to be increased beyond the .9 MtCO2 (13%) emission gap, given that analysis indicates that the EV target will be unlikely met (Caulfield, Carroll and Ahern, 2020[14]). Revisiting targets in this direction is consistent with new findings, from a study in the UK. This finds that a scenario that can transform the transport system will bring the most GHG emission reductions to 2050. In this scenario policies triggering avoid and shift results2 contribute 60% of transport energy demand reductions, while energy efficiency measures contribute the remaining 40% (Barrett et al., 2022[15]). Note that this is opposite to the weighting in Ireland’s Climate Action Plan 2021, where most transport emission reductions by 2030 are expected from vehicle and fuel efficiency improvements (Table 4.2. ). The UK study highlights that many energy demand reductions can occur in the short term. Short-term climate targets are unlikely to be reached without energy demand reductions, and long-term targets would rely on unproven and expensive carbon dioxide removal technologies (Barrett et al., 2022[15]). Conversely, early demand reduction, achieved through transformative actions, reduces cumulative emissions over time (not only target year emissions), and it preserves the option to further strengthen climate ambition in the future (Barrett et al., 2022[15]).

The climate action indicators used for establishing sub-targets should also help Ireland measure progress towards transformational change. As noted above, the type of indicators linked to the climate sub-targets (e.g. 500 000 additional public transport and active travel journeys, 845 000 additional EVs) reflect a 2030 transport system much like that of today, except for more EVs and vehicles with cleaner fuel in the streets. Irish stakeholders observed in interviews that a focus on electrification is sometimes perceived as the convenient climate action route, despite its high public financial cost, because it does not challenge the current system. However, interviewees also commented that people are not satisfied with the state of the transport system, particularly the lack of safe, well-connected active travel infrastructure and limited accessibility by public transport.

Ireland’s realigned transport climate action sub-targets need to be consistent with the transition towards a future of sustainable access, one in which streets are designed for human interaction and human speeds, most trips are short and active, and longer trips, when needed, are served by fewer, shared electric vehicles that are appropriately sized and efficiently utilised and designed. Public transport plays a key role in providing shared services in such a future. To accomplish this, the Climate Action Plan would have to include ambitious targets that reflect several needs:

  • Reduce car kilometres travelled for all types of cars. Electrification is necessary but insufficient to meet the 2030 target. Rapid reductions in travel demand and shifts to sustainable modes are needed as well (Department of Transport, 2022[11]; Society of the Irish Motor Industry, 2022[16]) . The Sustainable Mobility Policy asserts the need to reduce total private car journeys (Department of Transport, 2022[11]). The current Climate Action Plan 2021 sub-targets, however, do not reflect the need for rapidly reduced car travel, but focus only on reducing ICEV travel (by 10%). Scotland, for instance, has set a target of reduction of total car kilometres by 20% by 2030, recognising the scale, urgency and interconnectedness of the climate action challenge. “While technological solutions will be key in some areas, transformational change is also required, with behaviour change and demand management needed to meet our emissions reduction targets. This is because transport is a derived demand – where people live, work, learn and access goods, services, amenities, and social connections are all key to the need to travel” (Transport Scotland, 2022[17]). Progress on this target would be measured simply in terms of reduced car-kilometres.

  • Increase proximity and access with active and shared (including public transport) modes. While reducing car travel, Ireland needs to simultaneously improve proximity and access with active and shared modes (including micro-mobility, bike-sharing, public transport and other high-capacity shared vehicle and ride services) for people and businesses in different circumstances across the country. To measure progress towards increasing proximity and accessibility by active and shared modes, a combination of metrics could be applied: 1) Metrics like the ITF accessibility indicators (see (ITF-OECD, 2019[18])) (which includes data for Dublin) can help guide the transition to better access via sustainable modes vis-à-vis the car. The indicators measure proximity to opportunities and transport performance by different modes; allowing to understand how both elements play-out in ensuring good access. 2) Mode shares reveal the overall attractiveness of different modes within a given system, and ultimately help understand whether the changes made are translating into different behaviours. 3) Metrics to measure road space reallocation could help measure progress in mainstreaming this policy. Road space reallocation is a high-leverage action that supports proximity and access with active and shared modes, while reducing car-dedicated space and reversing induced car demand. (See the discussion of these indicators in section 4.3.)

  • Increase the battery-electric share of car-kilometres travelled while reducing total car-kilometres (as discussed above). Ireland’s electrification policy needs to support the system transformation summarised in the above targets, particularly the goal of reducing car travel. This requires prioritising the electrification of frequently used cars (such as taxis). Reducing the privileges of private cars compared to frequently used electric cars (e.g. parking privileges) can help to electrify the remaining car-kilometres more quickly. Defining the electrification target as the share of the remaining reduced car-kilometres has several benefits: it avoids rewarding efforts that increase overall car ownership and use, as the current sub-target does (see Chapter 3). It also focuses electrification efforts and resources on frequently used cars, which helps to favour shared over private car ownership and to speed up electrification.

  • Increase the share of low-emission vehicle kilometres for goods and public transport vehicles. The most intensely used (and most fossil fuel-consuming) motor vehicles should be the first to transition to low-emission technology, including light and heavy goods vehicles and public transport vehicles. Increasing the low-emission vehicle share of vehicle kilometres in each category – vans, HGVs, buses, rail – would produce better results than the current target, which does not distinguish among low-emission vehicle types.

  • Reduce the number, size and raw-material use of cars in the national fleet. During the current and coming decades Ireland needs to transition to fewer, smaller and less wasteful cars in the national fleet, taking account of vehicles’ life-cycle impacts and reversing the trend of increasingly large cars, like SUVs, occupying public space. Cars and their batteries also need to be integrated into the circular economy. Thus life-cycle emissions, material use, and the evolution of the fleet in terms of size needs to be measured and monitored as well.

Bringing systems thinking into decision-making helps policy makers and other transport system actors to challenge assumptions, operations and values in the current system. Decision processes and policies become tools to help change the system, rather than adjust it. As described in Chapter 3, systems thinking looks beyond existing patterns of behaviour to understand the structures and mindsets that produce them. It helps decision-makers realise that past patterns are not inevitable, and extrapolating future trends from them is insufficient.

Ireland could benefit from applying wider, more systemic, problem framing in its transport strategy development, demand modelling and infrastructure appraisal. The assumptions of conventional forecast-led transport planning practices are inconsistent with climate targets. A recent Swedish climate policy evaluation (Marsden et al., 2019[19]) recommends adopting a scenario-based approach to transport infrastructure planning that does not take historical correlations as given, because the conventional approach risks creating induced demand. A UK evaluation comes to a similar conclusion: it recommends that road traffic forecasts no longer assume linear increases in car ownership and instead consider a range of vehicle ownership futures (Marsden et al., 2019[19]).

Figure 4.1 presents a summary of regime-compliant versus regime-testing pathways for transport planning and policy-making. A regime-compliant, forecast-based approach takes the current system as given and relies on extrapolating past patterns into the future (an approach also referred to as “predict-and-provide”). A regime-testing, scenario-based approach challenges the current system and its assumptions. It seeks (in line with discussions in Chapter 2) to proactively shape a desired future with policy, recognising that past patterns must not persist, and it prefers solutions that perform well in various possible futures (an approach referred to as “decide-and-provide”). Box 4.4 illustrates how Transport for London uses scenarios to ensure their plans perform well in a range of plausible futures.

Moving towards regime testing requires asking different questions. A conventional forecast-led approach might ask “What is the immediate and direct congestion and tailpipe-emissions impact of a specific modification?” Instead, a regime-testing approach might ask: “What infrastructure does Ireland need to support its well-being and climate vision?”

National transport demand models in Ireland assume that historical patterns in car ownership and car occupancy persist. Moreover, transport planning processes and tools do not capture the long-term feedback loops between transport policy and infrastructure and land use, as interviewees pointed out. This is in part a technical choice but also an organisational one: population location scenarios and transport modelling are handled by separate organisations.3 Separating location from transport questions aligns with the mobility mindset described in Chapter 2: the mobility mindset focuses on movement to ensure transport needs, and ignores proximity as a lever for access.

Workshop participants suggested that Ireland needs to further strengthen its strategic decision gates and systemic long-term perspective in infrastructure decision-making. Conversely, it should reduce emphasis on analytical comparisons, which are more suitable for choosing between similar proposals once strategic fit has been ensured. The Common Appraisal Framework already requires a Strategic Assessment Report as the first decision gate for transport investment over 10 million euros (Department of Transport, 2021[22]). Only after this initial decision gate has been passed are detailed multi-criteria and cost-benefit analyses required. This is helpful in moving towards a regime-testing approach. However, at the Strategic Assessment stage more weight should be given to the strategic fit of proposals with Ireland’s vision of a future of well-being and low emissions. Current Strategy Assessment Reports are framed around a specific project and its problem statement; they require a preliminary transport demand analysis for the project alongside other inputs (Department of Transport, 2021[22]).

In the second appraisal stage, once proposals pass the Strategic Assessment, Ireland needs to reduce the importance of estimated travel-time savings. Travel-time savings are still a focus in transport infrastructure appraisal guidelines (Department of Transport, 2021[22]). As explained in Chapter 2, this focus reflects the mindset of car-dependent systems, which conflate high mobility with well-being. Guidelines need to be revised to strengthen the importance of proximity and wider well-being.

Ongoing updates to the CAF (included in the SMP and discussed in chapter 3) will be important to shift away from this overriding focus on travel time savings and economic criteria, and to better incorporate environmental criteria. As part of the development of Strategic Assessment Reports (SARs) and Preliminary Business Cases (PBCs) proposed projects in the transport sector are required to demonstrate that the project aligns with at least one of the four NIFTI Investment Priorities, one of which is decarbonisation. Project sponsors are also required to demonstrate how any potential negative impacts against one or more of the NIFTI Investment Priorities will be mitigated. It would be recommended to move towards a more holistic approach where projects are assessed against a multiplicity of goals simultaneously (which could be linked to the new well-being framework). The webTAG (Web-based Transport Analysis Guidance) tool in the UK can be a good example to look at, and is discussed by ITF-OECD (2019[23]). Ultimately, integrating more scenario-based planning into the Strategic Assessment stage, and giving more weight to strategic fit, could be a helpful next step.

Ireland needs to make widespread, large-scale road space reallocation and street redesign a priority. Chapter 3 argued that road space reallocation and street redesign have a high potential to shift the country away from a car-dependent system towards one better suited to delivering sustainable accessibility. While often disregarded, the way road space (and public space more generally) is allocated and designed largely determines the interactions of all the elements in the transport system. There is enormous potential to change transport systems by rethinking the allocation and design of road space.

As shown above, the creation and reinforcing of induced car demand is at the root of Ireland’s continued car dependency. Given the large stock of car-purposed capacity already in place, even if no more car-purposed road capacity were developed car use would be at best stabilised or marginally reduced. Road reallocation and street redesign offer an opportunity to reverse induced demand by reducing this over-dimensioned stock. It also creates a new stock of liberated space that can give rise to a more sustainable system structure and help reverse other vicious cycles, namely sprawl and the sustainable modes low-attractiveness trap.

Revisiting parking policy and allocation must be a key component of road space reallocation. Parking space makes up a large share of the space dedicated to car use (Creutzig et al., 2020[24]). Parking availability is also linked to traffic: Franco (2020[25]) finds, for instance, that the availability of parking, particularly at residential and work sites, is closely related to vehicle ownership and use. Similarly, the availability of parking space dedicated to sustainable modes has been identified as key to increasing their convenience and use. As discussed by Caulfield, Carroll and Ahern (2020[14])4, increasing available parking for bicycles has been identified as a key need in Ireland, including by standards with minimum levels of off-street bicycle spaces.

Seizing the opportunity to rethink road space allocation and street design is more than timely: new demands and pressures on space are growing along with new modes and new technologies (Halpern et al., 2019[26]), but so are opportunities to convert urban space to better uses. Given this potential, Ireland needs to make road space reallocation and street redesign a priority and find ways to scale it up from the pilot-project level. A number of projects (e.g. Kildare Market Square redesign and Cobh Public Realm Enhancement Plan) have established precedents and built capacity. However, the scale of the needed transformation calls for this to become a common, large-scale practice.

This is not a simple challenge, and no one country has yet overcome it. However, a number have started to make progress. This has usually started at a local level, with one of the main challenges being that local and national transport aims are not aligned. Ireland could have a real advantage if road space reallocation became a government-wide priority. Different actors could play different but complementary roles in triggering change.

In 2013, the Department for Transport published the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets (DMURS)5 (Associates et al., 2013[27]). To develop the manual, a project team was assembled with stakeholders from Cork, Fingal, Kildare and South Dublin County Council. The DMURS is a practical guide that proposes new principles (based on good international practice) for designing and upgrading urban roads and streets. It explains why a change in mindset is needed for roads and streets and discusses the many shortcomings of current road planning. It introduces tools such as quality and street design audits. There is also an ongoing programme of training and development work in relation to DMURS.  This includes a recent online seminar series as well as the development of a certificate programme through ATU6 (formerly Sligo IT). In parallel, the National Cycle Manual is to be updated to align cycle scheme design guidance with a safe system approach, ensuring that the infrastructure makes cycling safe.

The DMURS, related tools, and other guidance are a step in the right direction. However, mainstreaming road reallocation and street redesign will likely require going beyond high-level recommendations, examples of good practice, and useful but voluntary tools. The rest of this section discusses other recommended actions (based on international good practice) to scale up and mainstream road space reallocation across Ireland. Much of this can build on the work done to produce the DMURS, but some of its current limitations must also be overcome. Among these are:

  • The DMURS only applies to roads within built-up areas where a speed limit of 60 km/h or less applies, and thus implies and sends the message that rural areas are excluded from the shift in thinking required for streets and roads (although Audit/Quality Tools now apply to all roads).

  • While its provisions are mandatory in principle for all urban roads, the DMURS uses a range of verbs – shall/must (mandatory), should (recommended) and may (optional). Most proposals introduced use ‘shall’ accompanied by very ambiguous wording: for example, “local authorities shall facilitate the implementation of the principles”. So it is hard to tell what effect the DMURS might have in practice.

  • With the rationale that the guidelines should not impose a further layer of documentation on the development process, the tools introduced by the DMURS, such as the Street Design Audit, are only voluntary. They “may be used to complement or supplement the existing range of reports submitted in support of development”. Consequently, they have not been widely implemented (DMURS, 2019[28]).

  • The DMURS has created a community of people working together to transform practice regarding road space reallocation and design. However, this transformation needs to be expanded to many more actors from different levels of government, and to stakeholders in the street and road networks.

As mentioned in chapter 3, a number of actions included in the new SMP include the development of new plans and programmes to enhance and enlarge active transport infrastructure in the five metropolitan areas, regional growth centres and key towns. The development of such strategies and programmes can be an excellent opportunity to rethink road space reallocation and that work could feed into the development of the tools recommended in this chapter. In addition, the major transport projects that are being developed (e.g. as part of Bus Connect) across different cities can importantly serve to advance road space reallocation, as has already been shown in the case of Dublin.

Discussions in this chapter expose the need to work in parallel on two main pillars. The first is the creation of new tools to develop a shared, nationwide narrative about roads and streets and help implement it throughout Ireland. These tools are needed to go beyond the stage of pilot projects disconnected from a longer-term vision for the whole of the country. Otherwise, transformative projects and efforts will be undermined by their status as exceptions, swimming against the current of a system that continues to build and design roads for traffic.

This does not mean that innovation should be discouraged, or that piloting new ideas and adopting practices such as tactical urbanism should be abandoned. To the contrary, the need to enhance local authorities’ capacity is the second pillar of action. The enhancement of local capacity for a number of activities (e.g. data collection and analysis, designing and managing locally adapted projects, consultation and participatory processes) can contribute to speeding up implementation and promote continued improvement in daily practice.

The rest of this section is dedicated to these two pillars.

Scaling up road space reallocation and street redesign in Ireland requires radically shifting mindsets and conversations around roads and streets, and finding ways of putting new thinking into practice. One challenge will be to bring together actors from different levels of government along with other key stakeholders (e.g. transport providers) to change current practice. This challenge is not unique to Ireland. Halpern et al. (2019[26]) observe that a major problem throughout Europe is “the fragmentation of institutions responsible for road space across levels of government and within city administrations [which] can have conflicting ideological and professional perspectives on the priority given to vehicles, pedestrians and other activities”.

The rest of this sub-section proposes the development of two tools that can help Ireland to create a new narrative for streets and roads: a framework for road and street categorisation and a set of indicators to measure progress and the impact of road space reallocation. National guidance7, leadership and involvement by national level entities (e.g. NTA, TII, Transport Department) will be essential to develop and mainstream these tools. Ireland could consider creating a Roads and Streets Reallocation and Redesign office to oversee the process. The development and evolution of such tools should not be a top-down process, however; it should draw on experience from all levels of government and stakeholders. The tools developed should serve as a basis, but their use and evolution should be a dynamic process, and local authorities must be supported, encouraged and incentivised to innovate and improve them over time. Section 4.8 provides some ideas for embedding these tools in strategic planning. Overall, an effective communication strategy will also be key to creating and mainstreaming the new narrative (for streets and roads and a different transport system more generally): this is addressed in section 4.7.

Box 4.5 provides key principles for creating a new narrative for roads and streets, which build on international best practice

A new nationwide road classification and planning framework, integrating best practices adapted to Ireland, could help to change conversations and guide changes in street and road networks. The DMURS includes a number of examples of useful frameworks from around the world that implement Complete Streets and Place-making principles. However, policy makers may find it difficult to understand how these principles apply to their specific context, and may even wonder whether they are suitable at all.

International examples show that when specific frameworks at a city or national scale are adapted to the local context, they can create consensus on the need to change mindsets about roads. They can also help stakeholders understand what new thinking means for different segments of the network and the different stakeholders involved. Practices in other places suggest that the actual process of crafting a shared framework, if participatory, contributes to getting stakeholders on board and creates ownership of the new framework.

Ireland could adopt frameworks that have already been developed elsewhere. For example, ‘place and movement” frameworks, which construct a matrix to classify different streets according to their place (type of destination) and movement (type of transport link) functions, can start new conversations and create a “common language” for discussion of these issues. Such frameworks can also help in discussing how to resolve trade-offs between place and movement needs (McArthur et al., 2022[29]).

Barcelona provides a good example of the integration of place and function into road redesign. It aims to completely restructure the city into polygons of approximately 400 m x 400 m, each with 5 000–6 000 residents, known as Superblocks (OECD, 2021[4]). The model creates a “loop system” allowing cars to enter but not cross the Superblocks (they also have to obey a speed limit of 10 km per hour while inside the block). Pedestrians and cyclists can cross the blocks in both directions. The model liberates 70% of the space dedicated to traffic. To date, six Superblocks have been implemented (for a total of 143 hectares), and eventually the whole of the Barcelona municipality will follow this model (503 Superblocks in total) (OECD, 2021[4]).

In London, the mayor created an independent Roads Task Force (RTF) in 2012 to come up with a long-term strategy for the streets and roads in the city that would make them “better fit for the future” and contribute to the sustainability goals of the mayor’s Transport Strategy. Three core aims were envisioned for the road network: 1) to enable people and vehicles to move more efficiently; 2) to transform the environment for cycling, walking and public transport; and 3) to improve the public environment and provide better and safer places for all the activities that take place on the city’s streets, so as to enhance quality of life (Roads Task Force, 2013[31]).

A central component of the strategy is a “new strategic framework” to help the actors involved in road and street management to plan and manage roads in a coherent way and in alignment with the three priorities of the strategy. In the case of London, the Department for Transport (DfT) is in charge of planning for some roads of national interest (e.g. the M25, M1, M4 and M11), which are managed by Highways England. Of the other roads, 5% (the “red routes”) are planned and managed by TfL. Although only 5% of the network, these roads account for around 30% of all transport traffic in London. The remaining streets are under individual boroughs’ control (ITF, 2018[32]).

The framework developed by the RTF looks at streets in terms of their function (moving people and vehicles) as well as their place. Streets are classified in terms of both functions in a matrix of nine “families” (see Figure 4.2).

The RTF’s progress report found that the new street typology enabled TfL and the boroughs to work collaboratively and take a holistic view of the network in order to better balance local and strategic needs and priorities (2015[34]). The framework produced in 2013 was used to develop a methodology for classifying streets, focusing on six case studies in five different boroughs. A senior stakeholder group established by TfL conducted the exercise, including members of the RTF panel, London Councils, the London Borough of Barnet, the City of London and the Greater London Authority (Transport for London, 2015[34]).

Although it has brought different stakeholders together, the fact that the framework has been developed for London alone has had its limitations: the problem of institutional fragmentation between levels of government has not been solved entirely (McArthur et al., 2022[29]). As illustrated by the MORE project, an EU-funded project focused on changing the way streets and roads are looked at and used, TfL’s efforts to restrict traffic flows and encourage shifts towards public transport, walking and cycling are often hindered by Highway England’s persistent focus on improving free-flow traffic (McArthur et al., 2022[29]).

The development of a nationwide framework could give Ireland an advantage by making sure that the new narrative and practices are embraced by different government levels and stakeholders. In New Zealand, the One Network Framework (ONF), which is also based on a “movement and place” matrix (like that of London), has been developed at a national level (Figure 4.3). This framework also introduces classifications for different modes, recognising that streets may perform diverse functions. The ONF is recognised as a core tool supporting a number of national goals and strategies. Among these are the Road to Zero (zero road deaths target) and the Keeping Cities Moving plan, which aims to increase the share of travel by public transport, walking and cycling (Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, n.d.[35]).

One main objective of the ONF is to create a common language for transport, land-use and urban planners to talk about streets and roads and to steer conversations about roads and streets nationwide. The framework was constructed through a gradual, participatory process, beginning in 2013. A first step was the development of six simple categories under the One Network Road Classification (ONRC). The ONRC then evolved into the ONF as more detail was added. This better represents the differences between urban, metropolitan and rural environments, and adds granularity to the differences within each of them. For instance, the ONF better reflects the diverse geography traversed by rural roads, some of which include places (e.g. town centres, tourist attractions or schools) with specific needs for road management or design (Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, n.d.[35]).

During the April 2022 workshops, concerns were raised about the pertinence of road space reallocation and redesign in rural areas or on roads carrying freight. As shown by the ONF, rural areas can and need to be part of new frameworks for categorising streets and roads. McArthur et al. (2022[29]) also indicates that while the place function is more evident and important in streets than in roads, high-capacity and fast-moving roads still have place functions (even if small). Thus, including TII and local authorities in distinct rural areas in Ireland in the process of creating the framework will be key.

The ONF was developed in three stages. In the first stage (starting in 2019), a working group was formed including members of New Zealand’s national Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and the various road-controlling authorities. The group had varied expertise (e.g. safety, planning and urban design), and worked on definitions and drafting core elements for a “Movement and Place”-based framework that would go beyond the ONRC. Outputs were shared with a wider group of experts, and in late 2019 both groups agreed on a series of high-level design elements for the framework (Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, n.d.[35]).

In 2020, the high-level design elements were developed into a more detailed framework and set of tools, bringing together a wider group of experts in public transport, walking, cycling, safety and investment. A survey was launched, several workshops were organised, and finally the Movement and Place classification was developed.

The third stage of the process, which started in 2021 and is expected to end in 2024, has been dedicated to the implementation of the framework. This will include training and the development of tools for authorities and stakeholders to assess performance and produce reports based on the street classification.

Ireland would benefit from developing a set of indicators to measure street and road performance and progress made in road space reallocation. A framework should be constructed to enable viewing, discussing and then planning streets and roads differently. If road space reallocation is to become a priority (as called for in this report), tools will be needed to monitor progress and outcomes. Using these indicators to systematically change the decision-making process and planning practice, and to contribute to raising the profile of road space reallocation, will be paramount. As Wheeler (2004[36]) points out, “without political commitment to act on them, the development of indicators is a symbolic exercise”. Ways in which such indicators could be used are suggested below.

Various interviewees remarked that hardly any evaluations are being conducted to monitor changes in mode shares, increased active travel, accessibility improvements, or health and environmental benefits from road space reallocation and redesign projects8, and that this lack of evidence makes it difficult for such projects to gain visibility and priority. McArthur et al. (2022[29]) identify the lack of indicators for assessing, monitoring and evaluating road space allocation as one of the barriers to progress as well. In Ireland, the DoT will launch, as part of the new Sustainable Mobility Policy a new annual National Household Travel Survey, which could importantly contribute to the development of such a framework. Considering the types of indicators that could be useful (see discussions below) could help to shape the survey in ways that useful data for the development of this framework is collected.

Like the road classification framework discussed above, a shared set of indicators could be developed on a national scale. Development should be participatory, involving multiple levels of government, sectors and disciplines as well as stakeholders, academics and citizen groups. Emphasis could be put on the inclusion of particular segments of the population (e.g. children and parents, the elderly, teenagers, women). This exercise should not pre-empt the local development of more detailed or sophisticated frameworks.

Building such a framework would have numerous advantages, as it would:

  • Complement the development of the new framework for road classification. Indicators could help measure how well different segments of the network are fulfilling its place and movement functions (McArthur et al., 2022[29]). They could also help measure the contribution of different types of roads towards prioritising sustainable modes.

  • Help set common measures and standards for the “success” of a street or road. The performance of streets and roads could be linked to the new well-being framework outcomes, demonstrating to policy makers and the public how road space reallocation and redesign can help achieve national goals. It would also give the well-being framework a practical focus and mainstream it into the policy-making process.

  • Help measure (and communicate) the environmental benefits of road space reallocation and street redesign projects.

  • Assess projects against common standards and compare alternatives. Quality and street audits exist for this purpose in Ireland, but they are neither compulsory nor mainstreamed, and their main focus depends on the objectives of a given project, rather than wider, more standardised goals. Projects can indeed have specific goals, and their attainment needs to be monitored. However, moving beyond a project-based vision and aligning individual efforts to advance the overall strategy is also necessary. This is especially so at present, when new funds are being channelled to active travel and public transport projects. In 2022, Ireland allocated 359 million euros (10% of the transport budget) to active travel infrastructure and greenways, up by 9% from the previous year.

  • Set targets nationally (e.g. as an input to the CAP sub-targets and complementing indicators set out by the new SMP) and locally, reflecting the long-term vision for the road and street networks. These targets would bring together actors involved in road infrastructure and street planning, who would have to cooperate to meet them. The targets and associated indicators could facilitate multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral, cross-government coordination and produce a shared vision of progress. As noted by McArthur et al. (2022[29]), “conflicting performance targets across the different institutions responsible for allocating streetspace” create a major barrier to road reallocation.

  • Conduct benchmarking exercises in various areas, which could encourage policy makers to reflect on how they compare to other territories (e.g. other cities or towns, or even across neighbourhoods) in terms of street and road performance and progress in reallocating space and improving streets. This could give visibility to territories that have been making efforts in this direction. It could also make the gaps between different territories more visible. Overall, this could help create a narrative in which having successful streets is seen as a key component to developing a successful territory. In London, for instance, “healthy score cards” provide results for selected indicators across boroughs. Input indicators show success in the implementation of different measures (physically protected cycle tracks, low-traffic neighbourhoods, 20 mph speed limits, controlled parking zones and school bus priority); outcome indicators show success in achieving certain results (sustainable mode share, active travel rate, car ownership rate, road collision casualties) (TfL, n.d.[37]).

  • Establish criteria for funding allocation. Indicators could be used to guide the allocation of funding to national and local authorities (e.g. funds for active mobility and public transport enhancement, or for urban renewal).

The applicability of the framework to different uses would, of course, depend on the indicators selected. Ireland could build on some frameworks from other countries, for example the Healthy Streets framework developed by Transport for London. This framework has ten guiding principles or indicators that help establish how healthy a street is. The assumption behind the framework is that while no street is 100% unhealthy or healthy, every street can be improved via redesign guided by the ten principles. These incorporate both movement and place elements and link to overall benefits for the community and the city (e.g. noise reduction, clean air, safety). According to (TfL, 2022[38]), each principle “is backed by scientific evidence that it improves health, reduces inequalities and encourages people to walk and cycle”. The principles for a healthy street are:

  • It is a welcoming place for everyone to walk, spend time in and engage in community life.

  • People choose to walk, cycle and use public transport.

  • There is clean air.

  • People feel safe.

  • The street is not too noisy.

  • It is easy to cross, encouraging more walking and enabling connections between communities.

  • It has places where people can stop and rest.

  • It has facilities that provide shade and shelter.

  • Its features make people feel relaxed (e.g. pavement and cycle paths that are not overcrowded, in poor condition or dirty).

  • There are “things to see and do”, such as street art and attractive views.

A series of questions determine whether a given street fulfils each of the ten principles. A healthy street check enables designers to evaluate the consistency of a scheme with the principles; it includes 31 metrics, to be scored from 0 to 3. For instance, one of the metrics is the interaction between large vehicles and cyclists. A score of 0 is assigned to streets where large vehicles make up more than 5% of motorised traffic and either there is no dedicated lane for cyclists or the combined width of a cycle lane and the next general traffic lane is less than 4.5 metres. A score of 3 can be assigned to a street in which there is either no large vehicle traffic or cycle traffic is separated from it (TfL, 2022[38]). Another function of the framework is to help assess the changes that project proposals would introduce to existing streets. For example, the current and the future situation that would result from proposed changes in a street can be ranked and compared according to the ten principles.

The Built Environment Indicators developed for New South Wales, Australia, are another example of the use of frameworks to monitor and align road space redesign and reallocation. As part of the NSW Movement and Place Framework, the indicators help to assess projects by measuring their movement and place performance and related outcomes. For example, several measures assess cycling accessibility: one is the connected cycling network, which measures the percentage of cycling infrastructure that is connected to a network and the average distance to the cycling network.

The framework includes five different themes and ten outcomes (see Figure 4.4 and Table 4.3 below). A total of 36 indicators are linked to the themes and outcomes. Some of these are featured as core indicators: those that constitute the minimum project data inputs needed. Indicators are used in several ways: to establish evaluation criteria, present a gap analysis between the current situation and the desired performance of the area, and develop and compare different project options (NSW, 2022[39]).

Indicator frameworks like the two just presented would help Irish authorities to monitor the outcome of changes in streets and roads, and especially to track whether changes increase the comfort of sustainable modes and, consequently, their use. Applying them can, for instance, help avoid projects labelled “successful” that consist of painting bicycle lanes in areas shared with buses or other traffic, or adding bike lanes at the expense of pedestrians while leaving space for car use untouched. Several indicators are particularly useful in this respect:

  • Indicators of whether cycling, walking and public transport are easy to use.

  • Indicators that measure accessibility by different modes (and the relative change of accessibility between modes).

  • Indicators that measure road reallocation in itself (such as those included in the Clean Cities campaign (Stoll et al., 2022[40])). Indicators include for instance, the total length of separate infrastructure for pedestrians and for cyclists (separately) as a percentage of total length of roads.

Useful indicators of accessibility by different modes (and relative accessibility compared to the car) are those that measure the number of amenities reachable by different modes at a given time. A database developed by the International Transport Forum applied this type of indicator to 120 metropolitan areas in Europe, including Dublin. The database and interactive tool show how competitive different modes are for providing access to amenities such as schools, shops, hospitals and green spaces at a given time (15, 30 or 45 minutes). Data from the city and functional urban areas captures differences between central and peripheral areas. The accessibility indicator can be broken out into one that reflects the performance of the transport infrastructure, and another that reflects the role of the location of the amenities. This enables conversations among transport and land-use stakeholders, and is consistent with integrated movement and place thinking (see (ITF, 2022[41])).

Ireland could build on and expand efforts already being made by the NTA. The NTA has been developing accessibility indicators for Ireland, including the level of public transport accessibility (similar to the PTAL index9 developed by Transport for London). The creation of a set of indicators to be mainstreamed into the planning and assessment of road space reallocation across Ireland could build on the work already done, with a focus on enlarging the set of accessibility indicators across modes and regions.

As argued by McArthur et al. (2022[29]), indicators drawing on surveys and data about user perceptions are also needed. London’s Healthy Streets framework discussed above generates surveys and monitors the attainment of the ten principles based on data from users on how well a given project is fulfilling its goals.

Spatial planning is key to transforming and improving streets. As emphasised in the Healthy Streets framework, action needs to be taken at three levels: “the street level, the network level and the spatial planning level” (TfL, 2022[38]). The sections above outline the ways in which the two tools presented can help with the first two levels – providing support for planning individual projects and for planning and evaluating changes at the network level. Embedding these tools, linking them with efforts at the spatial planning level, and mainstreaming them in day-to-day planning practice will also be essential.

Planning documents for metropolitan and other areas need to build on analyses that make use of the new road classification and the indicators discussed. Short-, medium- and long-term targets for road space reallocation and road and street performance should also be incorporated into these documents.

Planning for new development can also make use of the tools to set priorities for improving existing development and guide new development. For example, the London plan singles out the 10% least walkable areas in the city for special attention. “Growth areas” are also identified, with the aim of setting stricter standards for their development in line with the Healthy Streets framework (TfL, 2022[38]).

Incorporating street performance standards into the planning permission process would also help systematise good practice, and link transport and land-use planning in ways that promote Complete Streets and Place-making. In London, planning applications need to include Transport Assessments, showing that they encourage and create more space for walking and cycling. TfL can advise boroughs and the mayor to refuse planning permission if the development is not in line with the Healthy Streets or Vision Zero strategies (among others) (TfL, n.d.[42]).

Accelerating the widespread development of street redesign and road space reallocation projects requires enhancing the local capacity for assessing, designing and implementing them. As noted by McArthur et al. (2022[29]) place and movement road classifications provide higher-level guidance, but tailored case-by-case project planning is crucial. Involving local authorities in developing new tools (such as those described above) and a new narrative can promote exchange between local authorities with different expertise, and can also improve the understanding of new practices. In addition, a number of actions in the SMP are also relevant. For example, the further development of DMURS (jointly by the departments of housing and transport), and the update of guidelines, standards and supporting legislation to allow for road space reallocation / redesign project development

As shown by the MORE project (see above), rethinking and transforming streets into places and enablers of high quality of life calls for local authorities to become “streetspace managers” and to make use of tools such as pricing, land-use planning and prioritisation of mobility modes to “govern their streetspace” (McArthur et al., 2022[29]). The development of new sets of indicators also calls for local authorities to increase their capacity to collect and interpret the right data.

In this context, funding channelled to local authorities must be used not only to develop infrastructure but also to create adequate capacity. Funding levels should be assessed in light of this need. The SMP already goes in this direction by funding, for instance, the establishment of units within local authorities to implement active travel schemes. In particular, enhanced skills will be needed for:

  • Supporting the technology that will allow local authorities to collect key data for developing pedestrian, cycling activity, etc. (Colville-Andersen, 2018[43]).

  • Ensuring local authorities have the right skills. Interviews revealed that private consultancies are significantly involved in project development in Ireland. This can bring a lot of value. Nonetheless, making sure expertise is also developed within the public sector is also needed. Interviews and conversations also revealed that enlarged cross-disciplinary teams might be needed in some places. Workshop participants described, for instance, that road planning is often viewed as solely an engineering task, and local authorities would benefit from integrating other disciplines too. In particular, enhancing skills will be needed for:

  • Conducting data analysis and interpretation, and integrating new technologies into practice (e.g. using dynamic road reallocation).

  • Adequately enforcing new rules.

  • Better engagement and communication with the population.

  • Application of practices that have proved useful elsewhere, such as tactical urbanism. A number of participants mentioned in the workshop that tactical urbanism has remained marginal in Irish practice (see Box 4.6).

Revisiting parking policy and regulations will be paramount, and often requires close coordination between national and local governments. Greater local expertise will be needed to develop parking policies and strategies that are coherent and support the transformation of the transport sector, which will then need to be promoted and sometimes mandated by the national government. One major change should be the shift from minimum to maximum parking standards for new developments. Free or cheap off-street parking, in particular near workplaces, schools and colleges, should also be reassessed, as previous evaluations have proposed (OECD, 2021[44]; Caulfield, Carroll and Ahern, 2020[14]).

An important challenge will also be to create a coordinated vision and strategy for the metropolitan/functional area that prioritises road space reallocation. The SUMP strategy, offering best practice guidelines for sustainable urban mobility planning, considers that transport planning is often best done for an entire functional urban area (FUA), building on the basis of actual flows of people and goods that connect a city to its surroundings (Eltis, 2021[45]). Strategic transport planning that encompasses the core city and its surrounding areas is already happening in some places in Ireland. At present, the NTA has been given statutory transport planning power over major metropolitan areas (Dublin, and more recently Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford); with the aim of enhancing coordination and strategic planning. Each of Ireland’s five cities has (or is finalising) multi-modal metropolitan area transport strategies which, are developed in line with the EU guiding principles for sustainable urban mobility plans (Department of Transport, 2022[11]). It would be important that building capacity to advance road space reallocation in these areas is given priority by the NTA.

Discussions in the last section of this chapter raise the questions, however, of whether such coordinating bodies should remain at the national level and whether they should be created for territories outside major metropolitan areas as well. As discussed by McArthur et al. (2022[29]), building leadership and guiding engagement with the public is particularly needed for road space reallocation. Therefore, a question is whether the setting up of metropolitan or functional area-wide technical bodies, designated for transport (and possibly other matters – e.g. land-use), and with large local representation in their governing bodies, could better strike the balance between avoiding fragmented decisions while constructing local visions and leadership.

In the particular case of road space reallocation, these types of metropolitan/ functional area-wide bodies could, for instance, carry out data collection and analysis functions (ITF, 2018[32]), and help gather and analyse data so that indicators identified as important to assess street performance and measure progress can more easily be developed for different territories. Dedicated, capable staff hired by these institutions could create a positive dynamic, enabling different territories to build on and improve the national frameworks. The NTA could then better utilise its capacity to develop new indicators and data without having to do so for every territory. These bodies could also take responsibility for strategic planning (ITF, 2018[32]) and enhance capacity to collect inputs from local governments, stakeholders and the public, to create a shared vision for the future of roads and streets. They could also develop regional strategies to communicate with citizens about the benefits and urgency of road space reallocation.

The question of what tasks would be assigned to MTAs and which would remain a national or more local (i.e. county) responsibility will need to be carefully considered. Different allocations of tasks exist internationally (ITF, 2018[32]), and these can provide guidance. There will still be a need to enlarge and enhance capacity at the local level (i.e. at county level), even if these bodies are created. Assessing the needs at each scale of government would be crucial to ending up with a division of powers that makes sense for Ireland.

Scaling up shared on-demand services (see Box 4.7) is a policy that has also been found to have a high transformative potential to shift Ireland towards a transport system that delivers sustainable accessibility. As noted in Chapter 3, this can help restructure the car-dependent system by offering new connections and services via sustainable solutions and enlarging the scope of multi-modality, thus helping to reverse the sustainable modes low-attractiveness trap. It can also contribute to changing land-use patterns by freeing up parking space. Additionally, it can reduce the stock of vehicles needed to provide mobility, while making vehicles for which the uptake of electrification has been the fastest (e.g. e-bikes and e-scooters) more relevant in modal shares; thereby enabling more effective electrification efforts.

Both international experience and previous studies conducted in Ireland confirm the potential of shared on-demand services to create rapid change and produce environmental and well-being benefits. ITF (2018[8]) calculates that, combined with current core public transport services, introducing shared taxis and minibuses could reduce transport emissions by 30% and congestion by 38% in Dublin. This reduction is equivalent to around 200 000 tonnes of emissions, equivalent to the average yearly carbon footprint of around 8% (41 000) of Dublin’s inhabitants.10 Incorporating other shared modes suitable for shorter distances (especially micro-mobility modes such as bikes and e-scooters) would lead to even further reductions in emissions and congestion. For comparison, a “systemic, electric and integrated” roll-out of micro-mobility services by 2030 in Europe, to the point that these would account for 50% of all trips under eight kilometres, would result in a 30 million tonne of emissions reduction (EIT and McKinsey, 2019[49]).

Because these services can help to build a functioning, multi-modal transport network, they can contribute to providing a convenient option for daily travel and reducing car dependency. ITF’s study of shared taxis and minibuses in Dublin (ITF, 2018[8]) showed that these services can improve the performance of the whole transport system by acting as feeders to the core public transport network or replacing public transport routes that currently operate rarely or ineffectively. Shared taxis and minibuses can substantially improve regional accessibility (ITF, 2017[7]) and enhance access to opportunities. A study in Boston also showed that micro-mobility has helped citizens access 60% more employment opportunities when combined with public transport and walking (Climateworks Foundation, 2021[50]).

Studies also confirm the potential of shared on-demand services to make better use of public space. Even if all such services needed parking space, shifting away from private cars, which are parked for most of the time, frees a great amount of public space. In its simulations for Lisbon, ITF (2017[7]) estimated that shared taxis and minibuses could reduce the overall space used for parking by 95%, noting that other studies have produced similar findings. Modelling a systemic roll-out of micro-mobility in Europe showed that it could liberate 48 000 hectares of inner-city land (the equivalent of about 4 times the land area of Dublin) (EIT and McKinsey, 2019[49]).

In addition to making streets more people-friendly, bringing services closer to visitors (especially via shared scooters and bikes) can boost local economies. A study by the scooter company Lime showed that 72% of riders use its scooters to visit local shows and attractions (Eltis, 2021[51]). Scaling up these services could contribute to other Irish policy objectives, such as the revival of central areas in towns as part of the Town Centre First Policy (Dept of Rural and Community Development and Dept of Housing Local Government and Heritage, 2022[52]).

As noted in Chapter 3, a number of synergies link the scaling up of on-demand services and the mainstreaming of road space reallocation and street redesign (see section 3.3). These synergies are also confirmed and explored by (ITF, 2021[53]).

Ireland is making efforts to develop shared on-demand services, but these need to be scaled up. New legislation to allow the use of e-scooters is being drafted (Department of Transport, 2022[11]). NTA bike sharing schemes operate in each of the five cities in Ireland with private bike sharing schemes active in Dublin, Athlone, Mullingar, Sligo and other cities/towns. In addition, the new SMP includes in its action plan the expansion of bike-share (including e-bikes) scheme operations in cities (starting with Waterford) and the development of a model for deploying shared bike schemes (potentially including e-bikes as well in regional growth centres and key towns). Alongside its regular rural bus service, TFI Local Link offers bookable community transport services with door-to-door connections. These services are an integral part of the national transport network, and are increasingly included in the national multi-modal travel information system (National Journey Planner) and national fare system (LEAP card) (ITF, 2021[55]).

The integration of different mobility solutions is also advancing. Along with appropriate regulation, the new National Sustainable Mobility Policy emphasises the role of smart digital solutions to make the interchange between modes and thus the use of sustainable mobility easier. This strategy points to initiatives that prepare for a “Mobility as a Service” (MaaS) system to be implemented (including Next Generation Ticketing, Automated Vehicle Location and National Journey Planner). The SMP also includes an action dedicated to the development of a governance framework for the implementation of MaaS (Department of Transport, 2022[11]). Smart Dublin, an entity formed by the four Dublin local authorities, has started to work on a MaaS strategy for Ireland in which public authorities would lead work on a Data and Services hub for scaling up new mobility solutions (Smart Dublin, 2022[56]). MaaS has been defined as “a distribution model for mobility services that uses shared data and a digital interface to efficiently source and manage the provision of transport-related services into a seamless offer” (ITF, 2021[57]).

A clear distinction must be made, and is made in this report, between scaling up on-demand shared services and integrating different sustainable mobility solutions into a MaaS system. Creating a MaaS platform with data and service integration can contribute to the scaling up of shared on-demand services by enabling seamless door-to-door connections. However, it should be kept separate from the scaling up of shared on-demand services themselves. In its recent report, ITF (2021[57]) emphasises that MaaS has not been deployed on a large scale in any city or country, and thus its potential role in promoting sustainable travel remains unclear (ITF, 2021[57]). For this reason, it concludes that MaaS is not a “panacea for achieving sustainable mobility outcomes” and that sustainable mobility should be primarily pursued via other initiatives. That said, the scaling up of shared on-demand services should leave open the opportunity to develop MaaS (ITF, 2021[57]). While this section focuses on recommendations for scaling up shared on-demand services, it highlights some areas, such as data-sharing requirements, where the management of these services can facilitate the eventual development of MaaS.

Scaling up shared on-demand services far enough to make them a convenient alternative to car travel will require an integrated planning approach, regulatory measures that go beyond data and digitalisation, new financing priorities, and communication and educational measures. These services should not be implemented only in urban areas. Representatives of both urban and rural areas in the April 2022 workshops emphasised that shared on-demand services can and should be scaled up throughout Ireland.

The potential to increase the use of shared and active modes in Ireland is significant. Travel data from different regions shows that there is considerable scope for replacing shorter car trips with shared modes. According to the National Travel Survey in 2019, almost 75% of trips in Dublin and 60% of trips in other regions in Ireland were less than 8 kilometres in length; private cars accounted for 51 to 70% of all these trips (CSO, 2020[58]). Public transport and higher-occupancy shared services (e.g. demand-responsive transport) could replace longer trips and reduce private car travel. An array of shared services exists, with different advantages in different situations, including rural areas (ITF, 2021[55]).

The rest of this section discusses ways to scale up shared on-demand services across Ireland. Like the other recommendations in the report, it builds on discussions during the April 2022 workshops, visits to different regions, interviews with stakeholders and good international practice.

Ireland needs to plan shared on-demand services in ways that ensure their social value. Making them part of strategic plans, visions and goals is key to ensuring that these and other sustainable modes are developed in an integrated way (Arndt et al., 2019[59]). A best practice sustainable mobility plan (following the SUMP model11) addresses all forms of collective mobility (traditional public transport as well as new sharing services) and active modes (walking and cycling), while ensuring the integration of all modes for door-to-door connections (Eltis, 2021[45]).

London is a good example of integrated planning. London’s transport strategy sets a target for 80% of all trips in the metropolitan area to be either by end-to-end fully active modes of travel (mostly walking and cycling but also, for example, using scooters and wheelchairs) or by public transport (including higher-occupancy services) by 2041. Planning for all sustainable modes together helps to improve accessibility and ensure seamless interchange between modes across the city, thus providing a real alternative to car travel. In particular, its “whole journey” approach, which combines public transport with attractive street environments and includes facilities for sustainable onward journeys (e.g. walking directions or bike hire stations), facilitates the planning of seamless and accessible interchanges (Greater London Authority, 2018[60]).

Brussels offers another good example of integrated transport planning. Its sustainable mobility strategy (“Good Move”) is the first SUMP developed through stakeholder consultations that prioritises the integration of shared mobility with public transport. The hubs that facilitate interchange between modes, partly by repurposing current parking areas (e.g. as shared car and bike stations), are central to the plan. The inclusion of new shared services in planning has been accompanied by the development of services and regulations for shared bikes and scooters (Brussels Mobility, 2021[61]). The following sub-sections present recommendations related to these initiatives.

Integrating shared on-demand services into strategic planning can be combined with assessing their contribution to equity objectives. ITF (2017[7]) notes that authorities need to understand how these services can help deliver accessibility in an equitable way. Irish transport planning should assess where and for whom these services could improve accessibility (Arndt et al., 2019[59]). Ensuring equity means that these services are available particularly to vulnerable groups such as low-income or elderly people (Smorto, 2020[62]). Planning should leverage the potential of shared on-demand services to serve poorly connected neighbourhoods and offer first- and last-mile connections where public transport gaps exist. ITF (2021[55]) discusses how different options could suit areas with varying combinations of density and sparseness (see Box 4.8). To facilitate service provision in all areas, regulation should take into account the costs and coverage areas of these services (Smorto, 2020[62]).

Integrating shared on-demand services into planning requires enhancing the capacity of transport planners in Ireland to analyse, interpret and collect data. Transport data (e.g. user itineraries, travel conditions, vehicle traffic) is essential for assessing the performance of urban transport systems and improving them (ITF, 2018[32]). The scaling up of shared on-demand services creates further requirements and opportunities for data management and collection. Monitoring the performance of shared services might require new indicators and new expertise (e.g. about new vehicle technologies) (Arndt et al., 2019[59]). Data reporting by service providers could give information on operational costs, indicating the level of subsidy needed to serve rural areas. Meanwhile, the introduction of new shared vehicles with new technologies (such as advanced sensor equipment in micro-mobility vehicles) enables the collection of more and better data, even in real time (ITF, 2018[32]). Monitoring is linked to the allocation of concessions (discussed below), since data reporting requirements underpin data collection by planning authorities.

As noted above, shared on-demand services can greatly contribute to a properly functioning multi-modal network. Digital platforms can play a key role in enabling interchange between different modes, but infrastructure solutions are also key (SHARE-North Academy, 2021[63]). Ireland should focus its strategic transport planning in part on building service hubs, points where multiple modes and service operators meet (American Planning Association, 2022[64]). Beyond offering shared and public transport services, these hubs could include other mobility-related components (such as private bike parking and repair, or rentable child seats) and public sphere improvements (such as parcel delivery, cafés, accessible and covered waiting areas, and phone charging) (CoMoUK, 2019[65]). In this way, they can contribute to creating the required balance between movement and place on the streets. These hubs should also include supportive infrastructure (such as shelters, way-finding signage, real-time travel information, and ticketing) to enable users to switch seamlessly from one mode to another (American Planning Association, 2022[64]; CoMoUK, 2019[65]). Developing a visible brand (possibly linked to the Transport for Ireland brand) for these service hubs would help market the services; in one example, 85% of citizens in Bremen know about car-sharing thanks to the clearly visible brand on the streets. It would also help build political support by creating a concept that policy makers could rally behind (SHARE-North Academy, 2021[63]).

Service hubs can be located in different places and must be tailored to the specific needs of the location. Typical locations include public transport stations, housing developments, business parks and shopping centres (CoMoUK, 2019[65]; SHARE-North Academy, 2021[63]). Since there is no one-size-fits-all model for these hubs, stakeholder engagement is essential to map specific local needs (SHARE-North Academy, 2021[63]) and inform planning. When the hubs are connected to public transport stations, the increased number of travellers (using shared modes as first-mile solutions to access the stations) must be matched by the capacity of public transport (ITF, 2018[8]). One good prototype for service hubs in public transport stations is Heuston Station in Dublin; while the range of shared services, public-sphere elements and supportive infrastructure could be extended, the station already provides a good selection of transport services (train, bus and Luas services as well as shared DublinBikes) to connect travellers to other places in the city, as well as some shops and cafés.

Since shared on-demand services are meant to accelerate the shift away from private car use, service hubs should be located “closer to a user’s front door than the privately-owned car” (SHARE-North Academy, 2021[63]). New development (which should be preferably on brownfield sites, as explained in section 4.6) presents the opportunity to start making this a reality across the country. Such developments, particularly in urban settings, should limit parking for private cars and instead build local hubs with alternative modes nearby.

Service hubs could leverage locations that used to be designated for car use and thus are already strategically located along transport networks and close to services. For example, locations where Park & Ride services were planned could be turned into hubs providing shared services rather than (only) parking for private cars. During the workshops, participants suggested that multi-storey car parks in urban areas and petrol stations in more rural areas could be transformed into multi-modal service hubs. Similar ideas have already been pursued in other countries: for example, Brussels’ sustainable urban mobility plan identifies repurposing public and private parking spaces as an opportunity to create service hubs (with car- and bike-sharing and other mobility-related services such as bike repair), while giving priority to shared modes over private ones in parking allocation (Brussels Mobility, 2021[61]).

Different charging solutions for electric vehicles must be considered when designing multi-modal service hubs and other stations for shared on-demand services. Charging needs vary by location: for example, shared e-bikes next to public transport stations have to charge quickly, while shared cars in bigger hubs could use slower chargers (see further discussions on the charging strategy in section 4.5).

As Ireland introduces more types of shared on-demand services and scales them up, it is crucial to learn from past mistakes. In many places (including Ireland), these services have emerged rapidly, with little planning and without a regulatory framework to ensure their success. Results are likely to be suboptimal and even counterproductive, and the reputation and acceptance of these modes can suffer in consequence. For example, in Barcelona, private service providers faced little regulation, and focused on servicing only the large, more profitable transport nodes rather than providing equitable access (Interreg Europe, 2019[66]). Unmanaged growth, especially of low-occupancy services (e.g. car-sharing and ride-pooling), can also mean fewer people use active modes or public transport, thus failing to reduce car ownership and undermining the objectives of sustainable mobility (Greater London Authority, 2018[60]). In some cities, including Dublin, citizens complain that shared bicycles take up all the parking space in central locations, leaving nowhere to park private bicycles (IrishCycle, 2022[67]). As discussed by the ITF (2018[8]), regulation by public authorities is needed to make sure the scaling up of these services creates the best possible value for society. The need for regulation is also acknowledged in the National Sustainable Mobility Strategy, which emphasises safety as well as environmental and consumer protection (Department of Transport, 2022[11]).

As noted in the introduction to this section, this report addresses the scaling up of shared on-demand services separately from the development of MaaS, distinguishing between the regulation of shared service providers and MaaS providers. Some operators will continue to provide only shared on-demand services in the future, thus requiring specific regulation. Conversely, some MaaS providers can function without owning their transport services, and will require new regulations specific to their operations (ITF, 2021[57]). The specificities and challenges of MaaS regulation are discussed, for example, by ITF (2021[57]). The two sets of regulations will need to support each other in ways discussed in the following subsection.

Regulation should not aim to limit the development or offer of shared on-demand services, but rather to create a stable, predictable market environment for private operators (ITF, 2018[8]). ITF (2019[68]) notes that any regulation should reflect the objectives of transport policy, such as creating accessibility via sustainable modes, and avoid imposing restrictions that might inhibit the attainment of these objectives or associated innovative thinking. Regulation should find a balance between specifying technical details needed for better planning and requiring over-complicated systems for providers, especially smaller ones. In principle, regulatory requirements should minimise the cost to providers.

Similarly, the regulation of shared on-demand service providers in Ireland should not inhibit the potential development of MaaS services. Data-sharing and access between service operators and MaaS providers is essential for creating a MaaS ecosystem in the future. With this objective in mind, imposing minimum data-sharing responsibilities (necessary for informational, operational and transactional integration) on mobility operators and granting data access rights to MaaS providers should be included in the regulation of shared on-demand services (ITF, 2021[57]).

Banning or capping the number of operators or vehicles allowed in shared on-demand services, or disproportionate operating fees, can potentially inhibit the development of new services and MaaS. Banning and capping should be avoided since it conveys the message that shared on-demand services are somehow detrimental to society (while, for example, private cars with many detrimental effects on the environment are not capped) (OECD, 2021[4]). Rigid caps on fleet numbers also constrain the development of MaaS (ITF, 2021[57]). Excessive operating fees can make many operators’ business models unviable (ITF, 2019[68]); (OECD, 2021[4]). The fees for shared on-demand services should reflect their promising contribution to achieving a modal shift and environmental goals and should not be higher than those for (single-occupancy) taxis or the overall cost of using private cars, as has happened in some cities across the world (ITF, 2021[57]).

A “softer”, more balanced approach can be better suited to making the most of these services (OECD, 2021[4]). Rather than treating new services as a nuisance, active regulation in Ireland should aim at:

  • Introducing data reporting requirements12 to inform strategic planning, ensure that supply levels match demand, help monitor service performance and improve understanding of modal shift and accessibility effects.

  • Exploring the opportunities and synergies that new technologies (e.g. sensor cameras in scooters) can provide to ensure the safe use of new modes, including by improving the infrastructure dedicated to these modes.

  • Imposing minimum safety standards for micro-mobility via speed limits, as in the planned regulations for e-scooters, and improving road safety in other ways, including avoiding by-the-minute charging that encourages speedy driving. Requiring indicator lights on powered micro-vehicles, and reducing the speed limits of motor vehicles which are often involved in micro-mobility accidents (see more in (ITF, 2020[69]).

  • Ensuring that shared on-demand services can serve all population groups by, for example, requiring larger vehicles to be wheelchair-friendly and some shared cars and other services to accept domestic animals, including baby seats, or choosing service providers who offer a variety of vehicles such as cargo bikes, bikes with seats for children or bikes for children, alongside traditional shared bikes.

  • Establishing rules regarding the use of infrastructure, specifically ensuring access to dedicated infrastructure for bikes and scooters, while not endangering pedestrians (linked to street redesign recommendations), and allocating dedicated parking spaces that are numerous and well connected to the transport network but do not compromise the use of private vehicles.

  • Requiring that the servicing and lifespan of vehicles are in line with climate goals (see Box 4.9 below).

  • Ensuring that services offer wide accessibility by, for example, setting a minimum coverage area for providers (see (Interreg Europe, 2019[66]) for an example in Barcelona) or requiring providers to place a proportion of their vehicles in poorly covered areas (see (Copenhagenize EU, 2019[70]) for an example in Seattle), while providing the necessary subsidies linked to these measures.

With respect to data reporting, operating concessions (which require data reporting by service providers) could be reorganised at the functional urban area (FUA) level together with transport planning. Currently, the county and city councils commission shared services in their administrative areas, which cover parts of the FUAs of cities. Different municipalities within a single FUA could coordinate and align their regulation of operating licences. However, daily travel patterns often cross the borders of municipalities in the same FUA, making it more efficient to issue licences at the FUA level (ITF, 2016[73]). This has been done in London, for example, where TfL, London councils and London boroughs worked together to launch a tendering competition for an e-scooter pilot scheme (CiTTi Magazine, 2020[74]).

Low occupancy is a problem, especially in car-based shared services, undermining the objectives of reducing private car travel, traffic volumes and CO2 emissions (ITF, 2017[7]). While it is inevitable that vehicles originally dedicated to shared travel sometimes transport only one person, public authorities should discourage this suboptimal use of shared services and public space by differentiating between cars with single and multiple users. Access to certain public roads could be limited to vehicles transporting only one user, and dedicated lanes could be created for vehicles transporting multiple users (high-occupancy vehicles, or HOVs) (Crozet, Santos and Coldefy, 2019[75]). Planned travel demand management measures could also treat vehicles differentially based on the number of users. Congestion tolls could target empty vehicles based on their over-consumption of public space (Crozet, Santos and Coldefy, 2019[75]). Service prices could be higher for single users (ITF, 2017[7]). These measures should, however, be more or less stringent depending on location (single users are more likely in less dense areas) and type of service.

Since a primary purpose of shared on-demand modes is to shift people away from private car use, reducing the overall cost of these modes to be cheaper than private cars is as important as ensuring high-quality services (ITF, 2017[7]). The cost structure of private cars compared to shared mobility will be discussed further in the section on recommendations for the EV strategy (section 4.5). The present section discusses other ways in which public authorities could make the development and scaling up of shared on-demand services more financially viable.

Once shared on-demand services are recognised as a public good, given the environmental and social benefits of helping to provide sustainable accessibility for everyone, there is a rationale for subsidising them (Mattioli et al., 2020[76]). This rationale has been cited in previous policy evaluations (Caulfield, Carroll and Ahern, 2020[14]). Changing the goal of the entire transport system requires redirecting funding away from private car travel and towards shared and sustainable options. In particular, the subsidies now available for purchasing private EVs could instead be used to support the scaling up of shared on-demand services, among other sustainable modes.

Ireland should support shared on-demand services in areas with lower density and fewer current transport options, where their role in improving sustainable accessibility is evident. Subsidies can ensure high-quality, affordable services in such areas, where otherwise lower profitability discourages service providers (ITF, 2019[68]; ITF, 2018[8]). As in many other countries, the current availability of shared on-demand services is uneven since the majority are concentrated in central areas of cities or bigger towns. For example, the private bike-share scheme in Dublin only operates in the central areas; the great majority of car rental service GoCar’s stations are in Dublin and its inner suburbs, while rural towns like Sligo have no stations. Future subsidies should be based on calculations of the operational costs of service providers (partly to find out whether cross-subsidisation between different service areas could be done by the providers themselves or if additional support is needed) – another strategy that would require collecting relevant data (see discussions in 4.4.2).

Subsidies should also make shared on-demand services affordable for all population groups. An example from Boston shows that subsidised prices are an effective way to scale up the use of these services among lower-income groups. With the support of grants from the city, the Boston Hubway bike-share system offers a reduced fee (USD 5 rather than USD 85) for low-income populations, and has a significantly higher (11%) share of low-income users compared with other bike-share systems (a 5% share on average) (Kodransky and Lewenstein, 2014[77]).

To improve the financial viability of shared services and public transport in low-density areas, Ireland needs to work towards aggregating travel demand spatially (by establishing hubs, Park & Ride stations, and in the long-term encouraging compact development), coordinating trips at similar times with similar routes, and planning for high utilisation of vehicles. Several workshop participants suggested exploring synergies by integrating existing resources in the school bus system and the public transport system (seats, vehicles, drivers, planning), which are currently managed by different departments. For example, in Finland, municipalities purchase regular public transport tickets to provide elementary and secondary school transport where suitable, among other solutions (ITF, 2015[78]). Ireland could fund local communities to develop shared mobility solutions that fit local needs, coupled with centralised expert support (ITF, 2021[55]). For example, the Fingal local authority already operates a pilot scheme with community electric cars driven by volunteers, to improve access to local services (Fingal County Council, 2022[79]).

The benefits achieved in several policy domains, such as transport, housing and education, by scaling up shared on-demand services is an argument for cross-governmental cooperation and financing. Workshop participants believed that a common, cross-governmental programme promoting shared on-demand services was possible; along with large-scale investment in dedicated infrastructure for active and shared modes in general (linking it to the road reallocation recommendations), this programme could fund pilot projects for new mobility solutions. In the United Kingdom, for example, the government has allocated £90 million to the Transforming Cities Funds for future mobility zones. Local authorities can apply for a share of these funds to test mobility services, modes and models in their area, with the aim of developing initiatives replicable elsewhere (UK Department for Transport, 2019[80]). Some examples of funded pilot projects already exist in Ireland, such as the one in Fingal just mentioned. The programme could implement, among other projects, a replication of this type of effort around the country.

One of the programme’s ultimate objectives should be to go beyond implementation based on pilot projects to a more strategic development of shared on-demand services. Although some experimentation is valuable, pilots should also function to advance a wider, integrated strategy. As Ireland begins to make such services part of strategic planning, the programme could also start giving preference to funding pilot projects that contribute to a wider strategy for a given region.

Further innovation for micro-mobility and other shared solutions is essential to increase their usage across population groups. One study suggests that the current micro-mobility fleet cannot support a large share of short trips because these involve, for instance, carrying groceries or transporting children, and it cannot serve disabled people at all (EIT and McKinsey, 2019[49]). It is difficult for micro-mobility providers to offer even traditional, but customised, solutions at scale due to financing challenges; more financing options, currently not offered by financial institutions apart from venture capital, are needed to scale up these solutions (EIT and McKinsey, 2019[49]). New financing options, possibly complemented by insurance options, could enable service providers to make services more attractive to more people through different leasing and subscription models and to cover upfront capital expenditure costs for purchasing vehicles, thus scaling up services more quickly (EIT and McKinsey, 2019[49]). Irish policy makers should explore how to make these options available to enable micro-mobility to serve the needs of a wide range of citizens.

Creating awareness and acceptance of new shared on-demand modes should be a key element of the scaling-up process. During the April 2022 workshops, participants pointed out that the use of these services, alongside other public transport, ought to feel easy and natural. To start working towards this objective, public campaigns, in cooperation with service providers, should inform citizens about the new services and stress their overall societal benefits (explained in the Introduction) (ITF, 2018[8]). The public awareness measures planned as part of Ireland’s Sustainable Mobility Policy are a great opportunity for this (see section 4.7). Similarly, the Smarter Travel Plans (created by various employers in the NTA’s Smarter Travel for Workplaces programme) can promote the use of shared services, including car-pooling, shared active modes and public transport, initially in commuting but then more generally as people experience positive results. Perceptions of the collective benefits could be reinforced by scaling up these services in a series of steps, each one reaching a sub-target of the key objectives (e.g. emissions reduction, congestion reduction or improved access to services) (ITF, 2017[7]). Aligning clear communication about the targets achieved with positive user experiences (discovering how seamless and easy car-less travel can be) would facilitate public acceptance and boost adoption of shared and on-demand services (ITF, 2017[7]).

Education plays a key role in road safety. Some education measures have already been planned, such as the Road Safety Authority’s measures for the use of (e-)scooters (Department of Transport, 2022[81]). Workshop participants raised an important point: national education will need to evolve once driving a car becomes less common and not everyone will necessarily take driving lessons, at least those living in urban areas and/or younger in age. Rules for safe road use normally taught during driving lessons will need to be taught in other ways. The participants proposed that the Department of Education take the responsibility for including classes about road use (by a wide variety of modes, not only cars) in the core school curriculum, since such knowledge would be useful when using any transport mode.

Digital knowledge also plays a part in scaling up on -demand shared services, given that these are usually linked to apps and MaaS platforms. This raises another issue of equity, since digital skills and literacy are essential for access to these transport services (Smorto, 2020[62]). Public authorities should make sure that education measures address this and offer guidance in the use of digital tools for anyone who needs it. This will also reinforce the message that these services are accessible for everyone, thus supporting their acceptance.

Building acceptance needs to involve engagement with the multiple stakeholders affected by the scaling up of these services. Workshop participants emphasised that certain influential interest groups, in particular business owners, car park owners and taxi drivers, could be hostile, and that public authorities need to address their concerns. Several measures were proposed:

  • Business owners could be more easily brought on board by demonstrating that shared on-demand services can bring them more customers (especially in the case of micro-mobility, as noted in the introduction to this section), while road reallocation can make streets in front of stores friendlier for pedestrians.

  • Car park (and forecourt station) owners could collaborate in building hubs for shared services and adapt their facilities to accommodate other vehicles than cars.

  • Taxi drivers, especially in rural areas, could participate in providing DRT and volunteer-based services, for instance. In urban areas, public authorities could incentivise taxi services to carry multiple passengers at the same time, thus making them part of shared services.

Ireland’s transport electrification strategy needs to enable and support the other recommendations outlined in this report. Together, the recommendations envision a future with equitable access in which streets are designed for human interaction and human speeds, most trips are active and short, and longer trips are served by fewer, efficiently used and designed electric vehicles. This requires redirecting the electrification goals to

  • create proximity, supporting liveable urban areas designed for human interaction and speeds

  • prioritise walking, cycling and micro-mobility

  • where larger motor vehicles are required, shift towards shared trips with high passenger occupancy, in which fewer vehicles are efficiently utilised over time (including cars, vans and public transport vehicles)

  • reduce car-kilometres travelled

  • electrify a large share of the remaining motor vehicle kilometres travelled (cars and larger motor vehicles)

  • reduce excess in the number, size, weight and raw-material consumption of cars in the Irish fleet, to reduce life-cycle impacts and cars’ dominance over space.

By redirecting its nationwide EV support and planning practices towards shared, electric, integrated mobility services, including public transport, Ireland would address a key equity concern (National Dialogue on Climate Action Ireland, 2021[82]), namely the need to pay for an expensive vehicle.

The following section outlines key elements for scaling up electrification to support an equitable, well-being, low-emission system.

Ireland would benefit from a coordinating authority for ground transport electrification. With coordination and communication, electrification efforts would support transformative transport system change in the direction of a less car-dependent future. They need to be closely aligned with efforts to promote shared mobility services and public transport, integrated information and payment solutions, compact development, and living well locally (see discussions in previous sections). The coordination of electrification must take into account aspects of urban planning, charging infrastructure, power-grid solutions, power supply, and vehicle fleets, including public transport and goods vehicle fleets and their charging infrastructure. It also needs to ensure that the life-cycle impacts of vehicles and batteries are taken into account and effectively communicated. Ireland already plans to establish an Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (Parliamentary Budget Office Ireland, 2022[83]), which could become this coordinating authority or be closely integrated with it.

To reduce car travel and its detrimental effects on society requires a broader redesign of transport policy. This is a complicated process that must be managed proactively, probably in several stages. However, the overall direction of future transport policy must be consistently signalled: limited trust in the continuity of national priorities and funds can be a barrier to implementing strategy, as several interviewees pointed out. Communication about EVs needs to convey that: 1) active and shared mobility solutions will be prioritised, including public transport; 2) electric cars will also have to pay for road use; 3) new ICE vehicles risk becoming stranded assets; and 4) Ireland needs to transition to fewer, better-utilised, smaller, less wasteful cars in order to reduce life-cycle impacts and cars’ dominance over space.

A key next step is to establish the goal of markedly reducing car travel (as discussed in section 4.1) and to develop a roadmap for it. Delay will only make this necessary step more costly and difficult later on.

Subsidies for private electric cars are an expensive and regressive way to reduce GHG emissions and have also shown low economic return, even at high carbon prices (Caulfield, Carroll and Ahern, 2020[14]). Ireland supports each private battery-electric car with up to 11 300 euros in direct subsidies and tax reductions, excluding future lost tax revenues from fuel excise duties and value added tax (Parliamentary Budget Office Ireland, 2022[83]). The total Exchequer support for EVs has risen rapidly in line with the rising EV market share (Parliamentary Budget Office Ireland, 2022[83]). Over 35 million euros in grants were awarded in Ireland up until 2019 (Caulfield, Carroll and Ahern, 2020[14]).From 2019 to 2030, EV subsidies and tax rebates in Ireland are estimated to cost the public the equivalent of 254 to 681 euros per saved tonne of carbon (Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Ireland, 2019[84]). As calculated by Caulfield, Carroll and Ahern (2020[14]), if both the incentives and tax loss are included, then the cost per tonne abated in 2019 was 1 241 euros. In contrast, Ireland’s carbon tax valued a tonne of carbon at 26 to 100 euros during the same period (Department of Transport, 2021[85]). Public funds clearly need to be reallocated to more transformative, equitable; and financially sustainable actions.

Prioritising funding for private vehicles, even electric ones, is not in line with the principles outlined at the beginning of this section: other modes need to be prioritised if electrification is to support and be in line with transformational change. Aligning climate and wider well-being goals should be a priority. Using funds to promote active, shared and micro-mobility modes could be more effective in driving emission reductions and avoid the negative distributional impacts of the current EV subsidies (discussed in Chapter 3).

Ireland already has income tax breaks for employer-funded e-bikes (Irish Tax and Customs, 2022[86]), which is helpful but limited to willing employers. Support for both e-bikes and regular bikes could be expanded. Scotland, for example, funds manual bicycles for children who cannot afford them (Transport Scotland, 2022[17]). In Switzerland, e-bike trial programmes for car owners have proven effective in changing travel habits (Moser, Blumer and Hille, 2018[87]). Some of the funding currently directed to private electric cars could be transferred to local authorities to promote shared e-mobility and equitable access solutions via parking and vehicle access policies, charging solutions, and mobility hubs (Transport & Environment, 2020[88]). Scaling up micro-mobility efforts could also be integrated with efforts to improve access to manual bicycles and convenient bicycle parking. Only one third of Irish households own a functioning bicycle (NTA, 2018[89]).

The principle of first electrifying frequently used vehicles also needs to be applied. To encourage the electrification of these vehicles, Ireland already offers taxi operators EV purchase grants of 10 000 to 25 000 euros per vehicle (Parliamentary Budget Office Ireland, 2022[83]). Government procurement is directed to favour vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions (Society of the Irish Motor Industry, 2022[16]). However, the workshops revealed that incentives for private bus operators to invest in low-emission vehicles13 might be inadequate, and that the risk of stranded ICE vehicle assets in the public transport fleet appears to be insufficiently explored, understood and addressed. ICE vehicles should not be left stranded, nor should the problem be exported to other countries. Interviews also revealed that operators have limited incentives to adopt the right-sized buses and on-demand vans. As noted in section 3.4, a number of other services that use vehicles intensively (e.g. micro-transit, community car schemes) can have important social and environmental benefits, and diverting funds to providers of these services should also be a priority.

Ireland needs to revisit its benefit-in-kind policy. Generous company car tax systems have driven car ownership and car commuting in Europe and contributed to cars’ dominance over scarce urban space (Transport & Environment, 2019[90]), for all engine types. To align with climate and well-being goals, company car tax benefits for employees and executives with few business-travel needs that require a car should be phased out. Ireland’s benefit-in-kind policy is already moving in this direction, applying higher taxes where company cars are used for fewer business miles. However, this crude approach simply incentivises higher business mileage. This became apparent in 2020, when benefit-in-kind regulations had to be temporarily altered to avoid penalising employees for not driving enough during pandemic restrictions (Irish Tax and Customs, 2022[91]). Future policies should also take into account how much an employee chooses to drive for private purposes.

Benefit-in-kind tax exemptions for battery-electric company cars are in place until 2025, including tax-free electricity at employment sites (Parliamentary Budget Office Ireland, 2022[83]). From 2023, benefit-in-kind taxes will be differentiated by the vehicles’ CO2 emission class (Parliamentary Budget Office Ireland, 2022[83]). Where a vehicle has to be purchased, low-emission technology should, of course, be favoured. However, government company-car policy risks contributing to higher car ownership and use. At present, the tax exemptions for battery-electric cars do not consider the vehicle’s size, which risks incentivising unnecessarily large vehicles (Lévay, Drossinos and Thiel, 2017[92]). The target should be fewer cars in company fleets and in the national fleet, and remaining company vehicles need to be right-sized and battery-electric wherever possible.

To promote sustainable travel choices, employers and employees should be jointly accountable for their commuting and business travel choices. Ireland already has income tax exemptions for employer-provided public transport passes and e-bikes (Department of Transport, 2022[11]; Irish Tax and Customs, 2022[91]). A next step could be requiring employers to pay half of employees’ public transport passes, as is done in France. These passes could be expanded into credits for various shared mobility services. Employers could also affect employees’ travel choices by providing convenient parking and changing rooms for cyclists and enabling remote work. They could reserve parking spaces for employees who share rides (Marsden et al., 2019[19]). Climate accounting standards could also be explored: by shifting from the Scope 2 to Scope 3 accounting standard, employers would become accountable for emissions from employees’ commutes (Marsden et al., 2019[19]). In the longer term, car taxation policy should be part of a wider effort to shift tax burdens from labour to polluting consumption (Transport & Environment, 2019[90]).

As stated throughout this report, Ireland needs to clearly establish a goal to markedly reduce car travel. The low operation costs of EVs risk establishing higher car dependency and urban sprawl as the new “normal” in Ireland, as described in Chapter 3.

In the transformation of its transport system, Ireland needs to assess the different cost structures of private car ownership versus shared services and public transport. Once a consumer or business has made the investment in a private car, especially an electric one, its low variable cost and convenience in the current system make it difficult for shared services and public transport to compete on a per-trip basis (Mattioli et al., 2020[76]). A combination of measures can help address this gap and make shared vehicles the most convenient default option; they include road pricing; season passes for shared services and public transport (Simma and Axhausen, 2001[93]); and the management of parking, charging, access (in part through road space reallocation), interchanges, booking, market design and pricing. As other modes become more available, private car ownership and use need to become practically and financially less attractive (Gössling et al., 2019[94]).

Congestion charges are an excellent step towards reducing cars’ dominance over city space, as experiences in London and Stockholm have shown (ITF, 2010[95]). Besides careful design, both framing and communication are key to such schemes’ success (ITF, 2010[95]). In London and Stockholm, authorities characterised the charges as part of a wider plan (in each case, to reduce air pollution) (ITF, 2017[96]). Complementary public transport improvements were implemented before the charges took effect, helping to gain acceptance of the innovation (ITF, 2017[96]). The prospect of congestion charges may arouse fears of increased traffic around the zone boundaries (Börjesson et al., 2012[97]). However, there is no evidence of traffic increase due to re-routing in the well-designed London and Stockholm schemes (Broaddus, Browne and Allen, 2015[98]; Börjesson et al., 2012[97]).

Ireland needs to primarily reduce cars’ access to streets and parking in cities, regardless of engine type (KTH et al., 2022[99]; Transport & Environment, 2020[88]). The introduction of road pricing is under discussion and discussing this measure is a priority of the working groups established via the Regional Assemblies to look into demand management. The purpose of congestion charges needs to be the reduction of car traffic and its disadvantages, in synergy with road space reallocation, not merely to reduce congestion. One of the stated aims of the London congestion charge was to reallocate road space to public transport (Leape, 2006[100]). Stockholm and London combine their congestion charge and low-emission zone schemes with prioritising space for social interaction, active travel and public transport (City of Stockholm, 2022[101]; TfL, 2022[102]). London’s aim is for 80% of all trips to be by active travel or public transport by 2041 (TfL, 2022[102]). As noted, an additional measure that Ireland could introduce to promote shared services and the efficient use of scarce urban space would be to differentiate congestion charges by vehicle occupancy (Crozet and Mercier, 2018[103]; OECD, 2021[4]). ICE cars and vans will be banned from Irish cities from 2030 (Parliamentary Budget Office Ireland, 2021[104]). Urban access policies that differentiate by vehicle emission type can indeed drive vehicle purchase choices well beyond the city’s boundaries, as Stockholm’s experience suggests (Börjesson et al., 2021[105]; Börjesson et al., 2012[97]). However, allowing EVs unrestricted access to Ireland’s cities would reinforce the cars’ dominance over city space and send the message that battery-electric cars are unproblematic.

All urban areas in Ireland need to align vehicle access restrictions, road space reallocation, parking supply, parking regulations and pricing consistently with modal shift objectives, mobility hubs and electric charging to support the targets outlined earlier. One goal should be to reduce and eventually eliminate the practice of parking cars and other large vehicles on streets for longer periods (KTH et al., 2022[99]). Transport & Environment (2020[88]) suggests placing mobility hubs, with shared electric cars (and other modes) and car charging points, in outer urban areas to help reduce cars’ dominance over central cities while still enabling access to shared cars where needed. Interviews suggest that Ireland lacks a holistic, proactive approach to developing car-sharing and shared micro-mobility services beyond their technical aspects (see discussions in Section 4.4).

In low-density areas, Ireland needs to improve proximity and walkability for everyday needs, expand access to attractive shared mobility solutions, including public transport, and disincentivise private car use and further sprawl. Parking pricing and parking regulation are among the tools to reduce the privileges of private car use. For example, parking regulations can help make travelling by shared services (or Park & Ride) to the nearest larger town more attractive. Road pricing is a key policy for disincentivising car use, including in low-density areas. However, these transitions must be managed in parallel. As noted in chapter 3, simply raising the price of car use would worsen the deprivation of some car-dependent households. Simply improving active and shared mobility services without adequately pricing private use however, risks maintaining high levels of private car use (ITF, 2021[106]).

In the longer term, a nationwide road charging system would help achieve Ireland’s goals by varying the cost of driving by specific trip and vehicle attributes. Road charging would also apply to EVs and would help reduce the rebound effect (Dimitropoulos, Oueslati and Sintek, 2018[107]; Axsen, Plötz and Wolinetz, 2020[108]). In designing the scheme, EU regulations and initiatives should be consulted (European Commission, 2022[109]). Road charging can catalyse the adoption of shared services (ITF, 2018[110]). To improve public acceptance and equity when introducing national road charges, they could be determined in part by the availability of alternative means of access (Phillips et al., 2020[111]). However, this would have to be combined with improving local access to avoid incentivising urban sprawl. Tax revenue projections also illustrate the need for transport taxation reform: it is estimated that a fully electrified vehicle fleet would reduce total Exchequer revenues by 8% due to the loss of taxes on fuels (Parliamentary Budget Office Ireland, 2021[104]). Ireland is working on evaluating road charging. The CAP includes, as an explicit action, exploring the potential of road charging via conducting the Better Road User Charging Evaluation (led by TII). As part of the SMP, by 2023, the government plans to have a draft implementation plan (Department of Transport, 2022[11]).

Ireland needs to continue regulating the purchase and ownership of motor vehicles to guide the national vehicle fleet’s size, composition and life-cycle impacts. Vehicle registration taxes are already steeply differentiated by CO2 emission class (Parliamentary Budget Office Ireland, 2021[104]), which is an effective tool (Transport & Environment, 2019[90]). There is no plan to reduce the number of cars in the national fleet, and vehicles’ consumption of space and raw materials is not considered in current vehicle policy. Norway, by contrast, treats vehicle weight as one component in vehicle registration taxes (Norwegian EV Association, 2022[112]), which is a helpful first step to disincentivise unnecessary weight and size. However, addressing vehicles’ life-cycle impacts requires systemic change, including a reduction in the number and size of cars in the national fleet and more efficient use of the remaining vehicles.

Motor vehicles and batteries should also be included in the circular economy strategy and targets. The European Circular Cars Initiative (Systemiq, 2021[113]) outlines high-level principles; these will become even more important as Ireland’s vehicle fleet comes to contain more battery-electric vehicles, in which a larger share of life-cycle emissions is produced by the vehicle and battery. The transport sector needs to decarbonise globally, given limited battery material supply and the environmental and social risks linked to battery material extraction (IEA, 2021[114]). An international trend towards larger and heavier cars is undermining these efforts (IEA, 2019[115]), including in Ireland, as the rapid adoption of SUVs shows.

Ireland currently lacks policies that take into account the size of vehicles and the raw materials consumed in manufacturing new cars and their batteries. Promoting the uptake of shared mobility services over private car ownership could also help reduce the life-cycle impact and space consumption of motor vehicles (Systemiq, 2021[113]). Insufficient systemic integration can limit the attention paid by policy makers and the public to the social and ecological impacts of a large car fleet (even if electric). Ireland already has good examples of “joined-up” thinking, which could be scaled up or emulated. For example, Dublin City Council has developed a Climate Readiness Toolkit to help local planners consider the wider social and environmental impacts of projects. The Department of Health Strategy repeatedly highlights the wider context in which the health sector is embedded.

EVs need to be presented realistically to the public, who should be informed about their life-cycle emissions and wider impacts. Currently, Ireland uses the term “Zero Emission Vehicle” (ZEV) in policy documents to refer to motor vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions. An Office for Zero Emission Vehicles is also projected (Parliamentary Budget Office Ireland, 2021[104]). This choice of language can be problematic in communication efforts: using the term ZEV implies that only tailpipe emissions matter, since only those are included in transport sector GHG emission accounting. It distracts from the global GHG emission and material extraction impacts of vehicle and battery production, power supply and infrastructure supply, and also glosses over the fact that battery-electric cars contribute to urban air pollution with fine particles via abrasion.

The mandate and focus of the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles should not be restricted to communicating about private EVs; rather, it should contribute to steering conversations towards making electrification part of a wider transition towards a different type of transport system. As such, information about and links to micro-mobility, shared on-demand micro-transit and shared car initiatives should be central to its activities.

Ireland’s charging infrastructure needs to support efforts to promote shared transport services and electrify the public transport fleet. Workshop participants suggested that charging infrastructure for buses could be better coordinated among different operators, helping to promote EV uptake by private bus operators. How the EV charging infrastructure is developed will also influence management of energy demand loads (Ramirez-Mendiola et al., 2022[116]), which will become increasingly important as EV adoption grows after 2030 (IEA, 2022[117]).

Reducing total energy demand, including through reductions in car use, can increase the feasibility of achieving high shares of renewable energy supply as well as substantially lower the cost of achieving the climate targets. One of these cost savings would be a reduced need for energy grid upgrades (Gaur et al., 2022[118]). Transport energy demand can be reduced by promoting higher occupancy of (electric) vehicles, as well as proximity and shifts to more sustainable modes (Department of Transport Ireland, 2022[119]). Vehicle-to-grid charging can help to flatten energy demand peaks (Department of Transport Ireland, 2022[119]). Commercial car-sharing businesses are particularly suitable for early vehicle-to-grid technology uptake since they manage whole fleets of cars (Gschwendtner, 2021[120]).

In line with the overall EV strategy, the charging and parking infrastructure for EVs of all sizes needs to support reducing the dominance of cars over public space, promote active travel and micro-mobility, promote public transport for longer trips, and ensure that cars, where needed, are predominantly shared and electric.

In central urban areas, charging infrastructure and parking policy needs to support reducing and eventually eliminating the practice of parking cars and other large vehicles on streets for longer periods, as noted above (KTH et al., 2022[99]). Urban planners need to prioritise social interaction and pedestrians, followed by micro-mobility, with mobility hubs and dedicated charging solutions (KTH et al., 2022[99]), and integrate mobility hubs with public transport nodes. Seating and weather protection could help create pleasant locations to meet, charge small vehicles or wait for the bus (KTH et al., 2022[99]). Planning of central urban areas needs to support flexible street use throughout the day to help accommodate the many demands on scarce urban space; mobility hub designs and charging infrastructure also need to be flexible to adapt to possible changes in technology and business models (KTH et al., 2022[99]). Parking and charging for cars therefore needs to shift towards outer, less dense urban areas rather than dominating space in central locations (Transport & Environment, 2020[88]). This includes mobility hubs that offer shared electric car rental and charging solutions for various types of electric car – for example, slow chargers for Park & Ride and fast chargers for taxis and delivery vans (Transport & Environment, 2020[88]). Mobility hubs in central urban areas, where space is most scarce, need to offer micro-mobility (rather than shared cars) and facilitate integration with public transport nodes.

Ireland already plans to support local authorities to develop local area network plans for EV infrastructure (Department of Transport Ireland, 2022[119]). These plans ought to prioritise micro-mobility and its integration with public transport nodes and shared cars over private cars, for example through charging stations at mobility hubs and other points of passenger interchange. To reinforce the move away from car dependency, local area network plans should outline how they support and prioritise the uptake of shared vehicles. While the details and scale of support for local area network plans are still unclear, Ireland has already recognised the role of local authorities in determining the location and number of public charging points, and the need to support them with centralised experts who can assist with planning (Department of Transport Ireland, 2022[119]). If established, MTAs (see section 4.8) could also play an important role.

To ensure that car-sharing fleets are fully battery-electric, local authorities can favour EVs in parking policy in locations where car parking is adequate, while maintaining the principle of phasing out car parking in dense central areas. Madrid favours EVs in its parking pricing, and Amsterdam requires shared-car fleets to be electric; car-sharing fleets are fully electric in both cities (Sprei et al., 2019[121]). In smaller urban areas (100 000 inhabitants or fewer), station-based car-sharing is more appropriate than the free-floating models deployed in larger cities like Amsterdam (ICCT, 2021[122]). Ireland’s recently released EV Charging Infrastructure Strategy already plans to support the charging needs of the car-sharing sector in collaboration with local authorities. However, this strategy only operates at a pilot level (Department of Transport Ireland, 2022[119]); Ireland needs to scale up its plans for shared electric cars to serve access needs where car use is the only option.

A disproportionate focus on home charging risks reinforcing private car ownership and sparse settlement patterns, as described in Chapter 3. The EV Charging Infrastructure Strategy assumes that home charging will remain the main solution for the majority of EV users, noting that three-quarters of current car owners have private off-street parking (Department of Transport Ireland, 2022[119]). The strategy needs to instead prioritise public EV charging to reverse car dependency and support the adoption of shared mobility services. Public charging stations in urban locations and passenger interchange points need to be integrated with mobility hubs, as already noted. Future regulation of car charging in curtilage should not undermine compact development goals and the adoption of shared transport solutions (see Chapter 3); one necessary measure is the shift from minimum to maximum parking requirements.

The public charging infrastructure for longer trips still has gaps, particularly in rural areas outside major national road corridors. To help secure a complete network even in rural areas, the network planning approach should not rely purely on market forces (Society of the Irish Motor Industry, 2022[16]). Planning for the location of public charging stations needs to ensure that even remote areas, where stations are less commercially viable, are sufficiently served.

Electrification is a technical revolution in passenger travel that is widely accepted in Ireland. A window of opportunity now exists to ensure that it supports another, more transformative, revolution: the adoption of active, shared and on-demand travel. Policies should be developed to support the interaction of these revolutions to support climate, equity and well-being goals (Fulton et al., 2017[123]). Successful large-scale adoption of shared and on-demand travel will have major impacts on the transport system and on community well-being, going beyond large GHG emission reduction (Fulton et al., 2017[123]). Ireland can choose to deploy its EV charging infrastructure to reinforce the current system, by prioritising private car use, or to enable change towards a less car-dependent future.

Systemic analysis of car dependency inevitably brings up the need to reverse sprawl. Complete mapping and analysis of sprawl and the residential sector is beyond the scope of this report14. However, a number of the dynamics driving this complex phenomenon were studied in preparing it.

As noted above, due to a number of causal relations and factors, today brownfield development is less attractive and less profitable than greenfield development. Rather than looking for solutions that merely address the symptoms, for example requiring a certain proportion of development to be built on brownfield sites (via infill/brownfield targets), ways need to be found to increase the attractiveness and profitability of brownfield development projects. This section assesses some policy recommendations for achieving this goal. As noted in Chapter 3, more stringent brownfield targets are not necessarily bad, but they would be more feasible (and could be more stringent) if combined with actions that address core issues and could send an important message to this sector about the direction of change.

As part of Project Ireland 2040, the Irish government has taken a number of actions to speed and scale up redevelopment projects nationwide. Among the most important is the creation of the National Regeneration and Development Agency (also referred to as the Land Development Agency), part of whose planned mandate is to coordinate and secure the best use of public land (Government of Ireland, 2018[124]). This mandate gives this institution a vantage point from which to weigh profitability concerns and policy objectives. The agency will have compulsory purchase powers, which should “ensure that the necessary transformation of the places most in need of regeneration can take place more swiftly and effectively” than before (Government of Ireland, 2018[124]). At the same time, a 3-billion-euro fund (the Regeneration and Development fund) has been made available for urban and rural regeneration projects.

While these are valuable institutions and projects with great potential, Ireland will need to ensure that efforts are focused on sites that can strike a good balance between bringing in private investment and creating social value. Unlocking this potential largely depends on creating government capacity to better prioritise funding and to guide and set standards for redevelopment that will promote transport, land-use and environmental goals. For decades, development in Ireland has been managed privately with little intervention or planning from public bodies. As discussed in Chapter 2, assuming that government has little influence over development is part of the mental model that has driven sprawl and car dependency. This can change, but strengthening the government’s role in the process is key (as noted by various workshop participants and the specific group focused on this recommendation during the April 2022 workshops).

A number of interviewees commented that getting developers interested in developing brownfield sites is challenging. In many cases (e.g. Sligo County), brownfield sites have been developed by private developers with the understanding that the local government will purchase them for affordable housing (if the local authority does not develop them directly for this same purpose). Developing high-quality and centrally located social housing is, of course, crucial. However, reversing urban sprawl and associated car dependency calls for making brownfield sites attractive for a mix of housing types suitable for a range of population groups. Moreover, if brownfield development projects are mostly developed for social housing, this may reinforce assumptions about the superiority and desirability of detached housing.

Authorities need to understand how to prioritise brownfield development efforts. Workshop participants emphasised the need to distinguish clearly between infill and brownfield. Policy documents about urban development use “brownfield sites” and “infill sites” interchangeably (Government of Ireland, 2018[124]; Government of Ireland, 2021[125]; Government of Ireland, 2022[126]). However, (re)developing these two types of sites poses different challenges and produces different benefits, and they should be understood and treated differently. Loures and Vaz (2018[127]) point out that “brownfield” has been used to mean many different things, unduly complicating redevelopment. “Infill development” can refer to redevelopment of previously developed areas (including brownfield development), but it means more broadly “construction on any under- or undeveloped land within an urbanized area” (Mcconnell and Wiley, 2010[128]). Using the two terms interchangeably can lead to developing inappropriate or undesirable sites and even undermine the goal of making inner cities and towns’ attractive places. For example, if a prospective infill site is also a green space, it could be advantageous to leave it untouched. The presence of green spaces makes newly developed residential areas more marketable (De Sousa, 2011[129]), and areas for recreation make developments more attractive. If green spaces in cities or denser areas around cities (e.g. urban satellite towns) become commonplace, people can stop assuming that nature is only accessible outside the city, and families can be attracted to city centres. Green spaces that are located close to people also reduce transport needs, since there is less need to travel long distances to enjoy natural amenities.

Irish authorities could map brownfield sites by profitability to get a clearer picture of where (and how much) funding would be needed to make such sites profitable for private developers (McCarthy, 2002[130]). This could help to plan investment and allocation of the newly created funds. Redeveloping different types of brownfield site requires different levels of government involvement (funding, coordination, guidance, etc.). For example, large sites allow for economies of scale (Squires and Hutchison, 2021[131]), and different levels of contamination have implications for reclamation costs (Page and Rabinowitz, 1994[132]). Whether the site was previously residential or industrial might also affect the potential for reuse of its infrastructure (Loures and Vaz, 2018[127]).

Endorsed by the EU (European Commission, 2016[133]), the Concerted Action of Brownfield and Economic Regeneration Network (CABERNET) has developed a categorisation framework (the A, B, C model) for brownfield sites that can be used as a reference. Developing profitability-based site maps can help distribute funding only where it is needed. However, such mapping should not lead to assigning funding and other interventions to sites that need the smallest amount of public money; instead, it should provide clear information relevant to government requirements for different sites, so that this information, in conjunction with the potential to create social value, can drive decisions. The A, B, C model rightly specifies that its classifications should incorporate future as well as immediate costs (Dolezelova, 2014[134]). For instance, the cost to the government of installing the services (including transport) necessary to make a redevelopment site liveable and attractive can be substantial. This is often ignored but must be taken into account when classifying sites (see more on this below in discussion of the Opportunity Area framework in London).

Profitability is only one of the considerations for redevelopment. Every redevelopment project, however funded, needs to advance compact growth goals and make places attractive, including through urban greening, to support climate and well-being goals (IPCC, 2022[135]). Projects also need to ensure their type of housing meets the needs of future residents.

To ensure that large developments are located and designed to support compact growth, sustainable accessibility and other sustainability goals, London’s city plan has designated Opportunity Areas, meaning locations with significant capacity for new homes, jobs and infrastructure (Mayor of London, 2022[136]). An Opportunity Area Framework is created jointly with local boroughs and communities for each location. The framework specifies the location-appropriate intensity and type of development, taking public sphere, transport, environment, social and funding aspects into account. It describes existing public transport access with different modes and specifies how public transport and active travel infrastructure need to be adapted to match the potential of the location (Mayor of London, 2022[136]). Indicators such as Public Transport Accessibility Levels (PTAL) are used to inform transport planning appropriate for the location and its development potential (ITF, 2016[137]). If Opportunity Area-like Frameworks were introduced in Ireland, they could assist authorities in estimating the overall potential of redevelopment, such as the number of new houses that could be built. Where the available redevelopment sites are insufficient and greenfield development cannot be avoided, they still need to ensure this follows compact development and sustainable accessibility principles (see discussion below).

To ensure that sufficient green space is included in new developments, Ireland could also follow the example of Malmö, which applies Green Space Factors as a regulatory tool (City of Malmö, 2022[138]). Green Space Factors are a point system that lets developers choose among different green space solutions while setting a minimum standard for green space quality and quantity (Vartholomaios et al., 2013[139]). Requirements can be met by greening courtyards, roofs and vertical facades, for example. Green spaces help provide wildlife habitat, manage storm water, regulate heat and improve liveability for residents (Vartholomaios et al., 2013[139]).

Irish regulations should also support the development of a mix of attractive housing solutions in brownfield areas, catering to people with various needs. Several workshop participants brought up the need for a greater variety of housing. Besides allowing sufficient flexibility in building codes, incentives should support innovation in housing solutions that suit various target groups while still ensuring compact development with high environmental standards. For example, the Housing Committee of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland has pointed out that some terraced houses can achieve medium densities but do not always comply with Dublin City Council Open Space standards (DCC Housing Commitee, 2020[140]). The Committee also points out that walk-up apartments are an affordable solution that is not encouraged by Irish and Dublin City Council building codes.

A better understanding and categorisation of brownfield sites would provide an estimate of how much population growth they could absorb, and thus how much of the population would still require housing in new greenfield development.

The specifics of greenfield development are not explicitly discussed in Irish reports and policy documents. Meeting the goals of more compact development, greater proximity of people and places, and sustainable mobility requires making the best of the envisioned brownfield and infill projects. However, any greenfield projects should also help fulfil these goals, especially the avoidance of single-use development and detached housing and the implementation of proximity. In this way, transport demand, and ultimately the carbon footprint, can be lowered even when greenfield sites are developed.

Successful strategic greenfield development is superior to containment policies. In interviews conducted with Irish stakeholders, many brought up containment policies as a potential remedy for sprawl. Green belts, containment and zoning laws have sometimes proven effective in the past, but have serious negative externalities. By limiting the long-term supply of housing, containment policies contribute to the affordability crisis as housing becomes more and more scarce, as has been observed in countries like Norway and Sweden (Ehrlich, Hilber and Schöni, 2018[141]). Another danger is the “leapfrog development” found in cities like London, Cambridge and Oxford, where developers simply started to build outside the green belts designed to contain sprawl (Ehrlich, Hilber and Schöni, 2018[141]).

Strategic greenfield development can avoid both of these outcomes. OECD (2018[142]) argues for strategic planning for growth. Ireland will see continued population growth, and if the growing housing market cannot be served exclusively by brownfield redevelopment projects, then it is crucial to develop communities with high accessibility via low mobility demand, where proximity is central and sustainable modes of transport are planned in from the start – even on greenfield sites.

In order to increase feasibility and profitability for developers, Ireland could revisit the current taxation system. Project Ireland 2040 has explicit compact growth goals (Government of Ireland, 2018[124]). As part of this project, the Town Centre First report states (Government of Ireland, 2022[126]), the goal for people at all stages of life is to find a home in town and city centres. A way to discourage greenfield development or low-density housing construction is by adopting fiscal incentives to encourage brownfield development (Moreno Monroy et al., 2020[143]). Tax instruments can be leveraged to that end. Ireland plans to introduce a new tax to activate vacant urban land for residential purposes, along with actions to convert vacant commercial and residential properties into attractive housing (Government of Ireland, 2021[125]).

In addition, taxes levied on compact brownfield relative to low-density greenfield development could be reviewed. In 2020, the Housing Committee of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (DCC Housing Commitee, 2020[140]) proposed a revision to the VAT system to make housing in existing areas of towns, cities and suburbs (as opposed to greenfield areas) viable and affordable. It emphasised that current taxation makes greenfield development much more viable than development in towns and suburbs or redevelopment of the existing building stock, and that five times more tax is levied on medium-density than on low-density development, although this fails to reflect the difference in costs incurred by the government to service the different areas (DCC Housing Commitee, 2020[140]). The Committee proposes a 0% VAT rate on brownfield development, if the apartments are sold for affordable prices15, calculating that this would be equivalent to an affordability grant of 41 630 euros per apartment.

Ireland could also consider other instruments and taxes. For example, a “greenfield surcharge” is proposed by the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) in the UK, which would further incentivise brownfield redevelopment (EIC, 2021[144]); beyond that, destined for affordable housing. This forms part of the UK government’s “Levelling Up” programme, designed to spread opportunity more equally across society. The US too is leveraging tax incentives for redeveloping brownfield sites by introducing Opportunity Zones (OZs) similar to the UK’s Opportunity Areas. Unlike the UK, the US OZs are exclusively low-income and distressed communities in need of rejuvenation. Companies willing to invest in developing them can defer or reduce their capital gains tax burden (EPA, 2022[145]). The Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit is another taxation instrument in the US that uses tax credits to encourage private investment in clean-up and rehabilitation of historical properties in order to “discourage unnecessary demolition of sound older buildings and to slow the loss of businesses from older urban areas” (EPA, 2022[145]).

Land remediation relief is another instrument for incentivising brownfield redevelopment. Since 2009, the UK has had a scheme that applies to corporate expenditures for clean-up of contaminated brownfield sites (HM Revenue & Customs, 2016[146]), effectively eliminating large portions of the costs of clean-up incurred by companies choosing to redevelop derelict land. The policy “provides a deduction of 100% of remediation costs from taxable profits, plus an additional deduction of 50%, for qualifying expenditure incurred by companies in cleaning up land acquired from a third party in a contaminated state” (HM Revenue & Customs, 2016[146]).

To reverse sprawl, authorities in Ireland need to go beyond supporting and scaling up brownfield development. As discussed above, the Land Development Agency (LDA) as well as new funds (e.g. the Urban Regeneration Development Fund), especially if strengthened by other actions, will encourage the (re)development of more and better brownfield sites in the heart of towns and cities (as well as in existing suburbs). The danger is that there will be insufficient demand for the finished projects, which would in turn discourage developers from taking on other sites. Setting clear standards for the development of such sites (as discussed in the previous subsection) can help increase their attractiveness and avoid this outcome.

The strategy for supporting housing and the rules for some of the programmes included in the Housing for All and Town Centres First initiatives should also be revisited. Firstly, eligibility and other rules for specific programmes should be reviewed to ensure that funds are truly aligned with the attainment of compact growth goals. Secondly, as noted by workshop participants, ownership currently receives preferential treatment; a better balance between ownership and rental support could create opportunities for better aligning housing affordability with compact growth goals.

Programmes like the national “first home scheme”, which is intended to support first-time buyers (Government of Ireland, 2021[125]), could be tailored more carefully. For instance, eligibility or preference could be granted to people who choose to move to redeveloped areas. Otherwise, the programme could very well become a source of continued sprawl, encouraging people to opt for detached housing and incentivising continued greenfield development on the urban margins.

The age and profile of programme beneficiaries should also be reviewed. Young people may be locked into sprawl at an age when ownership is less important to them and rental support programmes could provide affordable and well-located housing. If a young individual or couple is eligible for the “first home scheme”, it may seem rational for them to buy outside of the city/town, where housing is generally cheaper, instead of renting in the inner city or town, even with rental support. During the workshops, the group focusing on brownfield development agreed that rental support schemes could be particularly appropriate for students, since a positive experience with urban living in early life will increase people’s appreciation of what a city can offer. Once they come to value dense modes of living, the chances are higher that they will stay in the city even when they need a larger home and have started a family.

Another target group could be Ireland’s expanding older population. Workshop discussions focused on Sligo emphasised older people’s need for access to health services and social connection. Participants described a need for housing in more central areas for older people, which would give them the option to downsize and live in more accessible locations, such as the nearest village centre or town, while not moving far from their community. This aligns with research findings by the Irish Housing Agency (Lyons and Sirr, 2016[147]).

Rentals should be leveraged for a more dynamic and flexible housing market (OECD, 2020[148]). Increasing immigration, starting families later, longer periods in education and other changes in Irish society are driving demand for rental housing (Government of Ireland, 2021[125]). The planned Cost Rental scheme, and the construction of student accommodation as outlined in the Housing for All (2021[125]) report, is a step in that direction. More student accommodation will free some capacity elsewhere in the market and has the potential to “showcase” the advantages of central, mixed-use living to younger generations (as noted above).

However, such supply-side policies are insufficient on their own. In France, income-dependent housing allowances are available to households, including students, enabling people to choose accommodation that suits their needs, whether rented or purchased, without linking the support to a particular property or tenancy model (Peppercorn and Taffin, 2013[149]). Such demand-side policies improve residential mobility and equity, and combining them with targeted supply-side policies (e.g. Ireland’s Cost Rental scheme) can improve access to affordable rental housing in well-to-do, attractive urban areas (OECD, 2020[148]).

Moving away from a home-owner mindset supports compact growth. Ownership is encouraged as the best choice for everyone – at least implicitly, through various policy instruments (Government of Ireland, 2021[125]) – and owners are more likely to stay in their homes than renters are. The high-level Irish policy goal of increasing compact development is easier to implement when it is easier for people to move into newly built/ or redeveloped housing in more central areas– that is, when more of them are renters. The workshop group stressed that the quality standards for apartments need to be raised if this policy is to be successful. Moreover, not only the quality of the apartments themselves has to be considered, but also their surroundings. Green spaces and areas for recreation are important for marketability and community concerns, and ultimately for the economic viability of brownfield redevelopment. Evidence from three sites in the United States where green spaces were a central feature makes it clear that “the projects … contribute in many ways to personal and community quality of life, particularly in terms of enhancing scenic beauty and neighbourhood appeal … and raising property values” (De Sousa, 2011[129]). Having the chance to live in urban or better connected environments with less traffic and easy access to a natural environment without leaving the city or town can help change the assumption that these can only be found in faraway and remote rural areas.

What people find acceptable or unthinkable greatly depends on which narratives (sets of stories) dominate. Cognitive scientists Lakoff and Johnson write that “Our concepts structure what we perceive, how we get around in the world, and how we relate to other people, [and] thus [play] a central role in our everyday realities”. They also argue that “the people who get to impose their metaphors [and narratives] on the culture get to define what we consider to be true” (Lakoff and Johnson, 2008[150]).

“Car culture” is an example of the power of dominant narratives and metaphors to shape reality. Car culture in Ireland was perceived by stakeholders as a key barrier to the types of policy recommended in this report. However, this “culture” is not inevitable but rather the result of decades of communication efforts linking the car to notions such as freedom and status.

Envisioning and creating a different story, one of “car independence”, is possible (see Box 4.10) and necessary if Ireland is to build political support for the transformative policies proposed in this report. Copenhagen is an interesting case. After the Second World War, its urban planning was inspired by American traffic engineering centred on cars and motorways. The 1973 oil crisis16 was a turning-point for the city: car-free Sundays and petrol shortages helped build momentum for a civic movement that led to freezing motorway development. The city administration shifted focus to making public spaces people-friendly, pedestrianising a network of streets and encouraging cycling instead of car use. Citizens appreciated the shift, which started a virtuous cycle of political and public support for further interventions that continues to this day (Matan and Newman, 2016[151]) (see Chapter 3 for an illustration of this cycle). Successful communication campaigns framed the Copenhagener as an aspirational identity, for whom cycling promotes health and speed as well as good use of taxpayer resources (Gössling, 2020[152]).

The Netherlands provide another example of transitioning from car-centric to car-independent narratives. In the 1970s, cars were widely associated to notions such as progress, freedom and comfort (Norton, 2011[153]), and the Netherlands, Europe and other areas of the world stemmed a dramatic decrease in cycling rates (Bruno, Dekker and Lemos, 2021[154]). Bruno, Dekker and Lemos (2021[154]) find that the high cycling rates observed in the Netherlands today (23% of trips on average) are partly the result of citizens’ mobilisation opposing the increasingly severe impacts of fast motorization, seeing streets as having other functions that roads for high speed vehicles, and collaborating with the government to advance changes. The collaboration advanced three innovations: i) the Woonerf, or “living street”, in which pedestrians and cyclists have priority over cars; ii) car-restricted city centres; and iii) the "bottleneck-memoranda, a tool for communities to report obstacles to cycling (Bruno, Dekker and Lemos, 2021[154]). In Germany, a country with a strong “car culture” (Staples, 2019[155]), people are mobilising to challenge the car-centric narrative. In August 2022, for example, 8,500 cyclists hindered motorized vehicle access over a 40 km section of Germany’s autobahn in demand for better public transportation and bike lanes (BBC News, 2022[156]).

As explained in Chapter 3, the scaling up of communication efforts has high transformative potential and is needed to build political support for the policies outlined in this report. Two recommendations are proposed for Ireland:

  1. 1. Develop a whole-government communication strategy to reverse car culture and demonstrate the well-being benefits of car-independent transport systems.

  2. 2. Regulate advertising that reinforces a car-centric mindset (Gössling, 2020[152]; Moran, 2021[157]).

As part of its Climate Action Plan Ireland has launched numerous communication committees and initiatives, including the Climate Communications Coordination Committee (CCCC)17, the National Dialogue on Climate Action (NDCA) and the Office of Zero Emission Vehicles Ireland (ZEVI). Communication efforts are also reflected in the new Sustainable Mobility Policy.

Subordinate to the Department of the Taoiseach and with representatives across the government at the national level, the CCCC is in charge of the “implementation of all-of-Government strategic communications activities and campaigns, general and specific attitudinal and behaviour research as well as public and stakeholder engagement”. Members include heads of communication and principal officers from all relevant departments (Department of Transport, 2022[81]). The CCCC will advise departments and agencies on overarching messaging content and support them in their climate communication initiatives (Department of the Taoiseach, 2022[162]).

The NDCA is the vehicle for engaging, enabling and empowering stakeholders and the public with respect to climate action (DECC, 2022[163]). Led by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC), and with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acting as the programme secretariat, the NDCA aims to “empower everyone in society to help deliver on [the] goal of reducing Ireland’s carbon emissions and to actively participate in the transition towards a climate neutral economy by 2050”. The NDCA’s three pillars are: 1) improving climate literacy and awareness, for example via education modules at school and in adult education; 2) fostering active engagement in climate action, for example through public consultations such as the Climate Conversation 2022 and sustainable behaviour by the public; and 3) conducting behavioural research and collecting insights from engagement activities to inform climate policies (DECC, 2022[163]). In 2022, the NDCA established the National Climate Stakeholder Forum (NCSF), a consultative forum on climate issues and a vehicle to discuss the review of the annual Climate Action Plan. One-day deliberative workshops are organised three times per year (in 2022, the NCSF met in March, July, and will meet again in November), bringing policy makers and key stakeholders together to discuss potential ways forward for the transition to carbon neutrality. Sustainable mobility was discussed in breakout sessions in both the March and July meetings held in 2022. The third meeting, to be held in November, aims to foster discussions between the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, and the Committee on Environment and Climate Action (Department of the Environment, 2022[164]).

Established in July 2022 as a separate initiative, ZEVI supports “consumers, the public sector and businesses to continue to make the switch to zero emission vehicles” (Office of Zero Emission Vehicles, 2022[165]). As observed in Chapter 3, messages from this initiative may reinforce car-centric mindsets. The initiative name may also be misleading, as EVs are not zero-emission vehicles from a life-cycle perspective.

The 2022 Sustainable Mobility Policy (SMP) (Department of Transport, 2022[11]) includes an explicit goal (goal 8) to improve engagement with citizens. Communication-related actions within this goal include, for example, developing and implementing a public engagement and awareness strategy to highlight the benefits of sustainable mobility and organising a yearly National Sustainable Mobility Forum to engage with stakeholders and discuss the SMP progress.

This report recommends that Ireland should develop a whole-government communication strategy in support of the transport system’s transformation away from car dependence. The communication strategy should be implemented in coordination with the CCCC, NDCA and ZEVI. Coordination with ZEVI is of particular importance to avoid contradictory messages.

Based on interviews with officials, the Department of Transport recognises itself as the leading entity to develop and implement a whole-of-the-government communication strategy. To ensure the strategy success, however, additional resources and staff with communication skills would be needed. The communication strategy can build on insights generated by the Sustainable Mobility Policy (SMP) Leadership Group and on actions already planned under the SMP. For example, action 68 in the SMP, aiming to “develop and implement a public engagement strategy to promote the benefits of sustainable mobility and raise public awareness of options”, could be expanded to also communicate the negative consequences of car-dependent systems, and the need for transformative change to allow sustainable modes to become the most attractive options.

The design and implementation of the strategy should engage local and regional actors and not be limited to the national level. Engaging these actors is fundamental if they are to feel part of and own the process, as well as and tailor strategies to their context and audiences.

This communication strategy could be an opportunity to introduce both internal and external change. Internally, it would:

  • Increase the coherence of government communication about climate action in the transport sector and avoid potentially contradictory messages. Current communication efforts are scattered, with some (e.g. the Office of Zero Emission Vehicles) promoting vehicle electrification as sufficient to achieve the climate goals, and others (e.g. Climate Conversation) advocating for transformative and lifestyle changes.

  • Foster stakeholder understanding and alignment with respect to the need to transform transport systems, rather than just decarbonise existing ones via electrification (see Box 4.11).

  • Harness the creative potential18 and context-specific knowledge of stakeholders at the local and regional levels via bottom-up approaches (see section 4.8.1).

    Externally, it would:

  • increase the political feasibility of the implementation at scale of transformative policies by conveying the benefits of sustainable transport and the negative consequences of inaction

  • explain the new services and alternatives to cars that will be available once road reallocation and the mainstreaming of on-demand shared services have been implemented.

To increase the strategy’s effectiveness, this report recommends making systems thinking and cognitive science findings central to its design and harnessing the potential of tactical urbanism to communicate the benefits of sustainable transport systems as rapidly and cost-effectively as possible.

The key recommendation of this report – that the Irish transport system needs to be redesigned to become sustainable and improve well-being – needs to be clearly communicated. The link between systems design and behaviour needs to be explained to eliminate the perception that individual behavioural changes may be sufficient or are possible at large scale without a shift away from car dependence. Exposing the system design underlying unsustainable choices can help people understand the need to redesign it and increase the political support for the transformative policies recommended in this report.

By demonstrating what makes communication strategies successful, cognitive science can significantly increase their effectiveness. Identifying a target audience, communicating with images, invoking emotion via stories and experimentation, and sending clear calls for action are among the recommendations of communication experts (Christiano and Neimand, 2018[166]) (see Box 4.12).

The NDCA facilitated a project with Yale University with great potential to identify target audiences for the communication strategy. The project focuses on understanding “the attitudes, behaviours, policy preferences and beliefs of the Irish public to climate change” via a nationally representative survey (EPA and Yale University, 2021[167]), including audience segmentation. Preliminary results are encouraging, as illustrated in Figure 4.6. With respect to transport, 68% of the population “strongly support” and 24% “somewhat support” higher investment in public transport rather than motorways. The study also reveals strong support for electric vehicles (70% “strongly support” and 22% “somewhat support” government grants to make EVs more affordable) (EPA and Yale University, 2021[167]). In parallel, the Economic, Social and Research Institute (ESRI) conducted a national survey to measure the population’s understanding of the causes and effects of climate change (Timmons and Lunn, 2022[168]). ESRI found that a large majority of Irish people are concerned about climate change, have a good understanding of the subject, and are “willing to change their mind” (Timmons and Lunn, 2022[168]). A 2020 survey found that 75% of respondents were in favour of higher government spending on cycling, and 71% and 61% favour higher spending on public transport and walking respectively. Only 34% of respondents favoured higher spending on car infrastructure ( (NTA and Sustrans, 2019[169]), accessed from Caulfield, Carroll and Ahern (2020[14])).

Communication efforts about the benefits of sustainable transport systems, via images and direct experience, are happening in cities worldwide and could provide examples for Ireland to inspire from. The following initiatives focus on enabling people to experience the benefits of sustainable transport systems and recognise the benefits for different segments of the population (workers, families, women, children).

  • Bike to Work Day is an annual, national event in the United States: people can try out commuting to work by bike via pre-planned convoys across their city (BTWD, 2022[170]). Partially government-driven and supported by volunteer sponsors (BTWD, 2022[170]), its popularity has increased over the 20 years since its inception, including during the Covid pandemic (Salmon, 2021[171]; Partman, 2022[172]).

  • On one Sunday a year, the Journée sans voiture (Day without cars), Paris streets are closed to cars and open to people (Ville de Paris, 2021[173]). The event is particularly interesting for families with children, who often have no opportunity to play on the streets or ride a bike safely. Such events, in particular if organised more frequently (e.g. once a month), could increase the acceptability of car-independent transport systems.

  • Fancy Women Bike Ride aims to foster bicycle use by women worldwide by inviting women to ride their bikes dressed in “fancy clothes” so as to challenge the ingrained ideas that bikes are for men and purely for sport (Copenhagenize Index, 2019[174]). It coincides with World Car Free Day (Fidler, 2019[175]), a similar initiative to the Journée sans voiture. Fancy Women Bike Ride started as a single Facebook event and has become an annual parade of over 30 thousand women in 50 cities in Turkey and 120 other cities around the globe (Copenhagenize Index, 2019[174]).

  • Bicibús (Bike Bus) is a grassroots project that enables children to safely ride their bikes to school in Barcelona. At 8 a.m. on weekdays, hundreds of schoolchildren ride their bikes on streets closed to car traffic under the supervision of parents and a police escort. The initiative works like a school bus, with three “stops” along the way for children to join. Bicibús shows children from an early age, and their parents, that streets can have other uses than car traffic (Shivaram, 2021[176]). Since the project started, political support for safe cycling conditions has gained traction in families with children (Shivaram, 2021[176]).

  • La Rue est à Nous (The street belongs to us) and Parking Day are examples of citizen-led campaigns that aim to build a collective vision of cities with fewer cars. They show how urban space could be used differently and, in the case of La Rue est à Nous, stress the health benefits arising from improved air quality and physical activity, in particular for children (La Rue est à Nous, 2021[177]; Parking Day, n.d.[178]). Similarly, Possible, a UK charity, compiles stories about traffic reduction measures and allows participants to “explore a world of Car Free Cities” to encourage changing to people-friendly, clean-air cities (Possible, 2021[179]; Possible, 2021[180]).

In addition to direct experience, humour is a powerful tool for getting attention and engagement (Eisend, 2009[181]). Communication efforts that use humour to promote sustainable transport modes include the Bruxelles Mobilité campaign Les Pieds, No Ridiculous Car Trips in Malmö, and Bike is Best.

  • Bruxelles Mobilité launched a communication campaign around walking called Les Pieds (The Feet) (Bruxelles Mobilité, 2021[182]). The campaign uses humour and ridicule to convey the practicality of walking by presenting it as a form of high-tech technology (alluding to the ingrained “technological solutionism” discourse).

  • No Ridiculous Car Trips in Malmö encourages people to use bikes for short trips. The project was spurred by the observation that half of all car trips in Malmö were five kilometres or less, a distance easily covered by bicycle.19 One feature of the campaign received particular attention: a competition where people, in return for “confessing” their most ridiculously short car trip, could win a bike (Inherit, 2017[183]). A poll showed that almost half of Malmö residents were familiar with the campaign, 15% of them stating that it had led to reductions in their car travel (The Urban Observer, 2013[184]; Copenhagenize, 2010[185]; Inherit, 2017[183]).

  • Similarly, Bike is Best is a video campaign conveying the message that bikes are the best tools for short journeys (BikeIsBest, 2021[186]).

Scholars such as Marco Te Brömmelstroet from the University of Amsterdam (and Director of the Urban Cycling Institute), and artists such as Jan Kamensky, are communicating on social media (e.g. LinkedIn), via online courses, creative videos, video repositories and talks, to counter the car-centric narrative. Their work could be adapted for the content of a communication strategy for Ireland – see for example Te Brömmelstroet (2020[187]; 2020[188]) and Kamensky (2021[189]).

Another successful communication strategy proposed in this report concerns tactical urbanism. Tactical urbanism involves making quick, low-cost interventions that can show the population what a particular change would look like without building any permanent infrastructure (see Box 4.6).

As demonstrated by Barcelona’s Superblocks project (see section 3.3.1), tactical urbanism has great potential to support communication efforts about sustainable transport systems. In Barcelona, the conversation was reframed away from the need to introduce Superblocks in the city towards what Superblocks should look like, thus diverting opposition.

Tactical urbanism can also help build support for bike infrastructure. For example, introducing bike lanes via light infrastructure (e.g. painted road markings, easily installed bike lane separators) can speed up their implementation, enabling the population to experience the benefits of bikes without waiting for hard infrastructure to be installed. Light infrastructure can leave time for citizen input on the final infrastructure, thus improving its design through better knowledge of local needs and increasing citizen support and ownership of the project. Light infrastructure can also delay the start of disruptive public works until political support has been built, thus potentially reducing opposition. During COVID, Ireland experienced with tactical urbanism (DMURS, 2020[191]). Car parking space was reallocated to allow social distancing and queuing outside of shops and to widen footpaths. Protected cycling facilities were also created via painting and plastic wands (Figure 4.7).

Participants in the April 2022 workshops identified the regulation of car-centric advertising as a way to accelerate the transition towards sustainable transport systems. This is in line with the latest IPCC report, which sees the regulation of advertising as a policy with a potentially “major influence on mitigative capacity” (Table 4.1) (IPCC, 2022[192]).

Much of current advertising by the private sector, in particular the automobile industry, reinforces car-centric mindsets, and may undermine the effectiveness of the Irish government’s communication strategy in favour of sustainable transport systems. As noted in Chapter 3, estimates suggest that car-centric advertising receives seven to eight times more funding than communication about sustainable transport modes (Department of Transport, 2022[81]; Ali, n.d.[193]).

The regulation of car-centric advertising could be compared to the regulation of cigarette advertising (New Scientist, 2022[194]), implemented via the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2015 in Ireland (Law reform commission, 2015[195]). Weitzman and Lee (2020[196]) observe that “the conclusion that the observed associations between exposure to tobacco advertising and adolescent tobacco use are causal in nature, allowed for further regulation of tobacco advertising aimed at youth”.

Evidence suggests that car-centric transport systems negatively impact health (e.g. via air pollution, obesity, reduced opportunities for physical activity) (Chai, 2015[197]; OECD, 2021[4]), safety (e.g. road fatalities) (ITF, 2020[198]), as well as environmental sustainability (e.g. emissions) (Colville-Andersen, 2018[43]; OECD, 2021[4]). Colville-Anderson (2018[43]) monetised these costs for Copenhagen and found that 100 kilometres driven by car cost society 89 euros, while biking could lead to savings of 26 euros for the same distance.

Regulations like those imposed on alcohol and tobacco may be needed to accelerate the transition towards sustainable transport systems and government departments that regulate advertising could be partners in the transition.

To transform Ireland’s transport system at the speed and scale required by climate action targets calls for an integrated approach to rapid action and the transformation of mindsets throughout society. Authorities’ resources, capacity and strengths all need to be aligned with their task. This section describes actions and changes Ireland can introduce to align its governance and wider transport stakeholder networks for the transformation ahead.

Transforming Ireland’s transport system in the ways set out in this report is a challenge that requires the integration of a wide range of actors, including public, private and civic organisations, in the light of EU regulation and strategies. It touches the areas of responsibility of most national government departments, particularly the departments of Finance, Transport, Public Expenditure and Reform, Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and the Environment, Climate and Communications. Regional and local authorities also play key roles.

To promote integration beyond government, a National Climate Stakeholder forum, held in March 2022, discussed transport modal shifts and climate action among other topics (Department of the Environment, 2022[199]). In April 2022, Dublin and Cork were selected to join the EU Mission for 100 Climate Neutral Cities (Department of the Taoiseach, 2022[200]). The Missions approach20 could not only benefit Dublin and Cork, but also provide practical inspiration for implementing multi-stakeholder platforms throughout Ireland. Missions address concrete societal challenges through directed and participative innovation, emphasising the integration of multiple stakeholders and levels of governance, and bottom-up participation (EU Commission, 2021[201]). Ireland’s Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is already tasked with leading and enabling reform in the civil and public service as well as governing public expenditure (Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, 2021[202]). However, meeting major societal challenges like transport system transformation requires creating and directing networks of actors beyond public-sector institutions. Citizen organisations, academia, businesses of different sizes and NGOs all need to be engaged (EU Commission, 2021[201]).

In Sweden, a National Innovation Agency is tasked with connecting initiatives with stakeholders and stimulating collaboration to meet societal challenges (Vinnova, 2022[203]). This agency has applied the Missions approach (including system innovation and high-leverage action principles) to street redesign, and has released a practical guide to organising societal innovation, with emphasis on directing bottom-up efforts and including appropriate actors in all sectors (Vinnova, 2022[204]). The guide highlights the longer-term possibility of reducing public expenditure on health by promoting active travel and liveable urban spaces (Vinnova, 2022[204]). In Ireland, the Department of Health strategy already emphasises collaboration for wider social and economic goals (Department of Health Ireland, 2021[205]).

The main message of this report with regard to transport system innovation is that an integrated approach, guided by a well-being, zero-emission vision, is essential. Ireland’s challenge is to achieve the realigned targets simultaneously and rapidly. As the April 2022 workshop participants concluded, this can only be done through integrated thinking and action, examining the wider impacts of actions and their fit with the overall strategy, avoiding locking in mistakes in infrastructure, improving resilience in the face of foreseen and unforeseen change, and scaling up actions with the speed and level of ambition demanded by climate targets. The workshop participants are ready to help with transport system innovation and keeping the group active (and enlarging it) could be a valuable resource for the future.

Transformational change brings huge opportunities to enhance well-being, but it also brings new challenges for the public sector, raising the question of whether the current allocation of powers and responsibilities across Irish government levels can be improved. Fostering transformative change (and implementing the types of action recommended in this report) requires the rapid evolution of guidance at the national level, and rapid change in many operational and planning functions in parallel.

Ireland has a relatively centralised governance system. Interviews indicated that two general beliefs support this. Firstly, there is a feeling that because the country is small a lot can be done effectively at the national level. Secondly, there is a perception that assigning greater power to the local level will increase the influence of local politics in decision-making, leading to fragmented decisions and implementation. At the regional level, three Regional Assemblies21 exist. These bodies were created in 2015. They now incorporate the functions of the previous regional authorities and assemblies and have extended power over spatial planning and economic development compared to the former bodies (European Committee of the Regions, n.d.[206])22.

The rest of this sub-section discusses some useful ways of rethinking governance, based on analysis of international experience. It suggests Metropolitan Transport Authorities (MTAs) as a potential way forward to scale up transformative action in the transport sector.

Discussions around elected mayors and different governance arrangements in Ireland are being held in different places. An ongoing Dublin Citizen’s Assembly – a citizen led body – is considering the type of directly elected mayor and the type of local government structures that may be best suited for Dublin (The Citizens’ Assembly, n.d.[207]). Similarly, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (2021[208]) are leading the development of a new Bill to establish a Directly Elected Mayor for Limerick. Discussions in this sub-section could bring value to these two processes, as MTAs have been set in some cases under directly elected mayors. Experience gained in both of these cities might also inform general government practices across Ireland in the near future.

The scaling up of policies with high transformative potential presented in this report requires significant changes in the way the government operates. These include: i) strengthened horizontal coordination for implementation; ii) change in government practices (and mindsets); iii) increased capacity for fostering mindset shifts across the population; and iv) increased leadership, policy implementation, communication, and innovation capacities at the local level. Discussions below focus on each of these changes. As will be discussed, Ireland’s actions have been particularly important to address the first of these challenges. However, international practice suggests that successfully addressing the latter three might require setting functional wide area/metropolitan institutions (as discussed in the next subsection), with formal mandates (beyond the functions currently placed in Regional Assemblies), with specific authority over transport (and often land-use) (ITF, 2018[32]), and with predominant representation from the local level, may be required. The next sub-section presents Metropolitan Transport Authorities (MTAs23) as a potential way forward to scale up transformative action in the transport sector and solve some of the challenges described above.

The implementation of transformative policies requires horizontal coordination. Horizontal coordination has been a long-standing challenge for many countries, including Ireland. As discussed in (OECD, 2015[209]) “[a]t the horizontal level, the sheer increase in the number of municipalities comprised in the functional metropolitan area automatically entails a rise in the number of municipal actors dealing with transport”. The lack of strategic planning at the metropolitan level is identified as one of the main barriers to the scaling up of street space reallocation and redesign in particular (McArthur et al., 2022[29]).

Efforts to increase horizontal coordination and coherent policy implementation exist in Ireland. For example, the government has:

  • Increased monitoring of local actions to ensure alignment with national goals and standards (e.g. the recently created Office of the Planning Regulator, as well as the National Oversight and Audit Commission were established with this aim).

  • Created local level offices to bring local authorities closer to the field.

  • Given national authorities statutory power over territories to perform some functions (e.g. NTA was recently granted strategic planning functions over metropolitan cities- as part of SMP).

  • Enhanced strategic planning and coordinated action. For example, the joint preparation of Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies by Regional Assemblies (see below) and the NTA, local transport plans for regional growth centres and key towns (jointly by NTA and local authorities), planning instruments such as active travel programmes as part of the SMP.

  • Set up centres of expertise (via the Regional Climate Action Offices).

While efforts to increase coordination are numerous in Ireland, as mentioned above, in addition to better horizontal coordination, transforming the transport system entails not solely greater government intervention but also radical change in government practices (and mindsets). Functions that seemed straightforward, such as road design, traditionally seen as a purely technical issue (as discussed in section 3.3), call for developing and using more complex tools (e.g. link and place classifications), gathering a wider set of (multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral) skills, building on inputs from a range of stakeholders (including citizens), and revamping measures of progress. The complexity that the public sector needs to address has also grown with the emergence of new mobility services and digital technologies. These have increased policy makers’ opportunities to generate social value, but they have also brought new challenges in the areas of regulation, data collection, interpretation and management (McArthur et al., 2022[29]).

The question now is whether the national government, and in particular the National Transport Authority (NTA), will be able to deal with the growing challenge of providing strong guidance for change and innovative practice (not an easy or resource-light task), while continuing to be responsible for many of the functions needed to implement it (e.g. regulation, data analysis, strategic planning). Despite the NTA’s solid expertise and recent efforts to expand its staff (as mentioned in the interviews), there are indications that it may already be overextended. For instance, it has the expertise and is already engaged in developing the new indicators (e.g. accessibility indicators) needed to shift thinking and practice (e.g. moving from mobility to accessibility). Interviews showed, however, that the development of these indicators and of tools for their practical use and analysis in policy decision-making has proven challenging for the NTA, given the many other tasks assigned to it. Studies also reveal that despite the setting up of Transport Coordination Units by the NTA, accessibility gaps remain in rural areas, in particular for disadvantaged households (Carroll, Benevenuto and Caulfield, 2021[210]). The question arises of whether a redistribution of functions across government levels could liberate some of the NTA’s capacity, enabling it to focus on functions for which it is the best positioned, and where the expertise it has acquired is most needed (e.g. leading the development of new tools and frameworks that can steer conversations, policies and practice in a new direction- as those recommended in this report).

Transformational change also requires a radical change in people’s mindsets, in order to accept major alterations in the living environment and lifestyles and create a shared vision of what a desirable transport system looks like. Thus, another challenge concerns how to increase government engagement with an array of stakeholders, including citizens, to promote bottom-up and participatory approaches and create system change leadership (e.g. via policy champions). McArthur et al. (2022[29]) stress that in order to implement an integrated approach to streetspace reallocation – one of the policies with higher transformative potential according to the assessment in this report – governments must “create [d]ialogue with citizens and stakeholder groups … to engage the wider public alongside technical experts, planners and elected stakeholders and to understand the multiple trade-offs and tensions between modes and streetspace uses”.

As discussed earlier in this report, Ireland has set out a number of fora and mechanisms for citizen engagement (e.g. National Climate Stakeholder Forum, see section 4.7.1), which are important initiatives. A question for Ireland, however, is whether the national government is the body best suited to implement a vision-led approach which will get citizens and stakeholders on board with the necessary changes. The question of decentralisation or devolution of power and decision-making does not merely concern the optimal size of a country or region to be managed: there is a rationale for incentivising bottom-up, place-based decision-making and solutions, and bringing decision-making closer to the citizens (ITF, 2018[32]). Examples of significant change in other countries’ major cities (e.g. Lisbon and London) show that the creation of dense networks of relationships among government, business organisations, NGOs and other stakeholders has been key (McArthur et al., 2022[29]). As noted above, change also requires building leadership, and creating a narrative and framing for innovation as an effective solution. Strong local government actors (e.g. metropolitan transport agencies or integrated transport departments) have often been at the forefront (McArthur et al., 2022[29]). Also, while strategic planning is important in itself, one of its additional functions is to build a shared and strategic vision for the given territory, aligned with national goals but also embracing local realities, needs and expectations and encouraging buy-in from a number of stakeholders (ITF, 2018[32]).

A third challenge arises from the fact that tailoring approaches to context-specific needs increases the necessity for building and expanding implementation capacity at the local level, for avoiding “one-design-fits-all solutions” (McArthur et al., 2022[29]). While projects can benefit from national guidance, they have to balance different local needs and tailor their solutions appropriately. Implementing change ultimately depends on local authorities, and implementation capacity at this level of government has to be enhanced. As argued in section 3.3, cities have to become “streetspace managers”, while also having the capacity to “regulate to innovate” (McArthur et al., 2022[29]). The lack of local government’s capacity to follow through projects or actions in some cases, increases the difficulty of horizontal coordination (see the following paragraphs). Moreover, the lack of sufficient staff with expertise at the local level often results in the delegation of key functions to the private sector (McArthur et al., 2022[29]), a visible problem in Ireland.

Governance and coordination, in particular for transport and land use, has been a challenge for many countries. Questions and fears much like those that arise in Ireland have been voiced: while enhancing capacity at local level is important, to what extent will the devolution of functions lead to fragmentation and politicisation of decisions and practices?

Ireland could consider introducing transport authorities or other bodies at a level intermediate between national and county level. Such bodies are often called metropolitan transport authorities (ITF, 2018[32]), since they are responsible for a city and its metropolitan area or region (e.g. London, Paris, Barcelona, Manchester) (ITF, 2018[32]; TfGM, n.d.[211]). The exact scale of the territory may vary; for instance, in France Ile-de-France Mobilité covers the Ile-de-France region, with some rural areas as well as larger and smaller towns around Paris (ITF, 2018[32]). The EC and OECD have established the boundaries of functional urban areas24 (OECD, 2013[212]), and the area covered by Ile-de-France Mobilité coincides closely with the functional urban area centred on Paris. In London, TfL has a mandate over the Greater London Authority area, which coincides with the urban core25. Authorities at different levels and with different functions can coexist: in Barcelona, for example, the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB) is responsible for land use, housing and the environment and transport (through its transport department) at the scale of the urban core (Barcelona and the surrounding 36 municipalities). AMB’s transport department has more authority over the planning of bicycle traffic, walking and local buses. In addition, the Metropolitan Transport Authority (ATM) has been set up at the regional level and oversees the planning and delivery of heavier modes (e.g. commuter trains, regional buses). These authorities complement and collaborate with each other (ITF, 2018[32]). The establishment of this type of authority is not reserved to cities or urban areas. Elsewhere in France, for example, some transport authorities have been instituted in non-urban areas as well (Richer, Hasiak and Jouve, 2022[213]).

In some countries elected mayors have been granted authority over these domains, but this is not always the case, and Ireland could establish these bodies whether or not it decides to involve elected mayors in the future.

The proposed bodies are meant to be technical, not political, in nature, and their personnel should therefore not change with the political cycle. Nonetheless, both political and non-political actors can form part of their governance structure, providing a space for multi-level, multi-disciplinary dialogue and decision-making processes. In Ireland the governance structure could include local authorities, giving them a more prominent role in decision-making, as well as the NTA and other national bodies. These bodies would benefit from technical expertise by hiring dedicated staff for the various functions assigned to the authority.

The advantages of MTAs could be multiple for Ireland. Based on the conclusions by the ITF (2018[32]), some of the main advantages could be the following:

  • Some of the tasks performed today by the NTA (e.g. regulation and strategic planning) could be assigned to the MTAs. This could release capacity from the NTA, enabling it to concentrate on the development of national-level guidance and tools to advance practice and thinking in the many areas discussed in this report. At the same time, bringing strategic planning down to a more local level could encourage a more participative process, enabling local authorities and other local stakeholders to build ownership over the vision developed for their area. NTA expertise and inputs would still be key to the development of strategies, and different coordinating mechanisms throughout the process of developing the strategies could be established to ensure this. Giving these new bodies responsibility for strategic planning could also help to coordinate the planning of different modes. It would also allow to expand strategic planning at metropolitan/functional area scale more easily beyond the five largest cities (as this would not all rely on the NTA having to take the lead for all territories).

  • This model can improve technical capacity while avoiding redundancy. A number of the stakeholders interviewed agreed that while capacity is lacking at the local level in Ireland, increasing it will not mean that every council has staff for everything. Sharing capacity among councils was proposed by various participants in the project, who pointed out that this could also help in fostering coordination. This said, careful consideration and analysis will be needed to decide which functions are to be assigned to the authority and the councils, and enhanced capacity at council level must be a priority.

  • While these bodies would absorb some functions now performed at national level, other functions now performed by the councils could be moved up a level. For instance, TfL in London has authority over segments of the road/street network going through multiple boroughs, which facilitates coordination across the city26. MTAs could also regulate and tender different modes (e.g. buses and new mobility services) facilitating integration and better planning. For example, TfL tenders buses for the whole of Greater London and is piloting tendering for e-scooters at the same level.

  • Data collection, management and analysis could also be managed by the new bodies (ITF, 2018[32]). This could help the government to rapidly evolve to meet new challenges. For example, NTA could provide guidance on data regulation (as is planned) while these metropolitan or functional scale authorities would be charged with implementing the regulation when organising tender to ensure coordinated implementation across territories. By building their own data collection and analysis capacity, the metropolitan or functional scale authorities could complement the NTA. They could perform the more detailed analysis for their area and facilitate the gathering of data from local authorities in ways (and formats) that can be seamlessly integrated into the national databases. In this way, these authorities could strengthen strategic planning with more detailed analysis and indicators, instead of leaving it to the NTA to provide information and analysis for the whole country.

  • The model could also help to rethink budgets for local transport. Efficiently functioning transport authorities need to have dedicated funding (including technical staff salaries) and decision-making authority over the transport budget. Various methods exist to source these budgets, including some direct funding from the national government, the channelling of car-related charges (e.g. fuel sur-charges, parking, ownership taxes in Paris and London), the levying of new taxes (e.g. business levies in Paris and London), the development of land capture mechanisms (in London), and other municipal taxes (e.g. in Barcelona). Ireland is providing new funding for active and public transport locally through both investment and through funding local authorities, which could become part of how these bodies are funded. It could also consider allocating other existing sources of income to them. Increasing the budget available for transport improvement has been crucial to getting local authorities on board with the establishment of these new bodies, as has adequate representation in decision-making (ITF, 2018[32]).

  • Because MTAs would cover a larger area than current administrative boundaries, they can reduce the fragmentation of decision-making. The scale at which these could be implemented requires important reflection. Various configurations are possible. Among them are:

    • Set up metropolitan transport authorities for the larger cities and their functional urban areas, which could include smaller towns and rural areas, and then identify the areas without coverage and determine case by case what administrative scale is most appropriate for them. In this case, as the examples of Barcelona and London show, bigger cities within the functional area might be a case for establishing bodies at the core city level to plan active transport and in addition to local bus routes.

    • Alternatively, existing regional assemblies could determine the scale of these new bodies. However, these might include too many functional urban areas, hence losing some of the benefits of the model. This section provided a brief overview of MTA characteristics in selected OECD countries, which would need to be adapted to the Irish context should Ireland decide to take this avenue. A number of publications analyse MTAs in further detail (Kumar and Agarwal, 2013[214]). For example, via case studies, the ITF (2017[7]) analyses and discusses different governance models and decision-making rules, scales of authority, budget composition, delimitation of functions from other authorities, and coordination mechanisms with other levels of government, as well as the stages for establishing these authorities. If Ireland decides to go down this road, all of these decisions will need to be carefully adapted to its particular context, problems and objectives.


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← 1. Technological optimism refers to the idea that “technological improvements will allow countries to reduce emissions at the pace and scale needed. It sees technology as a way to increase vehicle performance (in terms of speed, fuel consumption, emissions, etc.), rather than improving the way systems are organised, where technological potential is mostly untapped and could lead to enormous emission reductions” (OECD, 2021[4])

← 2. Avoid" refers to avoiding unnecessary travel or long distances; “shift” refers to shifting trips from more to lower carbon-intensive modes.

← 3. NTA and TII handle transport modelling while assumptions about future population locations are agreed among various national and local stakeholders and experts.

← 4. Caulfield, Carroll and Ahern (2020[14]) also discuss some complementary measures such as removing value added tax from bicycles and their equipment.

← 5. The document has been regularly updated: this report takes into account the latest (2019) version.

← 6. ATU is the Atlantic Technological University in Sligo, Ireland. Formerly named IT Sligo, the university specializes in a range of fields, including business and the sciences, such as engineering.

← 7. Introducing tools such as National Urban Policies (NUPs) could play a role, as these aid in providing a national-wide narrative and support governments into achieving global agendas, such as the Paris Agreement (OECD, n.d.[217])

← 8. This is a widespread problem in Ireland, not confined to transport projects.

← 9. The Public Transport Accessibility Level (PTAL) indicator is a tool used by Transport for London, policymakers, and for communication with stakeholders, to detail and measure accessibility to public transport from a designated point of interest (TfL, 2012[218]). PTAL thus assists in guiding spatial and urban planning with the development of public transport access (OECD, 2021[4]). Not only does it assist with new development, but also with redevelopment strategies to meet environmental, social and economic goals (OECD, 2021[4]).

← 10. In 2016, transport emissions in Dublin city were 702 700 tCO2eq (25% of the total of 2 810 800 tCO2eq) (Cachia, 2016[216]). Assuming that emissions did not change significantly between 2016 and 2018, the 30% reduction calculated by ITF is equivalent to 210 810 tCO2eq. The yearly carbon footprint of Dublin inhabitants was 5.1 tCO2eq in 2016 (Cachia, 2016[216]), meaning that the 30% reduction was equivalent to the carbon footprint of 41 335 Dublin inhabitants.

← 11. A Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) is a transport strategy with a central goal of “improving accessibility of urban areas and providing high-quality and sustainable mobility and transport to, through and within the urban area”. It was developed in cooperation with stakeholders and planning experts in the European Union, and represents a broad consensus on the main features of a best practice transport plan. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach to urban transport planning and has to be adapted to local circumstances (European Commission, 2013[215]).

← 12. Of course, all data reporting should ensure respect for individuals’ data privacy and associated requirements such as GDPR.

← 13. The issue of technology is also an issue in this space given private (commercial) operators are typically operating on longer distance, inter-urban routes with coaches, although this is outside the scope of this report.

← 14. For more information on housing policies see (Moreno Monroy et al., 2020[143]).

← 15. According to good international practice, defining what constitutes affordable housing, the residents’ transport and housing costs both need to be taken into account, and affordability should be based on the income and financial ability of different groups, not on market prices (ITF, 2016[137]).

← 16. In some regards similar to the current energy crisis.

← 17. The CCCC replaces the Interdepartmental Group on Climate Communications established in 2019.

← 18. During the workshop held in April 2022, in the space of a few hours, stakeholders developed creative ideas for communication actions in their localities, revealing underutilised human resource potential.

← 19. Irish statistics show a similar pattern: according to the 2019 National Travel Survey, almost 75% of trips by car in Dublin and 60% in other regions were less than eight kilometres in length (CSO, 2020[58]).

← 20. Social Missions are inspired by society’s most important challenges (climate change is one) and translate them into more concrete goals (e.g. a climate-neutral city by 2030). Missions require many actors to collaborate in defining and implementing them (across sectors of the economy, levels and sectors of government, and civil society). Missions embed public purpose as the direction of innovation, which includes social innovation and shaping markets. The concept was coined by Professor Mariana Mazzucato, Founding Director of the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose.

← 21. Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly; Northern and Western Regional Assembly and Southern Regional Assembly

← 22. Among the main functions of these bodies are to: Manage and monitor EU programmes of assistance; prepare and oversee the implementation of Regional Spatial & Economic Strategies; provide advice and statutory observations on the making and review of Local Authority Development Plans.

← 23. From now on the term MTA is used indistinctively for authorities that could be set at different scales: e.g. entire functional area or urban core (e.g. city/town plus the continuous built-up area surrounding it).

← 24. Functional urban area: integrates a city and its commuting zone. Importantly some rural areas can be part of functional urban areas.

← 25. Urban core: (also called an urban centre) “a set of contiguous, high-density (1 500 residents per square kilometre) grid cells with a population of 50 000 in the contiguous cells”.

← 26. Although part of the network still remains under borough control (ITF, 2018[32])

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