The “main purpose” of the state’s next sustainable mobility policy will be to get people out of private cars and use public transportation, bicycles or on foot, the Department of Transportation general secretary said.
Ken Spratt told the Oireachtas Transportation Committee that the new policy will differ from the current Smarter Travel policy which has similar goals, focusing on making “active travel” or public transportation the most attractive option for travel.
Spratt said the “main focus of the new policy” will be to meet daily travel needs by making sustainable modes “the smartest and most attractive option.”
He said that while the department was setting up a low-emission vehicle office – probably within the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland – switching to electric vehicles was part of the government’s strategy on climate change, not part of sustainable mobility policy.
He said active travel and public transportation options were not only the most environmentally friendly options, but also the most socially and economically inclusive.
Spratt told the committee that the draft sustainable mobility policy was focused on three guiding principles:
The first of these was Safe and Green Mobility which will set out “an ambitious and comprehensive set of actions for the decarbonisation of public transport”.
The second was people-focused mobility which looks at how to make sustainable mobility options accessible to all, especially people with reduced mobility.
The third principle was better integrated mobility, which analyzes sustainable transport and better integrated land use planning, as well as examining intelligent transport solutions.
Spratt said the Department has released a full report of the consultation process for the new policy and “we are now finalizing the revised policy.”
Asked by committee chairman Kieran O’Malley about where regional connectivity, roads and provisions for those who wanted to retain a car went into government plans, Spratt said the government was formulating a new policy.
He said this policy, the National Transport Investment Framework in Ireland (Nifti) had four priorities; regional access; protection and renewal of transport assets; mobility of people and goods in urban areas and decarbonization.
O’Donnell responded that it appears that provisions for roads were not mentioned. O’Donnell told Spratt that a lot of people were thinking about opting for electric vehicles, but he was worried that when they drove “all over the country” they wouldn’t be able to recharge quickly and get home.
Regarding the switch to electric vehicles, Spratt said the answer to the question “enough is already being done” was “no.” He said the loading infrastructure was important and referred to the installation of chargers in apartment blocks, workplaces and tourist places and attractions.
Senator Timmy Dooly said the committee heard a lot about buses and the replacement of private cars, that there was no amount of buses that could meet all the demand for transportation from rural areas.
He said at his own base in Kerry people were traveling to Tipperary; Galway; Shannon and Ennis, among other places to work and “I don’t think you can put enough buses on the roads, frankly.” He said “people in rural Ireland get very nervous” when faced with the language that targets sustainable travel.