Why invest in public and active transport?
I believe that transport is a force multiplier for society. Transport connects us, it helps us access employment opportunities and it connects communities. We need transport to access healthcare, to visit friends, to interview for a new job, to do anything outside our home.
I am passionate about developing our regional cities: with focus and effort we can make Galway, Cork, Waterford and especially Limerick engines for growth in our economy. Dublin and the Mid-East region is at breaking point, rents in the city are unaffordable for most, and families are enduring longer and longer car commutes in gridlock despite money being poured into the capital’s road network.
We need to make sure we don’t make the same mistake in the regions.
Growth in the regions needs quality efficient public transport. We need buses and trains that serve rural and urban communities, that reliably, efficiently and comfortably connect where people live to jobs and public services. If we do, we can set ourselves up to grow without the negative effects seen in Dublin. Better public transport will benefit all areas of society, especially people who cannot drive because of income, age or disability.
Active transport is the other part of the puzzle, many trips are under 5km and could be much more pleasant if good facilities were provided. Active travel is critically important from a public health perspective – studies show that having 20mins of exercise a day has a measurable impact on rates of cancer, diabetes, and other conditions. Many of us have happy memories walking or cycling to school but sadly that experience is not available to many young people today, because the roads simply aren’t safe or attractive, resulting in familiar gridlock at back-to-school time. Quality infrastructure where walkers and cyclists are protected from traffic are needed to get active travel levels up to European norms.
This is why I believe we need to allocate much of our transport budget to public and active transport. It will reverse the ‘more roads and more cars’ mistakes of the past. I believe Limerick and the other regional cities can compete for private investment against other cities in Europe, but only if we can develop a transport system that makes living here more attractive.
Of course transport services are only part of the picture. We need to make sure that the new housing we build is compact and accessible. Proper planning is needed so that we build homes where people can easily and efficiently get to where they want to go. This is not just for our cities: we need compact towns and villages in rural areas to make sure we can efficiently serve everyone with the transport services that they deserve.