On Monday, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said no to congestion charges in our cities – sort of.
What he actually said was that he wouldn’t consider the implementation of a city centre congestion charge until such time as there are proper alternatives in place.
Quite when such alternatives will be in place is something any of us could probably predict as well as the Minister himself could right now.
Now obviously any such charge, were it ever to be implemented, would be done so firstly in Dublin, a city growing increasingly knotted by the ever-growing number of cars on our roads.
So Waterford citizens can breathe somewhat easier when casting an eye to both the future and your wallets. Congestion charges won’t be issued down the Quay any time soon.
Speaking at the launch of a consultation paper on sustainable transport and travel (i.e. ‘we’re thinking about doing something but we’re not actually doing anything yet’), the Minister said he had “no philosophical difficulty” with such a charge.
Quite how the 7,000 public servants (no, that’s not a misprint) who currently avail of free parking in Dublin city centre would feel about such a charge hardly needs predicting here.
Locally, Waterford City Council is trying to reduce the number of suburban cars parking in the city centre through its ‘green route’ scheme, the first phase of which is currently open to public feedback.
Commitments made by city bus operators to lay on additional services can only be delivered when the Council dots the I’s that need dotting and so on, but at least a start has been made.
But changing individual drivers’ habits and getting them to leave their cars at home and take the bus into town instead will be easier said than done.
Unfortunately, one of the only ways that citizens ever sit up and take notice of what’s being said is when something directly hits them in the pocket.
Human nature is to crib and to moan at those advocating the proposed changes rather than examining our own driving habits first.
What Minister Dempsey described as “significant changes in personal travel behaviour” have got to come down the line quicker than any potential congestion charge.
Hoping to redefine the car as “the last resort” mode of transport as purported by this latest Government paper is certainly a noble aim from an environmental perspective.
But a whole lot of other pieces of the puzzle have got to fall into place first. And unless adequate public transport provision is actually delivered, and not merely spoken about, then talk from Government will remain just that.