No Congestion Charges – Free Public Transport

Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan, is bringing congestion charges closer to Irish cities. In a proposal he brought to the cabinet, he wants city councils to draw up traffic plans by 2026 and to discuss the possibility of congestion charges.

Air pollution is a serious issue in Irish cities. There are approximately 1,700 premature deaths (680 from cardiovascular disease) in the South, and 900 (with 300 from cardiovascular disease) in the North. These are attributable to exposure to fine particulate air pollution – often from the exhaust pipes of cars.

The government ignored this scandal for decades. But now they are reaching into the neoliberal playbook for a solution. They want to acclimatise us to congestion charges and will try to introduce them in the coming years.

Congestion charges create class barriers to entry to cities. Wealthy people will be able to drive into less congested city centres. The poor will have to rely on infrequent public transport.

There is a different way to get people out of cars and minimise traffic congestion. And it is simple. Introduce free and frequent public transport into our city centres.

However, the supposedly Green Minister Eamon Ryan is opposed to free public transport. Incredibly, he suggested that it would lead to unnecessary journeys.

But who is this Minister to tell us what is unnecessary? And why should a free public transport journey be less acceptable than one in a car?

It is estimated that the cost of eliminating public transport fares is a mere €550 million. But clearly, we would need to add extra buses and trains if this was to become workable. If we double that figure to over €1 billion, we could embark on a programme of free public transport in a relatively short time.

And there would be no need for congestion charges.