Council members deliver 'shopping list' of transport fixes needed
Council meeting hears of plan for traffic in Mullingar for next generation (part 2 of 2)
A range of points that councillors believe could improve transport to and within Mullingar town were outlined at the January meeting of the Municipal District of Mullingar Kinnegad to Andrew Archer the representative of Systra, the consultancy contracted to produce the Mullingar Area Transport Assessment Report.
The report is ultimately to feed in to the Mullingar Town Plan.
Common themes included the desire to see the Mullingar town bus service launched, and strategies to reduce traffic congestion while making the town safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
Below is a summary of some of the points made by councillors in what was a lengthy discussion.
Cllr Denis Leonard said given the need to take action over climate change and the target of a 51% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, the launch of the study was timely since 40 per cent of our emissions come from transport, and in this country, about 80 to 90% of that comes from cars.
Suggestions he felt should be taken on board included the need for more bus services; for a park and ride in Mullingar and for the creation of an orbital route that would keep heavy goods vehicles out of the town.
He also wanted a range of options which would provide travellers with alternatives to car travel.
Cllr Ken Glynn was anxious to ensure there was a chance for face-to-face pubic consultation. He also said the current traffic system in Mullingar is “flawed” and he referred to the pinch point at McDonald’s. It was also important that the council did not send out the message that traffic was not welcome in the town; and he raised concern about overcrowding on the trains.
Cllr Mick Dollard was also concerned about face-to-face consultation, and said a group with which the consultants would need to engage was taxi drivers. He also stressed that a priority in the programme should be protection for pedestrians.
Cllr Dollard said he would like to have seen a local area development action plan drawn up for Mullingar, as that would have give a clear indication on future residential development, which, he said, would obviously affect future traffic movement patterns; and he declared he could not understand why Mullingar does not yet have a Local Link bus.
Cllr Emily Wallace remarked that Mullingar, as a business community, is different to a lot of other towns in that it has a high number of family-owned businesses operating within the core of the town. “Without a vibrant town centre, we don’t have a town,” she said.
Cllr Wallace also drew attention to the need to factor in the traffic levels that exist at school drop off and pickup times, and she wondered how the plan would achieve buy-in from other actors, such as bus companies, before going on to point out that people with mobility issues will have certain requirements.
Cllr John Shaw remarked that there were traffic studies carried out in Mullingar in 2015 or 2016, and said those might act as useful reference points. He said it would be important that the report be published: that hadn’t happened with some previous reports and that in turn affected buy-in from the public.
Cllr Shaw said the extent of some of the problems in Mullingar are “exaggerated”, but get more attention because of the level of frustration associated with them. He also expressed an interest in seeing the question of costs addressed.
Cllr Aoife Davitt, addressing the question of consultation, said it would be important to get the views not just of those living in the town, but those whom the town serves. She also said there needed to be a focus on safety around schools, and examination of the impact of school traffic on congestion.
Cllr Davitt also pointed out that no matter how perfect the plan, humans will still make errors, so account needed to be taken of the person who is just learning how to drive, or who is nervous, or older, or who has three or four children shouting in the back of the car.
The mayor, Cllr Hazel Smyth, who is also chairperson of Westmeath County Council’s Transport SPC, said it was great to see that there had been increases in funding for programmes such as Active Travel and the reduction in public transport fares.
She said maps and signposting showing bus stops and bike-rental locations were important, and that at bus stops, there should be signs giving real-time information.
Cllr Smyth also spoke of introducing car pool incentives; she said cycling in Mullingar does not feel safe, and that the range for the rental bike scheme be extended. She also asked that attention be given to the sequencing of the traffic lights.
Cllr Andrew Duncan said it was important that everybody understands the remit of the project. He said that currently, from a vehicle perspective, the traffic system in Mullingar is not working. Cllr Duncan also argued that to thrive, Mullingar needed a vibrant town centre offering more than coffee shops and restaurants.
He also said there are options that would enable Mullingar to alleviate its traffic pressure points, including construction of a vehicular bridge beside the Carey Bride.