Retail decline largely due to economy – report

Authors of a report on Dublin’s controversial bus gate believe a decline in city centre trade is largely due to the economy, however the reports includes several warnings on the lack of data.

It said that the bus gate or corridor “appears to have accomplished its main goal of reducing the traffic congestion which caused delays in bus public transport during peak morning and evening periods.”

Between February 2009 and April 2010, there was an average decline of 25% in traffic volumes in the morning peak hours between 7am and10am, a decline of 17% in evening peak hours of 4pm and 7pm, and an average decrease of 7% outside those hours.

Bus passengers numbers on cross city routes which use the corridor increased in February to July 2010 compared to the previous year. Cross city peak passenger numbers increased in total 1.1% to 163,931 compare a total decline on orbital routes of -3%. The report says that the improvement in traffic flow will also allow for the expanded bus route frequency planned in the Dublin Bus Network Direct network review.

City centre times were previously highlighted as one of the main causes of problems with travel times and reliability of buses.

On economic impacts, it says: “It has been impossible to measure specific impacts without comprehensive transactional or economic data for the city centre region.”

Another of its many warning states: “While many city centre retail businesses in Dublin have experienced a significant deterioration in business over the last two year period, establishing what proportion of this decline in trade is attributable to the global and domestic economic downturn and what proportion, if any, is attributable to the introduction of the bus corridor which coincided with this economic decline is very difficult without comprehensive transactional evidence.”

The report, an Economic Assessment of the Impact of the College Green Bus Corridor, was prepared by CB Richard Ellis for Dublin City Council.

It says that there is evidence that shows car parks in the city centre have been directly affected, but it notes that: “While all carparks in the city centre were asked to provide data to this study, only three private car parks actually did so. All were on the south side of the city.”

But even on this point it warns: “Our study does indicate that results have been mixed across the car parks, with car parks closer to major roads seeing less damage done to their business by the Bus Corridor than car parks located in less accessible locations. Although this is an interesting trend to note, it makes generalisations about city centre retail difficult.”

“Some of the car parks that have provided us with data are showing stabilisation or even improving transactional volumes,” it adds.

On retail sales, it says that, “Although requested, no supporting data was provided by Dublin City Business Association.”

It concludes that considering the benefits the bus corridor it is likely that it will remain in operation. But said that it was “imperative” that Dublin City Council continue to liaise with city centre retailers and businesses to minimise any impact on the city centre economy.

Any further changes to traffic patterns, it says, “will probably” encourage the misconception that the city centre is either “difficult to access” or “closed to traffic” – although it makes no reference to the changes needed to allow for the building of Metro North. Planners of the metro say that if permission is given to build the project the bus gate would be needed on a 24-hour bases to keep the city’s public transport moving.

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