Re: Re: Thomas Street & James Street, Dublin!
The biggest and most important investment Thomas Street is ever likely to see for at least a decade is being planned right now, with works potentially beginning as early as a few months’ time. Yet there is what must be bordering on zero public awareness of it. It is the construction of the Thomas Street – James’s Street Quality Bus Corridor, currently at public consultation stage.
At a time of swinging cutbacks, the Thomas Street artery is extremely fortunate to have this funding being directed towards it. As the City Manager John Tierney recently observed as happening on a broader level, the thoroughfare is benefiting from the knock-on effect of public realm improvement funded by national financing of transport infrastructure, that otherwise would be impossible to fund from city coffers at present. This particular project is to be funded entirely by the National Transport Authority.
The QBC scheme presents a marvellous opportunity to implement meaningful public realm improvement on Thomas Street and James’s Street. Alas, one fears from observing the plans, this is another engineers’ job, with ‘efficiencies’ and ‘functionality’ generated, and little or nothing in the way of aesthetic improvement.
It gets off to a poor start up at the fountain at James’s Street, where a large new traffic island is proposed almost outside St. James’s Church (former lighting shop), separated from the footpath only by a cycle lane. What is to become of this stranded, functionless new island? Well nothing apparently – it’s just concrete. But who cares, it’s efficient, right? Likewise, a number of very welcome widened and regularised pavements are proposed along the route, including the opening stretch of Meath Street, but what’s to go on them? Indeed, what is the entire public realm design strategy of this plan? There are disconcerting references to ‘improved public lighting’, ‘improved pedestrian crossings with traffic islands’, and a plethora of QBC signs regimentally placed in accordance with the DOE user manual the whole way along the street. Do we have a plan for strict rationalisation of traffic signals, signage, and removal of barriers? Apparently not. The bonkers junction at Bridgefoot Street remains the same. And what of additions: a suite of furniture, planting, pocket spaces, calming measures?
Where are Dublin City Council feeding in to this as guardians of the city? What is their vision for Thomas Street? If this opportunity for public realm improvement is not grasped now, regardless of the extra funding required to realise a gracious vision for the thoroughfare, we will end up with firstly: a botched Stillorgan dual-carriageway ploughing its way through Thomas Street with Germanic efficiency, and secondly: a newly established perception that Thomas Street is ‘done and dusted’ for another half century. This cannot be allowed to happen. If necessary, the plastic wedding cake planter budget for the entire city for the next five years should be diverted into permanent planting along the route, while existing resources and historic lighting stock of the Lighting Department should be deployed en masse. Only 18 months ago the department said they had enough historic stock to line the Thomas Street route (we can only presume it’s not dodgy repro rubbish). And the new Public Realm Strategy about to be adpoted by Dublin City Council as part of the new Development Plan for the entire city must stringently dictate terms about what happens here. What’s the point otherwise? We already have the RPA and CIE dancing a jig over the City Fathers – the last thing we need is another player in the field in the form of the NTA. They have to be shown who’s boss.
This opportunity has to be grasped. It may be the only one the entire Liberties gets for the foreseeable future.
Some plans can be viewed here.