Making the Transition to a Low Carbon Society in the Western Region

The transition to a low carbon economy is one of many challenges facing the Western Region and Ireland at this point in time.  Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, today launched the Western Development Commission  (WDC)  report Making the Transition to a Low Carbon Society in the Western Region— Key issues for rural dwellers which contains new analysis of the challenges for rural areas in the low carbon transition.

You can download the reports, summary and infographic here.

The report assesses the scale of the challenge and identifying practical, deliverable recommendations to facilitate the transition.  The focus on three key areas: energy efficiency and heat, transport and electricity is timely given the recently published Programme for Government. In that context, the WDC report seeks to inform and advocate for the Western Region in the low carbon transition as part of the social and economic development of the seven counties of Clare, Galway, Mayo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Sligo and Donegal.

The Programme for Government commitment to an average 7% per annum reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2030 is to be underpinned by the core philosophy of a Just Transition ensuring that no sector of society or community is left behind in the movement to a low-carbon future.  This is important for rural regions.

This study of what is needed for a transition to a low carbon economy in the rural Western Region is one of eleven pieces of research under Action 160 to “Assess the economic and employment implications of the transition to a low-carbon economy” which fall under the Citizen Engagement, Community Leadership and Just Transition in the Climate Action Plan[1].

The need for climate action is clear and will have diverse and wide-ranging impacts across Ireland, yet there has been very little focus on climate change and emissions issues for people living in rural areas. There are opportunities and challenges ahead and we need to understand the scale and scope of the actions required to reduce rural dwellers emissions and increase the use of renewable energy in rural areas.

 Energy Use by Rural Dwellers

Rural dwellers have different energy needs and often have reduced or more costly choices than their urban equivalents. Rural people are thought to have a larger carbon footprint than their urban counterparts and need greater access to cleaner energy choices. At the same time the sources of clean energy for all citizens are largely rural based.

In looking at the three modes of energy use by rural dwellers the study brings together available data to give us a better understanding of where we are starting from and the issues to be addressed to reduce emissions, and some of the opportunities this may bring.   It considers the issues from a Western Region perspective but, as the region is predominantly rural, the findings and the analysis are relevant to other Irish rural areas.

Energy Efficiency and Heat Detached houses account for 64% of all homes in the western region, significantly higher than the national average, and while around a third of the region’s housing units were built between 2001 and 2010, many date back considerably further. This gives some sense of the scale of the retrofit challenge. The report’s recommendation to include various retrofit and finance options means that rural dwellers in older homes, or those of lower value, will still see merit in incremental improvements.

Energy efficiency is important and the ambition in the Climate Action Plan and Programme for Government to upgrade at least 500,000 homes to a BER rating of at least B2 is very welcome.   With only 5% of Western Region homes achieving a BER rating of B2 and higher it means that almost 267,000 homes would need to be retrofitted.

The focus of energy efficiency retrofitting is likely to be on homes built before 2011.  In the Western Region 93% of homes (280,949) were built before 2011. These are likely to require some form of energy efficiency upgrades and fuel switching to complete a move to a low carbon economy.

In addition to energy efficiency retrofits the heating systems in buildings heated using the most carbon intensive fuels (oil, coal and peat) will need to be changed.   In the Western Region more than 82% of homes use oil, coal or peat for central heating, compared with 44% of homes in the rest of the state.  Clearly homes in Western Region counties need to be prioritised in the switch to low carbon heating.

 

Transport There are more than half a million people living in the rural Western Region. People living in rural areas tend to be at a greater distance from services than their urban counterparts and so the journeys made tend to be longer and more car based.  Greater distance to employment and services reduces options for travel and lack of public transport and the distance to public transport services, increases reliance on car travel in rural areas. This creates challenges but also opportunities for compact development, remote working from home or the in the AEC and national hub network.

 

Electricity Use and Generation.

More than half (55%) of the generation capacity in the Western Region is renewable and the Western Region is currently producing enough renewable electricity to meet 120% of its own demand. The Region is a net provider of renewable electricity to the rest of Ireland making a significant contribution to the 2020 RES-E targets and to the target of 70% renewable electricity generation by 2030.

This is likely to grow in the transition to a low carbon economy. Community engagement and support for this increased generation is vital, and the Renewable Energy Support Scheme, which will enable communities to generate both energy and revenue, offers huge potential for rural areas.

 

 

Conclusions

As the Western Region[2] is largely rural, the work of the Western Development Commission (WDC) has a particular focus on the needs of and opportunities for more rural and peripheral areas.  Energy and climate action will bring important opportunities to our largely rural region, but at the same time it will bring challenges that need to be addressed for the region to make the transition.

Taking action to address rural dwellers emissions brings with it the potential for significant benefits in terms of warmer homes, cleaner air, and more sustainable use of our abundant natural resources.  But it will be a major challenge and will require significant changes in the way we live, work and do business.

The Western Development Commission is committed to working with communities, with both public and private stakeholders, as part of its ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’ strategy to facilitate the transition to a sustainable, low carbon economy and a brighter future for all.

 

Helen McHenry

 

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the WDC

 

Four publications are available:

Download

 

[1] https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/climate-action/topics/climate-action-plan/Pages/climate-action.aspx

[2] There are seven counties in the Western Region under the WDC remit: Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare.

Submission to the Review of Sustainable Mobility Policy

The WDC recently made a submission to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) consultation on the Review of Sustainable Mobility Policy and associated background papers.

One of the functions of the WDC is regional policy analysis.  The WDC seeks to ensure that government policy reflects the needs of, and maximises the potential of, the Western Region[1] in such areas as infrastructure, natural resources, enterprise and regional and rural development.  It also tracks the implementation of policies and recommends adjustments as appropriate.

As the Western Region is very rural[2] the WDC submission has a particular focus on the needs of, and opportunities for, more rural and peripheral areas.

The Sustainable Mobility Policy consultation was organised around a number of specific topic issues with background papers prepared by DTTAS for each of these.  In this post some of the key points made in the submission for each topic are highlighted but the full submission can be read here.

Active travel

Active travel tends to be less popular in rural areas and in smaller urban settlements.  There are a number of reasons for this, including:

  • The need to travel longer distances to employment or services
  • A lack of walking and cycling facilities
  • Motorised transport travelling at higher average speeds giving rise to concerns about personal safety
  • Greater exposure to wind and rain
  • Lack of artificial lighting meaning that many journeys are difficult in the hours of darkness
  • Finally, less congestion and more predicable travel times in rural and small urban areas also reduce the incentive to walk or cycle.

Despite these issues Active Travel options should be more available and promoted in rural and small towns so that the proportion of active journeys is increased to the benefit of both the individual travellers and the wider community.

Normalising walking and cycling as viable travel options in rural areas is important.  They shouldn’t be considered unusual, risky or the preserve of a small minority.  This normalisation will of course occur as participation increases, but also as the infrastructure for active travel is increased and the options are more visible and safer.

 

Climate Change Challenge 

Addressing the decarbonisation of transport and travel in rural regions is complex. Rural people are more reliant on car based transport, they have less available public transport and tend to travel greater distances.  Rural dwellers’ transport and travel patterns need to be central to our Sustainable Mobility Policy.

The rural nature of the Western Region has implications for how we reduce transport emissions, but the reasons we travel are also very important, both in terms of options for reducing journey numbers and types, and the distances and nature of the journeys.

The three pronged ‘Avoid, Shift, Improve’ (ASI) framework is a hierarchy that emphasises reducing journeys in the first place, achieving modal shift, and improving mode efficiencies[3] and should be used for rural transport planning.  By thinking of each of these (ASI) in relation to rural journeys we can begin to focus on workable solutions

The WDC is currently engaged in a project on the transition to a low carbon economy in the rural Western Region (under Action 160 in the Climate Action Plan) and transport is one of the key elements under consideration.

 

Congestion

The costs of congestion are significant and varied, impacting on efficiency, economics and societal and individual wellbeing. Within the Western Region the larger towns and Galway city are particularly affected. It is important that congestion is eased, both to reduce the economic and social costs being incurred, and also to ensure the Region and its growth centres can deliver on the ambitious regional growth targets set out in Project Ireland 2040.

Within the Western Region, congestion in Galway city is of most concern.  The Galway Transport Strategy has identified various sustainable mobility measures which need to be expedited. Funding from national Government must be made available to ensure speedy delivery.  There needs to be an expansion of commuter rail services on the existing Athenry-Oranmore-Galway city route. This will relieve congestion and help promote other sustainable transport (walking and cycling) within Galway city. Investment is needed to double track this line, provide passing bays in the short term and procure additional carriages.

Regional towns will need support and investment in devising and activating sustainable mobility town plans. Support from the expertise available within the NTA and local authorities should be made available.

The WDC has been active in the area of remote working (previously termed e-work and telework) for many years, researching the practice, as well as operating an e-work policy for over two decades. We have published various papers including a recent blogpost which identifies the most recent evidence which suggests that that 18% of workers declared they worked from home.  See the blogpost for more detail.  The success of initiatives variously called e-working spaces/ co-working spaces/ hubs also suggests e-working is on the increase. These can provide similar benefits to home working in reducing commuting distance and congestion.

 

Land Use Planning and Transport Planning

The integration of land use and planning is important in generating more sustainable mobility.  Many people working in congested centres, especially Dublin, have to endure long commute times. If more employment was located in regional centres then it is likely many would have shorter commute times, with much less investment and funding required to ease congested networks in the Greater Dublin Area for example.

One of the important contributory factors to the recent and current pattern of development is the focus on transport investment to and from the capital with relatively minimal investment in other inter-city routes. Some of the current congestion or ‘over development’ of Dublin is in part a legacy issue relating to the priority given to improving the radial road links (and rail links) between the provincial cities and Dublin which ensured that Dublin was the most accessible city while at the same time there were relatively very poor intraregional links between each of the other cities, stifling development within and between the other regions.

 

Regulation of Public Transport

The remit of the National Transport Authority (NTA) which confers additional responsibilities within the GDA should not be confined to the GDA but should be extended to the entire country. The particular additional responsibilities allow the NTA to more effectively deliver on the transport needs of the GDA and this overall, comprehensive role is needed throughout the country.

Given the role of the NTA in delivering the Rural Transport programme, the investment programme in regional cities, the accessibility programme, and other transport programmes, it already has a significant role and understanding of transport issues outside the GDA. What is needed is the capacity to deliver overall strategic direction so as to enhance and integrate services across the country and beyond the GDA.

The background document notes that the majority of bus and rail services are PSO routes. These are ‘financially unviable services which are provided as a public good’. In this discussion it would be useful to note that this is not unusual, that most public transport services arose Europe are in receipt of public funding. The services provide wider economic benefits which are often not quantified but are no doubt significant.

 

Public Transport in Rural Ireland

Rural areas (depending on the definition used) can include some significant towns which have different transport patterns and needs to the more sparsely populated rural areas.  It is important that these differences are recognised in planning for rural transport and that one approach is not assumed to cover all rural issues.

Most journeys are made to reach services of varying kinds.  People living in rural areas tend to be at a greater distance from services than their urban counterparts and so the journeys made tend to be longer and more car based and of course those without access to a car are particularly disadvantaged.   Greater distance to services tends to reduce options for travel and in particular, given the lack of public transport and the distance to public transport services, increases reliance on car travel in rural areas[4].  There are opportunities and challenges in providing public transport in rural areas, some of which are noted here:

  • Existing public transport like school bus services and other transport services (health) should be open to all rural dwellers, making the most of the existing services.
  • Where a service exists bus stops, signage and information  should be available including covered bus shelters (discussed more in the Active travel section of this submission)
  • Bike parking stops which is secure and dry should be provided at rail stations and key bus (discussed more in the Active travel section of this submission)
  • An Information app on availability/ timing would be useful. Sometimes it can be difficult to find information about an existing service or predict when it might arrive.
  • If a phone service is used to provide information about the transport service or to allow for demand response this needs to be staffed daily ideally from 7am to 7pm. If you cannot rely on being able to contact the service to book  or check timing the service will not be used to its potential.

 

Statistics and Trends

There seems to be a shortage of data on public transport provided by private operators.  These account for a significant proportion of scheduled services between cities and towns in the Western Region but there is little data on passenger numbers, frequency etc.  This can sometimes lead to underestimation of the use of public transport not provided by Bus Éireann or Irish Rail.

Many journeys are multi modal, and yet there is very little information on such journeys with the main mode often being the only information gathered.  Better data on multi modal journeys would allow for infrastructure and services to be planned taking it into account.  Similarly, with better understanding of the roles of different modes in different journey types, the more sustainable modes can be encouraged as elements of a journey.

 

Priorities

There has long been a focus on sustainable travel in Dublin, but less focus on other cities (e.g. Galway) and other urban centres (such as Sligo and Ennis).  Likewise in small towns it is not prioritised or is included as an add-on.  Solutions may not be well designed or not attractive to users or may not be integrated so that they are not practical for users.  Finding out what works in smaller urban centres and making good investments is important.

There is a dearth of sustainable travel options and solutions available for rural areas, and if we are to reduce the carbon intensity of rural travel there needs to be a clear focus on finding solutions in rural areas, piloting infrastructural investments in rural areas and small towns and trying novel approaches to encouraging sustainable travel.  We need to find out what works in rural areas in relation to lift sharing, public transport use and active travel so potential solutions can be developed, then tested, learned from, and put in place elsewhere.

 

The full submission from the WDC is available here.

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] There are seven counties under the WDC remit Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Galway and Clare

[2] Using the CSO definition 64.7% in of the population live outside of towns of 1,500 or more. Using the definition in Ireland 2040 the National Planning Framework, 80% of people in Western Region live outside of towns of 10,000.

[3] See more discussion in the NESC paper Advancing the Low-Carbon Transition in Irish Transport

[4] Discussed more here https://wdcinsights.wordpress.com/2019/12/20/why-do-we-travel-distance-to-rural-services-and-the-need-for-rural-journeys/

Why do we travel? Distance to rural services and the need for rural journeys

Understanding the reasons rural dwellers travel is essential to ensuring we can take focused, effective, and fair climate action and aid a transition to low carbon rural regions. In this the second blog post examining data on travel and journeys in Western Region counties and rural areas, the need to travel to services, the distance many rural dwellers live from everyday services, and the reasons why some journeys are not made are all considered.  This post forms part of a series examining data and issues on rural travel and journeys as part of WDC work (some of which falls under Action 160[1] in the Climate Action Plan) on how we transform the Western Region to a low carbon region.  A post on the rural emissions is available here and the first in this series covering issues of rurality and transport and the reasons for travel is here.

 

Distance to services

In the previous post on transport, the importance of travel for work and education were outlined along with the other reasons we make journeys.  Travelling for work and business are clearly important, but most journeys are made to reach services of varying kinds.  People living in rural areas tend to be at a greater distance from services than their urban counterparts and so the journeys made tend to be longer and more car based (both of which will be discussed in future blogs).  Greater distance to services tends to reduce options for travel and in particular, given the lack of public transport and the distance to public transport services, increases reliance on car travel in rural areas.

This is highlighted in Figure 1 below, which compares the proportion living within 15 minutes’ walk of key services in rural areas compared with the national picture.  Indeed the National Household Travel Survey also found that 40% of all rural respondents did not live within 15 minutes of any of these services.

Figure 1: Percentage living within 15 minute walk of services, National Household Travel Survey, 2017

Source: https://www.nationaltransport.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/National_Household_Travel_Survey_2017_Report_-_December_2018.pdf

 

This can be seen more specifically at a county level (Figure 2) which shows the average distance (km) of residential dwellings to everyday services.  This higher average distance to services for rural people  means that rural dwellers are travelling further and for longer periods (discussed more in a future post) are more likely to need a car, which is the only way to access most of these services.

Figure 2: Average km distance to key everyday services for Western Region counties

Source: CSO, 2019 https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-mdsi/measuringdistancetoeverydayservicesinireland/  Statbank Table MDS02

 

The services shown in Figure 2 above are ones that may need every day access, other services such as banking, libraries and leisure services like swimming pools may be sued less often but have much higher average distances, again increasing the need for motorised transport (most likely a car).  These are shown in Figure 3.  The distance to hospital is greatest, and while some outreach services are provided, many people will need to attend appointments and on going treatment services in these hospitals.  Some transport services are available but many will, where possible or necessary, use private transport of their own or with a friend, relative or volunteer.

Figure 3: Average distance (km) to other services which may be used regularly for Western Region counties

Source: Source: CSO, 2019 https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-mdsi/measuringdistancetoeverydayservicesinireland/  Statbank Table MDS02

 

The need for car travel is partly a function of the distances to be travelled but it also relates to difficulty accessing public transport.  The average distance to a train station and a public bus stop (which in all Western Region counties is less than the average distance to a train) is shown in Figure 4 below.  For most of these counties, these distances are greater than most people are likely to be able or wish to walk, especially given the hazards of walking on many rural roads, and the probability that many of the journeys in winter would not be in daylight.

Figure 4: Average distance to a bus stop and train station in Western Region counties (km)

Source: CSO, 2019 https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-mdsi/measuringdistancetoeverydayservicesinireland/  Statbank Table MDS02 Note: Average distance to a train station is not shown for Donegal as there is no station in that county and the distance is too large for the chart (113km).

 

Even if people are to walk this distance (active travel modes in rural areas will be considered in a future post) many of these bus stops have very few services.  All counties have even greater average distances to train stations and in certain situations (e.g. for work or business and hospital appointments) travelling by train may be a preferred option.

Of course levels of service are very important. Figure 5 below shows the percentage of the population whose nearest Public Transport stop has a low service frequency.  This gives a clear indication of why so few rural journeys are by public transport (again to be discussed in a later post).

 

Figure 5: Percentage of the Population in Western Region counties whose nearest Public Transport stop has a frequency of fewer than 10 services per day.

CSO Ireland, 2019, Measuring distance to everyday services 2019 Table 2.3 (XLS 14KB)

 

People not travelling

Finally, having discussed the reason people are making journeys and some of the issues for them in rural areas, it is also interesting to examine, in as far as the data allows, the journeys not made.  The CSO’s National Travel Survey briefly examines the distribution of persons travelling and not travelling by degree of urbanisation  and found that over 77% of persons residing in rural (thinly populated) areas took a journey on the travel reference day.  This was an increase of over eight percentage points on 2014. By comparison, nearly two thirds (65.9%) of persons living in intermediate density areas and 71.1% of residents of urban (densely populated) areas made journeys on the travel reference day.  At a regional level the survey shows that in the Border region 58.4% travelled on the reference day (which was the lowest regionally) and in the West 74.1% travelled. Nationally 71.3% travelled on the reference day.

The most common reason why people did not travel on the reference day was that they had no wish or need to travel or were fully occupied with home duties – nearly two thirds of persons (62.8%) gave this as their main reason for not taking a journey. Understanding more about why people don’t travel could be important in helping us consider how we reduce people’s need to travel on some occasions as a part of the ‘Avoid, Shift, Improve’ approach to developing more sustainable transport.

 

Conclusion

This post, the second in a series on transport data and issues for rural areas and the Western Region, examines some of distance to services, access to public transport and highlights some information on journeys not made.  The next posts in this series will look at the length of journeys, travel time and the mode of transport.  The collation and analysis of the available data will allow us better understand the reasons for, and nature of, rural journeys, This is essential to design policies to reduce emissions and help us to meet our transport targets as well as developing develop more sustainable rural transport options.

 

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] There are eleven pieces of research and studies which are counted as ‘Steps Necessary for Delivery’ of Action 160, including the one to be carried out by the WDC “Study of transition to a low carbon economy: impacts for the rural western region”.

Rural Journeys and travel: what do we know about the Western Region?

Rural people are more reliant on car based transport, they have less available public transport and tend to travel greater distances.  Rural dwellers’ transport and travel patterns need to be central to our climate action planning. There must be detailed consideration of transport issues for smaller settlements and rural areas.  Following on from the posts relating to a move to a low carbon Western Region on energy efficiency and home heating and retrofits, in this series of blog posts what we know about journeys and transport in rural areas, and the Western Region in particular, is examined, starting with consideration of available data and concluding with a post discussing issues implications of the data.

As discussed previously the Western Region (the area under the WDC remit[1]) is very rural. Using the CSO definition 64.7% in of the population live outside of towns of 1,500 or more[2]. Using the definition in Ireland 2040 the National Planning Framework, 80% of people in Western Region live outside of towns of 10,000. Thus WDC work has a particular focus on the needs of, and opportunities for, more rural and peripheral areas.

One of the key elements of the transition to a low carbon rural region will be emissions reduction from transport in the Western Region.  This will require the three pronged policy and personal approach in line with the ‘Avoid, Shift, Improve’ (ASI) framework, a hierarchy that emphasises reducing journeys in the first place, achieving modal shift, and improving mode efficiencies[3].

Addressing transport emissions is a key element of the Climate Action Plan where there is specific focus on the need to address rural issues under the transport heading (e.g. Action 94 to review public and sustainable transport policy and to publish a public consultation on public/sustainable transport policy, including rural transport).  This recognises that rural transport needs are different. Under the Plan, Action 100 also addresses the need for a vision for low carbon rural transport and commits to develop a new rural transport strategy and to conduct a comprehensive assessment of rural travel demand, and methodologies for determining it.

Addressing transport and travel in rural regions is complex. In order to understand what needs to be done to reduce emissions from rural travel, we need to know what our travel patterns actually are.  These WDC Insights posts will set out, in detail, some of population issues and some of the available baseline information on journeys and transport in rural areas and the Western Region.  Knowing the current situation means that we can better understand what we need to do to make the transition possible and ways to make it happen.

In doing this we must recognise that transport is not an end in itself; it is a means for accessing employment, and other services and amenities that contribute to healthy and fulfilling lives[4]. Understanding transport as a social practice is essential to promoting positive behaviour change.

 

Why are rural areas different?-

In the first part of this post I look at some of the reasons that transport in rural areas is different and why reducing emission in rural areas may be difficult, these reasons relate to population, population density, distance to services and to employment and amenities.  Understanding patterns of population growth and decline and population density, provide the background for much of the discussion of transport and journeys.  It is important to recognise the characteristics of these before considering why we travel.

The Rural Population

Looking at population, some of the issues are immediately brought into focus.  In Ireland as a whole, the Census of Population, 2016, just over a third (37%) of the population lived in rural areas (that is outside towns of 1,500).  In contrast, in the Western Region showed the opposite pattern and 65% live in rural areas (Figure 1).  This is a marginal decline on 2011 (when it was 66%).

The rural population of the seven counties varies from almost 90% in Leitrim (where there is only one urban centre over 1,500) to 54% in Galway which of course includes the largest settlement of Galway City.  After Leitrim, Roscommon, Donegal and Mayo are the most rural of the Western Region counties.  Sligo and Clare, along with Galway are slightly less rural.  It should be noted that Galway county (i.e. excluding the city) is one of the most rural with almost 78% of the population living in rural areas.

Figure 1: Percentage of Population living in rural areas in the Western Region and State.

Source: CSO Census 2016 Profile 2 E2008: Population Percentage in the Aggregate Town Areas and Aggregate Rural Areas

Each county, and the Western Region itself (64.7%), has a significantly higher proportion of people living in rural areas than for the State as a whole (37%).

Population Density

Density is another key indicator of rurality and it certainly is important in considering the provision of services.  In Ireland as a whole the population density is 70 people per square kilometre and in the more rural Western Region it is just under 32 people per km2 .  Again there is considerable variation by county and as can be seen in Figure 2 below, this largely mirrors the rurality of each of the seven counties.

Figure 2: Population Density in the Western Region and State (persons per sq km)

Source: CSO Census 2016 Profile 2 E2013: Population Density and Area Size 2011 to 2016

Galway (county and city) has the highest population density (42 people per square km) and Leitrim has the lowest with just over 20 people per square kilometre.

Population in Towns

The population of towns across is also important, and looking at towns across the Western Region the weak urban structure of the region is evident.  Galway is the significant city, with a population of 79,934 in 2016.  Only five towns have a population of more than 10,000 people (Ennis, Letterkenny, Sligo, Castlebar and Ballina), and there are a further seven towns with a population of more than 5,000 giving a total of 13 towns including Galway in that size category (5,000+) in the Western Region.  Another 27 towns in the Western Region have a population of more than 1,500 and which are therefore categorised as urban.  This give a total of 42 ‘urban’ settlements, that is,  places with a population of over 1,500 in the 2016 Census of Population.

While these urban populations are significant in the context of the region, it should be remembered that more than half a million people (535,953) are living in rural areas (in small settlements and open countryside) in the Region.  The CSO also provides population details of a further 201 settlements in the Region, (the smallest of these is Malin, population 92) and 103,936 people live in these.  A total of 440,888 (53%) therefore live in more open countryside (and in even smaller settlements).

Rural Categorisation

The CSO has recently published Urban and Rural Life in Ireland which includes a six way classification of urban and rural areas in, from urban to remote areas and these are shown in Figure 3 below. Most of the Western Region, with the exception of the area around Galway city, falls into the most rural classifications ‘Rural areas with moderate urban influence’ and ‘Highly rural/remote areas’.  These areas are likely to be the most difficult to address transport emissions, with few public transport options, longer distances to services and often lower household incomes than some of the other rural categories.

Figure 3: Population distribution by six way urban/rural classification using Census 2016 results

Source: CSO Ireland, 2019. To view the interactive version of the below map, click here. The map can be used to find the urban and rural six-way classification assigned to a particular address (searchable by Eircode or address).

Travel patterns- why we travel

The rural nature of the Western Region has implications for how we reduce transport emissions, but the reasons we travel are also very important, both in terms of options for reducing journey numbers and types, and the distances and nature of the journeys.  In this section the reasons for journeys are considered, before   we travel to it is now useful to consider why we travel and some of the factors influencing the journeys made in rural areas.

Understanding why we travel and the journeys we make will allow us to better understand how we might influence a change in travel patterns in order to reduce emissions form transport.  The CSO’s National Travel Survey (2016) gives a breakdown of the reasons for journeys made (Figure 4).  The most significant reason for a journey was for work at almost 30% but shopping (almost 22%) and companion and escort journeys (15%) were also quite significant.

Figure 4:  Distribution of journeys by purpose, 2016

Source: CSO Ireland, 2017, National Travel Survey

The importance of these reasons has been quite stable over other years when the survey has been conducted, but the increased importance of work journeys since 2012 and 2013 is clear (see Table 1), and consistent with the growth in the economy and employment between 2013 and 2016.  This link between journey numbers and economic growth has proved difficult to address.

Table 1 Percentage distribution of journeys by purpose, 2013, 2014 and 2016

Purpose 2013 2014 2016
% % %
Work 24.8 25.0 29.3
Education 4.6 4.5 4.0
Shopping 22.7 24.0 21.9
To eat or drink 1.9 1.8 2.4
Visit family / friends 10.2 10.8 8.6
Entertainment / leisure / sports 9.8 9.9 9.2
Personal business 6.4 5.2 5.7
Companion / escort journey 15.2 13.8 15.2
Other 4.2 5.1 3.8
All purposes 100.0 100.0 100.0

Source: CSO Ireland, 2017,  National Travel Survey 2016 Table 1.3 (XLS 11KB)

These reasons for travel are also broken down by the type of area where the journeys are made (See Figure 5).  In this the CSO used three categories[5], thinly populated area refers to rural areas; Intermediate density area refers to towns and suburbs; densely populated area refers to cities, urban centres and urban areas.  Journeys to ‘visit family and friends’, ‘companion and escort’ journeys and ‘entertainment’ are more important in rural areas than in the other categories.  This may reflect the age profile of rural regions, with more older people (and often an higher child population) but with fewer in the working age categories (read more about that here).

Figure 5: Distribution of journeys by Purpose and Degree of Urbanisation

Source: CSO Ireland, 2017, National Travel Survey

The National Transport Authority conducted a National Household Travel Survey in 2017[6] and reasons for trips are analysed across six different urban and rural categories (National, Rural and ‘Other Urban’ (population between 1,500-10,000)) are shown in Figure 6 below.

Again, travel for work or business is the most important category across all three areas, with travel for education significantly more important in this survey (23% nationally), than in the CSO’s National Travel Survey (4% in 2016). Educaiton related travel was highest in rural areas (24%) again, perhaps relating to the relatively lower numbers in the working age cohort.

Figure 6: Reasons for Trips, National Household Travel Survey, 2017

Source: https://www.nationaltransport.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/National_Household_Travel_Survey_2017_Report_-_December_2018.pdf

Analysis by AIRO for the WDC[7] examined labour catchments for the 42 towns in the Western Region (towns of over 1,500) adding to our understanding of journey patterns and the important of smaller urban areas in employment in the region (read more about it on the blog here or here and download the 2018 report here).  This map of local labour catchments (Figure 7) gives a good overview of travel patterns for employment purposes.

Figure 7: Labour Catchments of 42 Towns in the Western Region, 2016

Source: WDC, 2018, Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region: A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments

This ties in with the CSO findings, from the recently released Urban and Rural Life in Ireland,  that more than three in four workers from rural areas do not work in a City.  Of all the workers who lived in ‘Cities’ in 2016, 54.7% worked in Dublin City and suburbs while 28.3% worked in the remainder of the country. For workers living in ‘Satellite urban towns’, 60.9% had their place of work in the remainder of the country while 29.8% worked in Dublin City and suburbs.  It also found that most workers who lived in areas other than ‘Cities’ did not work in a city. More than 90% of workers who lived in ‘Independent urban towns’, ‘Rural areas with moderate urban influence’ and ‘Highly rural/remote areas’ worked outside of the five cities while 76.1% of workers from ‘rural areas with high urban influence’ and 60.9% of workers in ‘Satellite urban towns’ did not work in a City.

Working from Home

Interestingly, that same publication (Urban and Rural Life in Ireland) also showed that one in ten workers in ‘Highly rural/remote areas’ work mainly from home (Figure 8)There were 94,955 people aged 15 and over at work in 2016 who worked mainly from home, 4.8% of the total 1,970,728 people at work. The proportion of people working mainly from home was highest at 9.8% in ‘Highly rural/remote areas’, compared to the lowest percentage of 2.3% in ‘Cities’. Twice as many people worked from home in the three rural areas (63,728) than in the three urban area types (31,227).  This relates in part to the number of farmers in these areas.

Figure 8: Proportion of persons who were working from home by area type, 2011, 2016

Source: CSO, 2019, Urban and Rural Life in Ireland, 2019 Table 8.2 The chart is also here

The pattern of home working in the Western Region and other patterns of remote and e working have been discussed in more detail on the blog.  Increasing the prevalence of working from home, and in alternative work places which require shorter journeys, is likely to be an important part of policy to reduce emissions from transport in rural areas in the future (and will be discussed more in a later blog).

Conclusion

This post, the first in a series on transport statistics for rural areas and the Western Region, examines the issues of population and population density, and well as the reason for travel in rural areas and Western Region counties.  The next posts in this series will look at distance to services as a driver of transport demand.  The collation and examination of this data will allow us better understand the reasons for and nature of rural journeys, which is in itself essential to design policies to reduce emissions and help us to meet our transport targets as well as developing develop more sustainable rural transport options.

While I will continue this analysis for the WDC as part of our work on rural areas transition to low carbon regions, I hope that the data highlighted in these posts will also be of use to others considering this complex issue.

 

Helen McHenry

[1] There are seven counties in the Western Region: Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare.

[2] CSO, Census of Population, 2016

[3] See more discussion in the NESC paper Advancing the Low-Carbon Transition in Irish Transport

[4] See the Climate Challenge paper (no.3) of the public consultation  on sustainable mobility policy here

[5] This classification is created from an aggregation of population density estimates derived from the Census of Population.

[6] The Household Travel Survey was also conducted in 2012 and is expected to be carried out every five years.

[7]  https://www.wdc.ie/docs/TraveltoWork_LabourCatchments_WesternRegion2016_FullDoc.pdf

Public Consultation on Transport and Sustainable Mobility Policy

Introduction

The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has opened a public consultation to review Ireland’s sustainable mobility (active travel and public transport) policy. Sustainable Mobility refers to active travel, such as walking and cycling and public transport (e.g. bus, rail, tram). This review is part of a commitment in the Programme for Government to review public transport policy “to ensure services are sustainable into the future and are meeting the needs of a modern economy”.

This public consultation is an opportunity to give stakeholders, interested parties and the public the opportunity to contribute to the development of a Sustainable Mobility Policy. The public consultation will commence on 14th November 2019 and conclude on 24th January 2020, see here for details.

Transport accounts for 20% of Ireland’s greenhouse gases[1]. The population is forecast to grow by around 1 million people by 2040 with over 600,000 extra jobs forecast (Project Ireland 2040). Almost €7 billion of taxpayer funds have been spent on sustainable mobility services and infrastructure since 2009. How we travel is important and the plans we make for future travel will have significant impacts in the context of funding, climate change and quality of life.

The Department of Transport have published a range of background papers examining various different aspects of sustainable mobility and setting out questions designed to help develop the new policy framework, see here for links to background papers.

Background Papers

Paper 1 focuses on transport accessibility and asks what are the priorities to improve public transport accessibility for people with disabilities, elderly or those with mobility difficulties.

As Ireland is an ageing society we need to consider mobility challenges more.

The paper on Active Travel (Paper 2) examines issues in relation to promoting more active travel such as walking and cycling.

Paper 3 examines the Climate Change Challenge and asks which sustainable mobility emissions mitigation measures, that are not currently employed should be considered? It also asks how mitigation measures should be prioritised, for example on the basis of least cost, carbon, abatement potential, disruptive effects, co-benefit potential etc.?

Paper 4 examines congestion and asks what are the opportunities and challenges around reducing traffic congestion in our cities and other urban areas? A recent report by the Department of Transport see here. estimated the annual value of time lost to road users due to aggravated congestion in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), at €358 million in 2012 and is forecasted to rise to €2.08 billion per year in 2033. These estimated costs do not include other costs, for example, increased fuel consumption and other vehicle operating costs, or increases in vehicle emissions or the impacts of congestion on journey quality.

Additional demand management measures should be considered for example congestion charging/road pricing.

The WDC also believes that demand management measures such as an increase in e-working/remote working should be supported, see the discussion in a recent blog post here. Increased e-working can also help significantly reduce emissions. The Government have just published the Remote Work in Ireland report which supports greater flexible working practice and can be read here.

Paper 5 examines Greener Buses and asks what challenges and issues need to be considered in relation to transitioning alternative fuel options for the urban bus fleet?

Paper 8 focus on public transport in Rural Ireland which of particular concern to the WDC. The Western Region is a very rural region: 80% of the population live in areas outside of towns of 10,000, compared to 49.8% for the State. Lower population densities may mean that a different model of public transport provision should apply compared to that in cities.

There are also papers examining Regulation (Paper 8), Funding (Paper 9) and a Review of actions on the Smarter Travel Policy.

The Department are inviting comment on any and all these issues and this is an opportunity to influence the preparation of Transport policy over the next decade at least. The public consultation will conclude on 24th January 2020 and all the detail is available here.

 

 

Deirdre Frost

[1] Climate Action Plan 2019

 

 

 

Reprioritising and Updating Transport Policy and Investment

Recently, there have been a few publications which focus on the need to reprioritise policy and investment across various aspects of Irish transport infrastructure and services.

The Irish Exporters Association (IEA) has published a paper entitled Building a Transport infrastructure that fosters Irish exports to the world, see here. The IEA, whose focus is on supporting Irish exporters and ensuring efficient international transport access, sets out policies and recommendations which they believe are necessary to more effectively support exporters across Ireland. From a Western Region context, a few of these are particularly relevant.

Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC)

The IEA believes that the Atlantic Economic Corridor needs to be supported through improved connectivity from the North West to the South West of Ireland. The IEA sees the AEC and Ireland’s regions as an important counterbalance to Dublin and the transport infrastructure needs to more effectively support Ireland’s agri-food and Life Sciences industries along with all other industrial clusters located there.

Rail Freight development

The IEA are asking for policy supports to move more freight by rail, noting the relatively tiny share of traffic carried by rail in Ireland (0.9%) compared to an EU average of 17% in 2016. The Western Region is the source of most rail freight in Ireland. The IEA is asking for supports such as reduced track access charges for rail freight, which is a practice common across Europe. This is discussed further in a report commissioned by the WDC and available here. Apart from the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (rail freight can reduce the carbon footprint by 70%), the other significant driver is the huge degree of congestion which generates significant costs, highlighted in a report discussed further below.

Ports

The IEA believe that with Dublin Port operating at or near capacity, further upgrading and diversifying Ireland’s export gateways must be a strategic Government priority. This need is compounded by Brexit. The IEA believe the Government should further develop Ireland’s regional seaports to provide exporters across Ireland with viable, cost efficient and accessible alternatives to Dublin port. They welcome the proposed redevelopment of both Rosslare and Galway Ports.

Airports and air cargo

Similar to the concentration of traffic through Dublin Port, the IEA recognises the concentration of air cargo through Dublin airport. It believes that cost-efficient, viable and well-connected alternatives should be promoted in the West and South to facilitate high-frequency aviation connections to key European and global cargo and business hubs and ensure sustainable economic growth nationally.

This echoes the views expressed by the WDC in its submission to the recent consultation on the Regional Airports Programme, arguing for the need to update transport policy generally and aviation policy specifically to reflect the overarching objectives of Project Ireland 2040, see the WDC Submission here.

The CSO Aviation statistics, see here, highlight the trend of the increasing concentration of air passengers travelling through Dublin airport compared to other airports. For example, in 2014, Dublin accounted for 81.9% of all passengers (total = 26.5 million), compared to 85.6% in 2018 (Total = 36.6 million). This represents an increase of 9.6 million passengers in 4 years with Dublin Airport accounting for 95.2% of total passenger growth in that period. So along with a significant increase in total air passenger numbers, there is an ever-increasing share travelling through Dublin airport. The WDC considers that with Dublin Airport now operating at or near capacity, and capacity available at other airports such as Ireland West Airport Knock and Shannon, cost-efficient and accessible alternatives to Dublin should be utilised and promoted.

Level of concentration unusual in a European context

Just last week a report by Copenhagen Economics entitled Assessment of aviation policy as a driver of economic development in the West and Mid West of Ireland, see here noted the particularly high concentration of passenger traffic in Dublin relative to the other airports in Ireland which is especially high when compared to other small, open economies in Northern Europe. According to this report, the concentration of Dublin’s share of passenger traffic in Ireland represents the second highest, behind only Schiphol in the Netherlands. However, while Dublin’s share continues to increase that of Schiphol has been decreasing over time. This is partly due to Dutch aviation policy, which sets maximum aircraft movements through Schiphol, and actively encourages flights via other national airports in the Netherlands. Dutch aviation policy recognises that airport development is viewed as being part of regional development outlined in the Randstad 2040 Strategic Agenda. The report calls for initiatives to improve Shannon Airport’s global connectivity. A better capacity utilisation at Shannon Airport (in addition to other airports outside of the Capital) will enhance the growth capacity of the West and Mid West regions, and at the same time alleviate pressure on Dublin without requiring costly infrastructure investments.

Budget 2020

It seems Government maybe listening and in Budget 2020, a marketing support fund was announced, comprising approximately €10 million over three years to Tourism Ireland which is to be made available to support the regional airports outside Dublin, including Shannon Airport see here. This is a small but welcome development but more policy supports will be needed to ensure that other airports can grow their numbers and their share of national traffic which in turn will help them to become self-sustaining.

The Costs of Congestion

Finally, recent reports by the Department of Transport indicate that rebalancing traffic away from an increasingly congested Greater Dublin Area (GDA), will not only support the goals and objectives of Project Ireland 2040 but will also make financial and economic sense! The research measured the costs of congestion, specifically around the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) see here. Some of the congestion in the GDA and the M50 are contributed to by passengers and freight originating in the catchments of ports and airports in the West and South such as Shannon and Knock but who currently travel through the GDA to access services at Dublin Port and airport.

The reports estimate the annual value of time lost to road users due to aggravated congestion in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), as compared to where the road network is performing well. The cost of time lost due to aggravated congestion is measured at €358 million in 2012 and is forecasted to rise to €2.08 billion per year in 2033.

These estimated costs do not include other costs, for example, increased fuel consumption and other vehicle operating costs, or increases in vehicle emissions or the impacts of congestion on journey quality. Additionally, congestion also has an impact on the wider economy, and Ireland’s competitiveness. All else equal, high levels of congestion will reduce the attractiveness of a location to work and live in, as well as directly affecting the cost of transporting goods and services. These costs are not captured by this study, and as such, the total costs of aggravated congestion are likely to be higher than those estimated in this report.

Conclusions

It is clear that the benefits of supporting better transport infrastructure and services across ports, airports, the rail and road network outside of the GDA and specifically along the Western Region and Atlantic Economic Corridor makes sense from an economic, social and financial perspective. Implementation of Government policy already set out in Project Ireland 2040 through the NDP and the updating of various sectoral policies needs to take place to give effect to these policies and to a better Ireland for all its regions.

 

Deirdre Frost

Capacity at Ireland’s State Airports – WDC Submission

WDC Submission on the Consultation on Review of Future Capacity Needs at Ireland’s State Airports

The WDC made a submission to the Department of Tourism, Transport and Sport on the Consultation on Review of Future Capacity Needs at Ireland’s State Airports, December 2018. Some of the key points noted are outlined below.

International Air Access

International air access is particularly important for an island economy and for connecting geographically remote regions such as the Western Region.  Without efficient air access, companies in the Region are placed at a competitive disadvantage to companies elsewhere. Infrastructure is a necessary condition for regional development and lagging regions need to have a similar quality of infrastructure as is available in more successful regions so that they can compete on a more level playing field[1]. There are two airports, Shannon and Ireland West Airport Knock, which are located in the Western Region and offer a range of international air services[2].

An EU report measuring potential accessibility by air (using an index where EU 27 = 100), found that Dublin was the only region within Ireland above the EU average, measuring 135.[3] The Border region[4] (60.2), West region[5] (66.5) and Mid-West region[6] (80.6) all recorded accessibility scores considerably below the EU average. Since this analysis there has been a reduction in air services to the regional airports through the reduction of PSO services which would suggest a lower accessibility score for the Northern and Western regions than that measured in 2009.

Nationally, the airports of Dublin, Cork and Shannon are the most important international access points. Unlike much of the country, most of counties Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal and part of Roscommon and Galway have a greater than two hour drive-time to these airports. These centres are not adequately served by the three larger airports and Ireland West Airport Knock as the only international airport in the Northern and Western (NWRA) region, serves this catchment.

Policy Context National Planning Framework, Ireland 2040 NPF and RSES

The National Planning Framework (NPF) published in February 2018, is a planning framework to guide development and investment to 2040. Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES) are currently being prepared and are to give more detail at a regional level as to where growth should occur. A key element in the NPF vision is set out on page 11.

We need to manage more balanced growth … because at the moment Dublin, and to a lesser extent the wider Eastern and Midland area, has witnessed an overconcentration of population, homes and jobs. We cannot let this continue unchecked and so our aim is to see a roughly 50:50 distribution of growth between the Eastern and Midland region, and the Southern and Northern and Western regions, with 75% of the growth to be outside of Dublin and its suburbs.

In order to ensure the NPF can succeed, departmental and State and Semi-State Agency expenditure decisions and allocations, including the National Investment Plan need to be fully aligned with the spatial priorities outlined in the NPF and RSES.

Current policy

The National Aviation Policy predated the publication and consideration of Ireland 2040, both the National Planning Framework and the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies. The national aviation policy can be seen to unduly reinforce the dominance of the larger airports (Dublin in particular).  Now that the NPF is Government Policy, the National Aviation Policy should be reviewed and reassessed in light of the overarching objectives of the NPF.

 Even aside from the NPF and RSES, Irish Aviation policy should ensure that policy on air access should be linked to and consistent with tourism and enterprise policy objectives. National aviation policy also needs to fully recognise the international transport function Ireland West Airport Knock provides, ensuring direct international air services to a region much of which is not in the catchment of the other international airports, Dublin, Cork and Shannon.

Increasing dominance of Dublin Airport

  • The focus of investment and ever greater expansion in this Review is at Dublin Airport despite the spare capacity at the other three main airports and the ability of these airports to serve their catchments and help drive further development in their regions. The current focus on Dublin Airport only serves the ‘business as usual’ scenario and militates against each of the other airports fulfilling the role envisaged of them and delivering better regional balance.
  • Exports: In late 2018, the Irish Exporters Association (IEA), in its policy paper titled, ‘Building a transport infrastructure that fosters Irish exports to the world’, noted that Ireland’s regions form an important counterbalance to Dublin’s economic strength. Further growth, however, is stalled by limited accessibility to high-class transportation infrastructure. Addressing connectivity in Ireland’s West, in particular, should be a strategic priority to support economic growth and regional competitiveness… The IEA specifically cited the increasing dominance of Dublin airport as an issue.
  • The Costs of Congestion: The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has undertaken research estimating the costs of congestion in the Greater Dublin Area (July 2017). Further growth at Dublin Airport will only exacerbate this.
  • The report addresses ‘Options for making best use of existing infrastructure’ but focuses on Dublin Airport (section 5.1.1, pages 105).The WDC believes the best use of existing infrastructure would be by promoting further traffic at Shannon and Cork and the regional airports such as Ireland West Airport Knock. This was the explicit policy position of Government as set out in the National Aviation Policy.
  • The increasing dominance of Dublin Airport in terms of national market share is likely to result in stranded asset issues and increasing spare capacity at the other international airports, Shannon, Cork and Ireland West Airport Knock.

Other Policy Options

The WDC submission also identifies Future Capacity Needs at Ireland West Airport Knock and the value of wider economic impacts for example in the Tourism sector.

The Submission also identifies policy supports which can help support increased passenger growth and an increased share of passengers at Ireland West Airport Knock and at Shannon Airport. These include route support, route development and airport enterprise promotion.

The WDC submission to the Department of Transport, Sport and Tourism on the Consultation on Review of Future Capacity Needs at Ireland’s State Airports can be downloaded here (696 KB)

[1] WDC, 2010, Why care about regions? A new approach to regional policy

[2] Donegal airport provides services to and from Dublin and Glasgow.

[3]www.espon.eu/export/sites/default/Documents/Publications/TerritorialObservations/TrendsInAccessibility/accessibility_data.xls

[4]  Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth

[5] Galway, Mayo and Roscommon

[6] Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary

City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions- Conference Report

The Regional Studies Association Irish Branch Annual Conference was held in the Institute of Technology Sligo on Friday 7th September.  Appropriate for the location, it had the theme “City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions”.  The presentations are available here.

Figure 1: Dr Chris O’Malley from Sligo IT

The conference covered a range of themes relating to regional development and how urban areas interact with their rural regions.  It was opened by Dr Chris O’Malley from Sligo IT who discussed the role of Sligo IT in the development of industry and manufacturing in the region and the IT’s role as an integrator of national policy at regional level.  Dr Deirdre Garvey, chairperson of the Western Development Commission, welcomed delegates to the conference noting how pleased the WDC was to be sponsoring the Annual Conference.  She also welcomed the fact that the conference was taking place in the North West, given the recognition in the National Planning Framework of the specific challenges for the region and how the National Planning Framework (NPF) and Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) process highlight the distinct challenges and opportunities for our predominantly rural region.

These addresses were followed by a very interesting session on the history of Irish planning over the last 50 years.  Dr Proinnsias Breathnach (Maynooth University) presented on regional development policy following the 1968 Buchanan report and its impact on industry locations and spatial development.  Dr Breathnach also presented the paper by Prof. Jim Walsh (Maynooth University) who was unable to attend the conference.  He examined the influence of both the Buchanan report and the 2002 National Spatial Strategy, considered the learnings from these and the factors which will influence the success of the National Planning Framework process.  Finally in this session, Prof. Des McCafferty (University of Limerick) presented on the structural and spatial evolution of the Irish urban hierarchy since Buchanan, and examined urban population data over time and the distribution of population across the settlement hierarchy.  He noted that it was important to understand changes projected by the NPF in the context of historic trends

Figure 2: Dr Proinnsias Breathnach (Maynooth University), Prof. Des McCafferty (University of Limerick) and Deirdre Frost (WDC)

After coffee the session on Regional Strategy and Planning covered a broad range of topics.  Louis Nuachi (DIT) presented on the importance of social and cultural objectives in town planning using a case study of planning in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.  David Minton, the CEO of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) discussed issues for the development of the North and West in the RSES, some of the historic development of the region and a number of the challenges in developing a region wide approach.  Finally in that session, John Nugent (IDA) discussed the IDA role in attracting Foreign Direct Investment to the region and some of the important factors which influence the location of FDI, including the importance of having a strong indigenous sector already in place and the ways the indigenous and foreign sectors are mutually beneficial.

After lunch international perspectives were provided by Dr Andrew Copus from the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen and Professor Mark Partridge, the C. William Swank Chair of Rural-Urban Policy at The Ohio State University.

Dr Copus paper  The Scottish City Region Deals – A rural development perspective noted that optimistic assumptions about how a wider functional region benefits from city investments, are commonplace and generally unquestioned, despite meagre evidence of such impacts.   He discussed the two strands of ideas on policy for urban rural development that of polycentricity and rural urban co-operation (theories which are stronger in EU countries and in OECD work), and City Regions (which have tended to have more focus in the UK).  He highlighted the importance of defining what is meant by rural when considering the impact of such regional policies and  he discussed the development and implementation of regional policy by the Scottish and UK governments in Scotland.

He noted that in general in these deals the dominant rationale relates more to “Smart Specialisation” than to any kind of urban rural cooperation, interaction or spread effect concept, but the way growth deals developing for rural areas of Scotland will fit into the Post Brexit rural development landscape remains to be seen.

Figure 3: Audience at the conference

Prof. Mark Partridge’s paper Is there a future for Rural in an Urbanizing World and Should We Care? noted how rural areas have received increased attention with the rise of right-wing populist parties in Western countries, in which a strong part of their support is rural based. Thus, bridging this rural-urban economic divide takes on added importance in not only improving the individual livelihoods of rural residents but in increasing social cohesion.

He discussed the background of rural and peripheral economic growth, noting the United States is a good place to examine these due its spatial heterogeneity.   He showed that, contrary to public perceptions, in the US urban areas do not entirely dominate rural areas in terms of growth.  Rural US counties with greater shares of knowledge workers grow faster than metro areas (even metros with knowledge workers).

He had some clear suggestions for regional policy, noting that governance should shift from separate farm/rural/urban policies to a regional policy though a key issue is to get all actors to participate and believe their input is valued. In rural development it is important to leverage local social capital and networks to promote good governance and to treat all businesses alike and avoid “picking winners.  Rural communities should be attractive to knowledge workers and commuters, while quality of life, pleasant environment, sustainable development; good public services such as schools are important to attract return migrants.  Building local entrepreneurship is key too and business retention and expansion is better than tax incentives for outside investment.

Figure 4: Dr Chris Van Egeraat (Maynooth University)

In the final session ‘Understanding Regional and Urban Dynamics’ I gave a presentation on what regional accounts can tell up about our regional economies and discussed some of the issues associated with the regional data and the widening of disparities among regions.  Dr Chris Van Egeraat (Maynooth University) presented a paper, written with Dr Justin Doran (UCC) which used a similar method to Prof. Partridge to estimate trickle down effects of Irish Urban centres and how they influence the population in their wider regions.  Finally Prof. Edgar Morgenroth (DCU) presented on the impacts of improvements in transport accessibility across Ireland highlighting some of the changes in accessibility over time and noted that despite these changes human capital is the most important factor influencing an area’s development.

While the conference had smaller attendance than previous years there was good audience participation and discussion of the themes.  The conference papers are now available on the WDC website here and will shortly be available on the RSA website.

 

Helen McHenry

Commuting in the Western Region

Census 2016 results, Profile 6 has highlighted some key trends in relation to commuting patterns across the country. What are the trends in the Western Region and how do they compare with the national picture?

More commuting to work

The number of people living in the Western Region and commuting to work in 2016 was 306,359, an increase of 7.4% (21,136) since 2011, somewhat less than the national increase of 10.7% over the five year period.

Within the Western Region all counties experienced an increase in workers commuting though only Galway city experienced a rate of increase that exceeded the national average (11.7%). This was followed by County Galway (9.5%), Donegal (8.8%), Clare (7.4%) and Leitrim (6.3%). Counties Roscommon (6%), Mayo (4.4%) and Sligo (1.2%), all had increases, though well below the national average.

Travel to work in the Western Region

Commuting by car

  • Most commuters in the Western Region travel to work by car (72.4%[1]), either as a driver or passenger – less than 7% of car commuters are passengers. Nationally 65.6% of workers commute to work by car to work, a decrease from 66.3% in 2011. As the numbers at work has increased over the period, this indicates an even greater change than the percentage share might suggest.
  • In the Western Region the share travelling by car stayed the same – 72.4% since 2011, but as the numbers employed have increased (excluding not stated, by 21,478 or 7.4%)  it indicates a greater number of people in the Western Region are travelling by car than in 2011,(+15,816 or 7.5%) the opposite trend to that occurring nationally.
  • Within the Western Region, all counties had a minimum of 71% of commuters travelling by car, ranging from a high of 75% in Clare to 71.8% in Mayo. Only Galway city had a lower share of car commuters – 61.9% – reflecting the greater public transport availability and more walking and cycling options there.

Public Transport

  • In the Western Region the share of commuters using public transport increased from 1.8% in 2011 to 2.1% in 2016, while nationally, the share of commuters using public transport increased from 8.4% to 9.3%. All counties showed a percentage increase apart from counties Donegal and Mayo, though most change was marginal apart from Galway city.
  • All western counties had increases in the numbers both travelling by bus and train which given the extent of the train network in the region suggests many of those travelling by train are commuting to destinations outside the Region.

Cycling

  • In the Western Region, the share of those cycling to work increased from 1.1 to 1.3% between 2011 and 2016, while nationally the rate has increased from 2.3% to 3%. Within the Western Region all counties except Roscommon and Leitrim showed an increase in the numbers and percentage share of commuting by cycling to work.

Walking

  • Within the Western Region, there was a slight decline in the share of commuters walking to work, from 7.8% to 7.4%, though there was an actual increase of 440, obviously less than the rate of employment growth in the Region.
  • Nationally there was a decline in the share of commuters walking to work, from 9.9% to 9.3%, though this masks an actual increase of over 4,500 persons walking to work. Within the Region, Galway city has the highest rate of walking to work, 17.2% in 2016 up from 17% in 2011.

Longer journey times to work – more congested routes or longer distances travelled?

  • Of the over 300,000 people in the Western Region travelling to work, nearly 30% (29.9%) had a journey time of less than ¼ hour while a further 29.7% have a journey time of between ¼ and ½ hour, see Figure 1 below.
  • This indicates a majority of workers living in the Western Region (59.6%) have a journey time of less than ½ hour, less than in 2011 (61.9%) indicating people’s journey times have become longer.

Figure 1. Percentage Share of Working Population and Time Travelled to Work, 2016

Source: CSO statbank. Profile 6, Commuting Table E6023.

Nationally 52.2% of workers have a journey time of between ¼ and ½ hour in 2016, a decline in the share in 2011 of 55.9%. The extent to which people are travelling longer distances or travel times are longer, (because of congestion due to the greater numbers travelling), is less clear.

Within the Western Region, workers living in Galway city and Sligo have the shortest journey times, with 67.4% and 66.6% respectively with a travel time of less than ½ hour. Close to two-thirds of workers in Donegal (64.7%) and Mayo (63.8%) have journey times to work of less than ½ hour.

The share of commuters with journey times of less than ½ hour is less in the counties of Roscommon (59.7%), Clare (59.1%), Leitrim (55%) and County Galway (47.6%), indicating generally longer commutes for people living in these counties.

In the case of workers living in County Galway, 34.1% have a journey time of between ½ and 1 hour, while a further 8% have a journey time of between 1 hour and 90 minutes suggesting many are travelling some distance and/or travelling on congested routes into Galway city.

Further analysis, examining where people work and the extent to which they travel for work will be examined in forthcoming WDC policy analysis.

 

Deirdre Frost

 

[1] This excludes the ‘not stated’ category.

What are the Capital Infrastructure Priorities for the Western Region?

Last week the WDC made a Submission to the Public Consultation on the Mid-term Review of the Capital Plan 2016-2021.

The consultation sought views as to what should be included in the current Plan (€42 billion), over and above what is already included – arising from additional resources (€5 billion) being made available.

In addition, an interesting and welcome aspect was that the Consultation also sought views on the criteria which should inform consideration of the capital investment choices to be made. This was in the context of the remainder of the current plan, but also and arguably of more importance in the context of a longer term 10 year Capital Plan.

This idea of a longer term 10 year Capital Plan acknowledges another important Public Consultation underway – the National Planning Framework (NPF) and the need to consider investment priorities which would align and support the final NPF. A draft NPF is due for consideration over this Summer.

In discussing the Considerations for the Mid-Term Review of the Capital Plan (Section 2), the WDC highlighted the importance of infrastructure for regional development where all regions need quality infrastructure to compete effectively. The WDC submission also noted;

  • The importance of long-term planning, as decisions made on infrastructure now have very long term impacts.
  • The need to invest to join existing networks together and complete ‘unfinished sections’. For example once the Gort-Tuam motorway is complete, the priority should then be to improve the outstanding sections between Tuam and Sligo to ensure a high quality road network.
  • Identify and utilise existing available capacity before considering new investments at congested sites. For example there is international air access capacity available at Shannon and Ireland West Airport Knock. Another example is to develop more attractive services on the rail network, which is a valuable transport asset with capacity to ease congestion on the road network and help us meet Ireland’s climate change obligations.
  • Develop inter-regional linkages. While connectivity to Dublin from most regions has improved considerably in the last decade, inter-regional connectivity is relatively poor. By improving inter-regional connectivity, such as improving the road network between the urban centres in the Mid-West, West and North West then the investment potential of the key urban centres there can be enhanced.

The WDC submission also notes the importance of appropriate appraisal and evaluation methods when considering alternative investment projects. The capital appraisal and evaluation methods determining the costs and benefits of different investment projects need to be re-examined. The traditional cost benefit approach will naturally favour the larger and often largest population centres as the impacts are likely to be felt by a greater number, wherever the project is being delivered. To realise better spatial balance, there will need to be a change to the conventional appraisal and evaluation methodologies which are typically used to determine what projects proceed. The impact on the wider spatial balance of the country should be factored in.

In the section examining the prioritisation of Capital Expenditure and Selection of Projects/Programmes in current Capital Plan (Section 3), the WDC focused on the infrastructure areas it considers critical for Western development.

Key priority infrastructural investments include:

  • Funding to deliver and complete the National Broadband Plan as soon as possible to ensure high speed broadband for all.
  • National primary road improvements including N4, N5, N6, M17, M18, incorporating the Atlantic Road corridor.
  • National secondary roads see WDC Submission for specific priorities.
  • There is a need to increase regional and local roads funding to allow road maintenance programme to be enhanced.
  • The importance of Bus services and the Rural transport programme to citizens in the Western Region is highlighted.
  • Continue investment is needed to support increased rail frequencies and service levels on routes serving the Western Region.
  • Ongoing support for improvements and access to Ireland West Airport Knock and Shannon.
  • Investment in the electricity network and natural gas infrastructure is made through the commercial state sector, but it should be co-ordinated and monitored through the Capital Investment Plan.
  • Apart from completing all energy commitments in the Capital Plan there should be investment to connect to the natural gas grid at Athenry, Ballyhaunis and Knock, all three of which qualified for connection in 2006.

In Section 4, Long-term Capital Investment Framework (10 years), the WDC Submission examines the longer-term considerations needed for effective capital investment. The WDC believes that capital investment which is by its nature long-term investment should be undertaken within the context of a longer term planning framework as is proposed in the National Planning Framework 2040. The WDC has made a detailed submission to the NPF (4.5 MB) consultation conducted by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government.

Other considerations include:

Capital spending on new infrastructure should focus on supporting better spatial balance as well as supporting those citizens and that part of the country which is relatively poorly served. Quality infrastructure is one of the necessary conditions for regional development.

Investment in road infrastructure to join existing networks together and complete ‘unfinished sections’. For example in the West/North West. These are often infrastructure requirements needed to satisfy current as well as future demand.

As outlined previously, the state should capitalise on the capacity already available and ‘sweat’ the state investment already made, such as in transport, for example the rail network and the international airports with spare capacity such as Shannon and Ireland West Airport Knock. Other examples include educational infrastructure (Institutes of Technology), Health facilities and Housing.

Policy will also influence the infrastructure investments needed. The need to lower carbon emissions will help influence infrastructural investments (for example supporting cleaner transport modes).

Another consideration is to enable greater policy integration and joined up investment decisions across all sectors, for example planning, employment and transport policy sectors, which are proven to help to make sustainable and active travel more attractive alternatives to the private car.

A good example is the benefits which could be realised through increased e-Working, see WDC Policy Briefing No.7 (748 KB) which can reduce transport demand, traffic congestion and emissions. It has been estimated that if just 10% of the working population of 2.1 million were to work from home for 1 day a week, there would be a reduction of around 10 million car journeys to work per annum[1]. Benefits arising from higher broadband speeds and greater levels of e-Working include time savings, enhanced communications, increased sales and productivity gains[2]. To promote greater take-up, e-Work needs to be prioritised as a policy objective and a cross departmental approach is required. Lead departments would include the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Communications, Climate Change and Environment.

The WDC Submission is available for download here (4 MB).

Deirdre Frost

[1]Department for Transport, Smarter Travel: A Sustainable Transport Future, A New Transport Policy for Ireland 2009-2020 http://www.smartertravel.ie/sites/default/files/uploads/2012_12_27_Smarter_Travel_english_PN_WEB%5B1%5D.pdf#overlay-context=content/publications. p.35

[2] Indecon International Economic Consultants, July 2012. Economic / Socio-Economic Analysis of Options for Rollout of Next Generation Broadband. Analysis undertaken on behalf of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) as part of the Government’s National Broadband Plan, 2012. http://www.dccae.gov.ie/communications/SiteCollectionDocuments/Broadband/National%20Broadband%20Plan.pdf