Say it ain’t so, Luas: No parking along Cherrywood line?

Luas tram 5003 is seen at the Brides Glen terminus on Oct. 18, 2010. Photo by Flickr user infomatique (William Murphy) via Creative Commons license. Click image for his photostream, which includes many excellent Luas photos.

If you build a light rail line without parking facilities, will the riders still come? The good commuters of Dublin did, or at least they tried.

I blogged with no small enthusiasm this month here and here about the opening of the Cherrywood extension,  a €300 million, 7.5km addition to Dublin’s Luas tram network. Dublin is high on the list of places I would like to visit in the coming years, thanks in part to its shiny modern tram system.

The network appears to be well-run and popular. The fly in the ointment for the new extension is that it was built into sparsely-settled suburban territory which has failed to develop as expected owing to the decline which has hit Ireland’s once-strong ecomony, leaving the “Celtic Tiger” stumbling. That’s rather a tragedy, really, although the silver lining is that this new tramline seems poised to help foster smart growth along the corridor when things pick up again.

But then comes this truly sickening news: Commuters who did turn up on the line’s first Monday of operation, in search of park-and-ride facilities, were left high and dry according to this Irish Independent newspaper report. Reporter Aideen Sheehan relates that bureaucratic red tape has prevented the use of “hundreds of acres of empty land” adjacent to Luas stops for commuter parking, while “the agency operating the Luas has not even entered discussions (with the National Asset Management Agency) about making some of this land available to commuters for parking.”

Stop and let this sink in: A €300 million new LRT line, built deep into lightly-developed territory in expectation of future growth, sans park-and-ride accomodation?

In what must have been a rude awakening for commuters, the only parking lot in operation near the line is a private facility for workers at Dell and other adjacent offices — and, the newspaper added,  lot operators “have put security staff in place all week to inform stunned commuters there’s nowhere for them to park, and clampers have been patrolling the area.”

The upshot for intending riders?

“Drivers are left with the option of trying to find a parking place on one short local road, or of driving all the way to the large car park at one of the old Luas stops in Sandyford. This means drivers will get no benefit from the costly new 7km extension,” the Independent reports (emphasis mine).

The Rail Procurement Agency, meanwhile, said it was “extremely concerned about the situation” and seeking solutions.

According to a spokesman,  parking facilities “were supposed to be provided by builders as part of major developments that had not materialised. The land has now been transferred to NAMA.”

Meanwhile, a 350-car facility is to open next spring near the Carrickmines Luas stop, although RPA “said it had not yet been able to nail down sites at other stops.”

Check out this Oct. 22 RTÉ News at One radio interview with Ger Hannon of the Rail Procurement Agency on options for parking at Cherrywood.

The Independent, meanwhile, carried this Oct. 23 letter from reader Ed Appleby, who faulted the government for having “completely buggered the economy” adding that “they have now presided over yet another fiasco that is the new Luas line.”  

We have a similar, more terse expression in America: That’s messed up.

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