One of the great joys of paying motor tax in Ireland is the traffic jams. Galway often gets left behind for vital funding for services, but in the case of traffic jams, especially for the hard working people who earn their bread in the Parkmore area of Galway, we are certainly not neglected.
Let’s look at the problem. People work in Parkmore. This is certainly not the problem, because if anything is a problem it’s usually related to unemployment, so we can rule out people going to work as being any sort of problem. I’ve just spent about 20 minutes looking at traffic history in the east of the city and this map is the result of my extensive research. I’ve added some useful emotions for people who may not know exactly which region they are driving through but will be able to identify them by how they feel at 8.25am on the way to work.
What you are looking at is a picture of traffic in Galway at 8.25AM on an average Thursday morning using data from google maps. If the road is red, it is congested. If the road is green, it is not congested. The map tells us (game of thrones fans will know this already) that there is a high concentration of traffic coming from the east. If you scroll through the maps from about 7.30am right through to 9am, you’ll see that this is pretty much standard right from Monday through to Friday, a total of around 7 and half hours of congestion a week there. I’m pretty sure that when I go to work, I spend about 7 and half hours waiting to go home and would hate to have to do it on the way to work as well. This is very inefficient because the traffic is DIRECTLY in the way of the people going to work. A simple solution would be to have the traffic somewhere else, to leave people free to commute but I can’t see that getting any political backing anytime soon.
So what is the ecology angle in all this? Bear with me and I’ll turn this into something to do with ecology. The environmental protection agency in America states that the average passenger vehicle emits 411 grams of CO2 carbon dioxide per mile – or in European currency that that would be about 255 grams CO2 per kilometre. So to be decent polluters it would take about 4000 cars to produce a tonne of CO2 in a km. So while traffic is a very inefficient method of getting to work, it’s a very efficient way of making about ten or twenty tonnes of CO2 in Galway every morning. But shir CO2 is invisible anyways so we don’t actually need to bother about it. But it harks the burning ‘What would visible CO2 look like’ question you were about to type in the comments section. Internet searches tend to put a tonne of CO2 in a similar size to a two storey house or 8m2 if you speak mathematics. Looking at the number of cars in a day of Galway traffic, you can pretty much fill the Cathedral up with the stuff every day.
There are loads of stupid ideas floating around trying to solve this problem. We need to invest in roads, we need to build light rail, we need to all don lycra and cycle to work, we need to carpool…. How useful are any of these concepts? Nobody is talking about horses for some reason. It’s all cycling, Galway light rail and the building of industrial gulags along the new motorway and no mention of horses. Building new roads, carpooling and not a word of a horse.
Japan has some pointless public light bus system and they know nothing about traffic, but apparently it’s a hail-able 16 seater that wanders around the cities of Japan ruining the traffic jams. Some areas encourage carpooling but that would fail in Ireland because it would require people to spend more time in close quarters with both their neighbours and their colleagues; although it has saved the karaoke industry. The great flaw with carpooling would be that if everyone carpooled one day a week it would reduce traffic volumes by 20% and nobody in this country is psychologically prepared for anything improving by 20% ever. Horses though, the majesty of horses galloping toward Parkmore in their thousands at 8.25am on Thursday morning – why will nobody think of the horses.
Galway light rail is a wonderful idea. Long, glistening, of impressive girth, in no way whatsoever phallic looking vehicle brimming with people, as it slides its way into the intimate core of the city. This is a vision many fine politicians of this city would fight tooth and nail to be seen to be fighting for, as long as they need to be seen to be fighting for something and when the capacity reaches a point and the money emerges then I’m certain that one of these in no way sexual looking commuter trains will slip perfectly naturally into the tunnel of existence.
Here’s Galway in 1995. We used Microsoft windows, listened to CD’s on our record players and everything was black and white. Traffic hadn’t been invented then and England hadn’t voted to leave Ireland yet. Nostalgia lads, what. Jobs weren’t invented till around 1998 and traffic came a few years after the invention of bigger roads. Galway, at its old town core; the romantic, artsy, fishy, pinty, hurley, bodhrany, sea salted paradise was a town built for people on foot and horses. Since 1995 we’ve attached another Galway onto the edge of Galway as the invention of jobs brought progress to the town and we escaped the tyranny of having to eat turf and burn fish to keep warm. Galway’s old town, like its sister village Spain, was built around people and the occasional horse. The new Galway is built around cars and mountains of carbon dioxide so big we can fill the cathedral with the stuff every day of the year. Some parts of this new Galway are actually only accessible to humans if they are inside a moving car. So when applying a bit of blue sky thinking to how we might move this traffic out of the way to give us room to drive to work, building around people rather than cars might be something to consider.
Looking closely at traffic, you’ll notice that it’s actually just a load of cars really close together with people in them. To eradicate traffic, there are two options. Eradicate the cars, or eradicate the people. Of these two options, eradicating the cars strikes me as the more viable option and the eradication of people should only be considered when the eradication of cars has proven to be impossible. So how do we do that tomorrow? Light rail will require years of construction and actually increase traffic problems in the interim, building more roads has actually been proven to have no effect of decreasing the amount of traffic – and roads are ecological nightmares in terms of the destruction and segregation of natural habitats. Solutions that work tomorrow can only be implemented with the tools we have to hand, which are roads and people, who are tools.
The only option that will work overnight is a will among these tools, or people if you will, to not use their cars. To do that, you have to provide an alternative that is viable. In the immediate future, buses are the only way this can be achieved. But what puts people off buses? A few things. First off, waiting for a bus is a trauma inducing experience when you live next to the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll be outdoors, away from the comfort of your car under some kind of cruel supposed bus stop structure which blocks neither wind nor rain and provides seating for about three people, so long as they are willing to stand. This is not an attractive alternative to driving. Then to make that worse the bus doesn’t actually originate at my house and go directly to my place of work or travel at the time that I go to work, or go home, so I end up driving, like a tool.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shows exactly how bus stops are failing for the average person. They do not provide warmth, and they do not provide security. The only bus stop in the city at present which can provide for my basic needs as a human is actually in the city centre which is nowhere between home and work.
So in the interim, the only people I actually think can provide a viable solution to east Galway’s traffic nightmare, and in turn reducing the carbon footprint of our working population is the IDA. Why? Well stand with me at this conveniently placed parapet, and gaze out into the dreamy distance with me for a moment while I lay this one out.
The IDA has locations situated on the east of Galway which I’ve marked conveniently using these wonderful bath duck icons, well apart from the airport, which conveniently enough is a purpose built waiting room for people seeking transport. If you want to remove the traffic along the N17, R339 and R446 in the mornings then using one or two of the empty IDA units at these locations as indoor bus stops where people can park for the day without getting absolutely soaked and shafted on parking fees is something we actually have the tools for. Another problem with waiting for buses is that you have to wait for buses. Waiting is awful. You want buses that come every 10 minutes and go places where loads of people work. It probably costs money, but if it gives the option of a few thousand people not feeling lachrymose on the R339 every morning then it just might be worth stretching the imagination round it.
In my extensive studies of everything, my mentors once taught me that some things are wants, and some things are needs. We want to drive our own car to work. We need to get to work. We need to get home. We want to not spend an hour in traffic. We need to consider our options to achieve this. Just a few miles outside the city, lays a place where there are no traffic jams. It is called the countryside, and if you can tolerate trees, it is somewhat liveable. Cars are very useful in the countryside because it isn’t near anything except country, and therefore they become a requirement to get places, like work for example. However, what has happened in Galway is that countryside and city are now a single working community sharing space every morning, and at a certain point in this commute, using a car transforms from being a benefit to being a hindrance. We have the structure on the east of the city to be smarter than this problem. We just need the will and facilities to leave the car behind.
The other option of course, is to hire a squad of lads with pointy sticks, gaudy semi-military uniforms and impersonal sunglasses. I’m talking bright gaudy. You won’t miss these guys in a crowd. They can be stationed at every major junction on the east and if they catch you driving between 7am and 9am on a weekday morning in the east of the city they pull you out of the car by your trousers in such a way that lots of people see you grimacing in your underwear long enough to get a facebook live video of the event.
They then march you to work through the rain, trousers still more or less round your knees while occasionally poking you with the aforementioned sticks and shouting at you unintelligibly right up to your desk in work. They might be speaking English, Irish, Polish or a South African dialect. All you know is that it sounds very, very hostile and intimidating. The facebook live video is then viewed in the main conference area of your place of work with a very attractive person translating both your whimpers and the tirade of abuse you suffered as you watch everyone eat lunch. You are not eating lunch though, as the gaudy traffic militia are standing in the corner eating your lunch and having a sinister discussion which the only words you can understand are your full name and personal address. After a week of this you’ll be allowed to get a bus to work with only a gentle prod or two from a stick while boarding. Is this about ecology at all? Well you can’t solve the pollution problems without solving the traffic problems first. Ecology lads, or faster trees*.
*It takes a tree about 40 years to absorb a tonne of CO2.