The government is invited to pilot the prioritization of people in remote areas for EV subsidies

Fynn Hopper, Arigna resident, “is doing exactly what the state wants us to do” by investing in an electric car, according to transportation expert Brian Caulfield, who believes government needs to do more to encourage such engagement towards decarbonisation among people in rural areas.

Dr Caulfield, associate professor at Trinity College, says “transport poverty” is a problem in remote areas where people “have to own a car” because public transport options are so limited.

“The other thing is these people tend to own older cars with higher emissions,” he said.

For this reason, Dr Caulfield is urging the government to launch a pilot project where people living in remote rural areas are given priority in any subsidy program for electric vehicles. “A pilot would provide the evidence to show that it could work. We have to throw out the kitchen sink to find ways to reduce emissions ”.

Martina Earley, CEO of Roscommon Leader, strongly agrees. She says there is an appetite for reducing carbon emissions among rural communities, which was shaken by the announcement last week of a reduction in Leader funding from € 400 million to € 180 million. euros as part of the CAP’s strategic plan, money she says was already earmarked for a series of environmentally friendly measures.

“Community centers were planning to install charging points for electric vehicles,” she said. “Plans to turn community centers into remote work centers will also be scrapped now because the money is not there.

“If the government is serious about getting people out of congested towns and allowing them to work in rural Ireland, it doesn’t make sense. “

And while Local Link bus services meet some needs, Ms Earley said it’s high time the government embraced the technology and created an app that would match potential passengers with transportation providers, not just them. bus.

“People’s lives don’t go according to the bus schedules. Older people who have to go to a hospital appointment, for example, should be able to order a car on site ”.

Intuitive

One such initiative, Clare Local Lift, which uses an app specially designed to connect drivers in rural areas of Clare with people in need of a lift, has been described as a “simple and intuitive” way to connect. meet passenger transportation needs in a recent Western Development Commission (WDC), Transitioning to a Low Carbon Society in the Western Region.

The app, which was put on hold during the pandemic, can be downloaded from the Google Play Store so that anyone who needs a lift for a doctor’s office or store to apply and be matched with a driver traveling in. this direction. For safety reasons, all drivers participating in the program must be registered with the taxi regulator.

Such tailor-made services are essential to encourage people to get out of their gasoline and diesel cars, rural activists say.

With train and bus schedules not meeting the needs of many workers, carpooling is an obvious phenomenon from the number of cars parked all day outside of many towns, adjacent to major roads from the west to the west. Dublin.

The early morning train from Sligo, for example, arrives at Connolly Station at 8:49 am, too late to point to most jobsites. Gerry Bambrick, a Roscommon-based union official and retired electrician, says he knows a lot in the construction industry – builders, plumbers and carpenters – who cannot afford housing in Dublin and are on the the road at dawn.

“It’s like Spaghetti Junction at 5.30 or 6 am at the new roundabout outside Longford, where the N5 joins the N4,” he said.

While workers in other sectors have reduced their commute to work through remote work, he says, since the construction sites opened, many employees have been putting in grueling hours in part because there is no public transport options that suit them.

Carpooling

Former Environment Minister Denis Naughten observed this trend, noting that cars are parked all day in particular places on the outskirts of Athlone as a carpool of friends. Park-and-ride lots for commuters should be a priority, he says.

“I have free parking in the city center, but I would use the park and ride lots if they were available,” he said. “What we should be doing is acquiring plots of land in places like Kilcock for this purpose.”

TD Roscommon-Galway also believes that cooperation between health and transport authorities could help minimize the need for car travel, thereby reducing emissions. If existing bus lines were extended to centers like Ballinasloe, Roscommon and Castlebar, facilitating outpatient visits to local hospitals, it would ease the pressure on hospitals and roads in Galway, he said.

Statistics from the WDC report by policy analyst Dr Helen McHenry show why the provision of public transport in rural areas is complex.

“When we look at the settlement model in the western region, some of the challenges of rural transport are immediately highlighted,” Dr McHenry said, noting that while just over a third (37%) of the population Irish woman lives in rural areas. (excluding cities of 1,500 or more inhabitants) in the western region, the proportion is 65 percent. In Co Roscommon 73 percent of the population are rural dwellers, just behind Leitrim at almost 90 percent.

It’s no surprise that this has implications for travel. “Rural areas are more dependent on car transport than the rest of the country, with more than eight in ten trips involving a car,” she said. “This is likely due to a combination of reasons, including the longer distances to be traveled, the lack of public transport options, and relatively un-congested roads.”

The WDC report says measures that could reduce dependence on cars include an increase in remote working and more delivery services from supermarkets and other retailers.

Dr McHenry pointed out that distance to public transport creates dependency on cars as many households in rural areas have more than one vehicle. “With the exception of Galway City, all of the counties in the western region have higher levels of access to more than one car,” she said. In Roscommon, 46.2 percent of households have access to two or more cars, compared to a national average of 42 percent.

“Ridesharing can be a useful substitute for owning a second or third vehicle, although accessing the carpooling location may require travel,” said Dr. McHenry.

Greater adoption

The number of passengers in the rural transport program known as Local Link – which the government plans to expand as part of a five-year € 57 million investment program – has increased from 1.76 million in 2015 to 2 million in 2018, but the WDC report echoes the views of many when it says “that there is potential for even greater adoption, especially in the context of low-emission transport. of carbon “.

“They are definitely underutilized,” says Martina Earley, who said the government needs to be a little more imaginative when it comes to rural transport and think beyond buses. “Can’t we create an app for people to order cars locally. This would meet the needs of those whose lives do not keep pace with the bus schedules.

An app to provide a demand-based response, along with subsidized hackney and community car services, are among the measures currently being considered under the government’s € 57million program, which was launched for public comment on Friday. .

Brian Caulfield is aware that there may be skepticism about the priority given to people in remote rural areas for subsidies for electric cars. “We don’t want people to stay with their grandmother and then go back to town with an electric car,” he said.

But with the view among some outside the capital that “it’s okay for you guys in Dublin with the buses and the Luas and Dart”, he said it was time to be innovative.

About Christopher Easley

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