Here’s a fantasy light rail network for Cork

Patrick Street, Cork. Image: Dylan/Wikimedia Commons.

Here we go again: another fantasy metro network courtesy of a young reader…

Transport in the city of Cork hasn’t managed to keep up with the growing demands of its population. The greater Cork City area has seen an immense amount of growth over recent years, as more and more investment and development has been created in the city. Because of all this, Cork has become a very attractive place to live and work, and the city boundary has even enlarged to account for all this growth.

And these increases in population and development are set to continue into the future. In particular, the former Docklands area is set to receive a multi-million euro redevelopment, and development is planned for other areas of the city. And along with this will come a dramatic increase of population: the council estimates the city’s population will more than double to 500,000 by 2050.

Yet the city already has one of the worst rates of congestion in Ireland – commuters spend an average of 40 minutes stuck in gridlock each day, and rates are only increasing. Between 2015 and 2017, areas such as the South Link Road added 4,000 cars to the daily load.

Herein lies the problem. If transport is ineffectual now, think - what on earth might it look like in the future?

It is clear that the state of public transportation in Cork City needs a long term solution. Though some efforts have been made, these are all short-term solutions. While made with the best of intentions, they will not significantly halt congestion, nor prevent the gaps in public transport service from worsening as time goes on.

So what is the long-term remedy to Cork’s transportation woes? To follow Dublin’s lead in the creation of a light rail system in Cork.

The prospect of a Luas for Cork is certainly not a new idea. The boom years of the mid-2000s reignited interest in a system, as the positives of Dublin’s own newly opened Luas became evident. A promised investigative study never finished, due to the burst of the housing bubble.


But the prospect of a Cork Luas has recently become more probable: the Ireland 2040 infrastructure plan has promised one, albeit in very scant detail. The long-awaited Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy is expected to give detail on a potential light rail in Cork. 

Such a scheme would have several goals in mind – to connect suburbs with the City centre, link areas of development, and connect with as many services and amenities as possible. Such plans will be most effective in two different lines - one going east to west, and another north to south.

The primary route, from Ballincollig in the west to Mahon in the east, would serve a variety of Cork’s institutions, including the colleges and the future Docklands area. It also can connect the suburb towns of Ballincollig, Bishopstown, Blackrock, and Mahon.

A secondary route running from the Airport to Hollyhill would connect some of Cork’s most important facilities, such as the airport, and a variety of business parks, notably Apple’s European Distribution Headquarters. Of course, the city will look rather different in the future, so there’s always the possibility for expansion. Connections to the Suburban Rail at Kent Station, which serves areas such as Carrigtohill, Cobh, and Mallow, are also a must. 

Click to expand.

Once up and running, the Cork Luas will benefit the city in a number of ways. Usage of public transportation will increase, especially in areas situated near the route. Cars will be taken off the road, improving journey times for drivers, while public transport will become more reliable due to the lane-separated nature of the system. A decreased numbers of cars on the roads will be a positive step in reducing the amount of carbon emissions, helping Ireland to achieve its EU-set climate goals. In addition, the higher capacity of the Luas would mean that the city is future-proofed for expected population growth. 

There will of course be the expected challenges associated with introducing light rail to Cork, but these must not deter us. The introduction of light rail to Cork will provide the city with the desperately needed long-term solution to public transport problems. Such a service will alleviate an increasingly significant problem throughout the city, all while providing Cork with a valuable tool for further growth and development. 

Ciarán Meers is a secondary school student. You can read his full 80-page proposal here.

 
 
 
 

Green roofs improve cities – so why don’t all buildings have them?

The green roof at the Kennedy Centre, Washington DC. Image: Getty.

Rooftops covered with grass, vegetable gardens and lush foliage are now a common sight in many cities around the world. More and more private companies and city authorities are investing in green roofs, drawn to their wide-ranging benefits which include savings on energy costs, mitigating the risk from floods, creating habitats for urban wildlife, tackling air pollution and urban heat and even producing food.

A recent report in the UK suggested that the green roof market there is expanding at a rate of 17 per cent each year. The world’s largest rooftop farm will open in Paris in 2020, superseding similar schemes in New York City and Chicago. Stuttgart, in Germany, is thought of as “the green roof capital of Europe”, while Singapore is even installing green roofs on buses.

These increasingly radical urban designs can help cities adapt to the monumental challenges they face, such as access to resources and a lack of green space due to development. But buy-in from city authorities, businesses and other institutions is crucial to ensuring their success – as is research investigating different options to suit the variety of rooftop spaces found in cities.

A growing trend

The UK is relatively new to developing green roofs, and governments and institutions are playing a major role in spreading the practice. London is home to much of the UK’s green roof market, mainly due to forward-thinking policies such as the 2008 London Plan, which paved the way to more than double the area of green roofs in the capital.

Although London has led the way, there are now “living labs” at the Universities of Sheffield and Salford which are helping to establish the precedent elsewhere. The IGNITION project – led by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority – involves the development of a living lab at the University of Salford, with the aim of uncovering ways to convince developers and investors to adopt green roofs.

Ongoing research is showcasing how green roofs can integrate with living walls and sustainable drainage systems on the ground, such as street trees, to better manage water and make the built environment more sustainable.

Research is also demonstrating the social value of green roofs. Doctors are increasingly prescribing time spent gardening outdoors for patients dealiong with anxiety and depression. And research has found that access to even the most basic green spaces can provide a better quality of life for dementia sufferers and help prevent obesity.

An edible roof at Fenway Park, stadium of the Boston Red Sox. Image: Michael Hardman/author provided.

In North America, green roofs have become mainstream, with a wide array of expansive, accessible and food-producing roofs installed in buildings. Again, city leaders and authorities have helped push the movement forward – only recently, San Francisco created a policy requiring new buildings to have green roofs. Toronto has policies dating from the 1990s, encouraging the development of urban farms on rooftops.

These countries also benefit from having newer buildings, which make it easier to install green roofs. Being able to store and distribute water right across the rooftop is crucial to maintaining the plants on any green roof – especially on “edible roofs” which farm fruit and vegetables. And it’s much easier to create this capacity in newer buildings, which can typically hold greater weight, than retro-fit old ones. Having a stronger roof also makes it easier to grow a greater variety of plants, since the soil can be deeper.


The new normal?

For green roofs to become the norm for new developments, there needs to be buy-in from public authorities and private actors. Those responsible for maintaining buildings may have to acquire new skills, such as landscaping, and in some cases volunteers may be needed to help out. Other considerations include installing drainage paths, meeting health and safety requirements and perhaps allowing access for the public, as well as planning restrictions and disruption from regular ativities in and around the buildings during installation.

To convince investors and developers that installing green roofs is worthwhile, economic arguments are still the most important. The term “natural capital” has been developed to explain the economic value of nature; for example, measuring the money saved by installing natural solutions to protect against flood damage, adapt to climate change or help people lead healthier and happier lives.

As the expertise about green roofs grows, official standards have been developed to ensure that they are designed, built and maintained properly, and function well. Improvements in the science and technology underpinning green roof development have also led to new variations on the concept.

For example, “blue roofs” increase the capacity of buildings to hold water over longer periods of time, rather than drain away quickly – crucial in times of heavier rainfall. There are also combinations of green roofs with solar panels, and “brown roofs” which are wilder in nature and maximise biodiversity.

If the trend continues, it could create new jobs and a more vibrant and sustainable local food economy – alongside many other benefits. There are still barriers to overcome, but the evidence so far indicates that green roofs have the potential to transform cities and help them function sustainably long into the future. The success stories need to be studied and replicated elsewhere, to make green, blue, brown and food-producing roofs the norm in cities around the world.

Michael Hardman, Senior Lecturer in Urban Geography, University of Salford and Nick Davies, Research Fellow, University of Salford.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.