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The Greenbelt Problem and the Daily Commute for Carrigaline and Crosshaven Residents

Ed Glaeser, Richard Florida, Terry Clark, and Jane Jacobs (prominent urban theorists) argued that cities are intellectual breeding grounds for new ideas and innovations. They were not alone – it is now a stylised fact in the discipline that cities are significant drivers of economic growth. The city also acts like an ‘entertainment machine’ that attracts creative and diverse people. And, it seems apparent that the human race also thinks there are greater economic opportunities in cities. The past century has seen a large migration of the human race from rural to urban areas. By 2050, Eurostat predicts about 80 per cent of the European population will be living in Urban areas.

But urban areas are not without their problems. Cities have more crime problems and pollution than rural areas. Also, there are many transport problems such as traffic congestion and parking difficulties, long commuting times, poor public transport systems, pollution and noise. So there is a paradox in cities of benefits versus costs. A key aspect of urban analysis is to identify what factors maximise these benefits and minimise the costs.

In this piece I am going to focus on commuting. Eurostat recently rated people in ireland to have high satisfaction with commuting times with only Denmark and Luxembourg achieving better satisfaction ratings. Satisfaction levels were also well above the EU average. However, the least satisfied by commuting times in Ireland were people living in towns and suburbs. Also, these are averages – it is likely that satisfaction levels differ from place to place. Many of the readers of this paper, like myself, live in Carrigaline (11 kms from Cork). As I work in UCC, I leave regularly before 7.30. Usually, my commute would take approx 30 minutes. If I am not on Carr’s hill before this time, I like many others, will be feeling very sorry for myself, as we will be stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for normally at least an hour. Sometimes, I am lucky to be in to UCC before 9. Its probably important to recognise that in the other lane, there is also tailbacks as people are commuting from Cork to Ringaskiddy. Often I go the back roads by Ballea Road, onto Ballygarven, up around the airport and onto Togher. Doing this route, my commute would normally be about 45-50 minutes.

Is my commute time exceptional? How does my story compare to others? Table 1 shows the percentage of people (by settlement town) that have a journey shorter than 30 minutes. In terms of this measure, the Crosshaven-Churchbay residents come off the worst. About half of them have a commute more than 30 minutes. These commutes could be much longer. Also, this table includes school-goers, the majority of which, you would expect are going to school in local areas. Again, imagine you are in a bus on the crosshaven to Cork route. What about people in Carrigaline. 66% of people have a commute less than 30 minutes. Carrigaline has a very young population and so a large number of this proportion would be going to school locally. So again, a large proportion of the Carrigaline residents have a commute longer than 30 minutes.