Thursday, February 14, 2019

Tale of Two Cities: Dublin ranked worst for traffic jams, best for expats

Dublin, the Irish capital, has this week been ranked among the worst cities in the world (ex-Asia) for traffic jams while being one of the most “liveable” European cities for expatriates.

Data gathered in 2018 by INRIX, a US mobility analytics firm, show that a typical commuter in Bogotá, Colombia, spent as much as 272 hours in traffic jams in a year, followed by Rome, Italy, at 254 hours, and Dublin in third place at 246 hours.

INRIX says the 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard identified and ranked congestion and mobility trends in more than 200 cities, across 38 countries, using 500 terabytes of data from 300m different sources covering over 5m miles of road (about 8m kilometres).

However, while Bogotá and Rome were among the most congested urban areas overall, Dublin was ranked at 54.

If Asian cities were included, Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia, would very likely be in the running for the top spot as the rush hours amidst tropical rain, are hell for the impatient!

Dublin rises for expats

ECA International this week announced that Dublin has re-entered the top 10 most liveable cities in Europe for European expats.

Employment Conditions Abroad Ltd is a British firm that since 1971 has been tracking data on cost of living, salary, accommodation, tax, labour law, benefits and quality of life for employees assigned to positions abroad by multinational companies. The ECA Location Ratings annual survey ranks cities on liveability factors including availability of health services; housing and utilities; isolation; access to a social network and leisure facilities; infrastructure; climate; personal safety; political tensions and air quality.

This year Dublin re-entered the top 10 in joint ninth place with Gothenburg and Luxembourg, offering the most superior living conditions for European expats. Dublin also came in at 23rd place for Asians expats, beating many Asian locations including Hong Kong, which is 41st.

Neil Ashman of ECA International commented:

“Dublin has seen a return to the top 10 after dropping out in 2017 due to a shortage of suitable housing for expatriates in the city. However, our research reveals a general opinion from the expat community that they feel safer in Dublin after dark, which has improved the city’s personal security score this year.”

The most liveable non-European location for European expats is the city of Toronto, Canada while Singapore is the most liveable Asian location for European expatriates and the only one in the top 100.

Dublin commuter belt

The Greater Dublin Area is not a formal regional unit but it is used for transport planning encompassing the local council areas of City of Dublin, Fingal, South Dublin and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown in County Dublin and the counties of Meath, Kildare and Wicklow which according to Census 2016 had 40% of Ireland's population of 4.76m.

Adding the counties of Wexford, Louth, Offaly, Laois, Westmeath, would put the Dublin commuter belt with a population of 51% of the population.

The County Dublin population was at 28% of the total population in 2016 while according to business enterprise data for that year, jobs in business enterprises in Dublin accounted for 47% of total enterprise jobs in the State.

The population of County Dublin rose by 75,000 in 2011-2016.

St Stephen's Green park, Dublin — Dronepicr/Wikimedia Commons

According to Census 2016, apartments/flats comprised 12% of Irish households; 25% in County Dublin and 34% in the core City of Dublin.

Eurostat data for 2017 show that flats comprised 92% of Irish housing stock (including vacant housing units) — the lowest in the EU 28 — and compared with 57% in Germany; 19% in the Netherlands; 45% in Sweden, and 15% in the UK.

Despite having the lowest ratio of apartments, Ireland at an average dwelling size of 81sm2 (square metres) is among the lowest in the EU and compared with a EU28 average of 96sm2 (based on 2012 data), and 90sm2 for England and Wales (2016 data) — a third of the size of the typical American home.  

Eurostat: Average size of dwelling by tenure status

In an earlier post, I noted that the city of Paris is divided into twenty arrondissements municipaux — administrative districts. The area is 105km2 (kilometres) and with a population of 2.2m, it has a density of about 21,000 people per km2 — one of the highest in Europe.

France's capital city is the core of the Paris Region called Île-de-France with an area of 12,011kmwhere about 12m people live. Its population density in 2018 was 1,019 per km2.

The area of the city of Dublin is 115km² and the 2019 population is about 565,000. The density is 4,910 inhabitants per km².

The area of County Dublin is 921km² and its population in 2016 was 1,345,402, giving a density of 1,461 per km².

According to Census 2016, 61.4% of working Irish commuters drove to work in 2016 while just 10% took public transport. Walkers accounted for less than 1 in 10 of the commuting population. 

The Dublin sprawl limits the viability of public transport in both the capital city and through the commuter belt.

Irish land for development is made artificially scarce through planning restrictions, including an aversion to high rise, and responding positively to a demand for one-off low-density housing that has promoted Dublin sprawl.

Expats working for companies like Google and Facebook would not be squeezed by rising rents and long commutes — reflecting a tale of two cities. 

Dublin was 34th in the Mercer 2018 Quality of Living ranking of 157 cities. Vienna also topped the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2018 Global Liveability Index of 140 cities — Dublin ranked 41st, ahead of London (48) and New York (57).

Last September, Francesca McDonagh, Bank of Ireland’s chief executive, raised the issue of the level of low-rise residential developments and urban sprawl in Dublin as the State struggles with a massive shortfall in housing.

Dublin's sprawl and poor planning in 2006 were used by the European Environment Agency (EEA) as a "worst-case scenario" of urban planning so that the new EU member states in Eastern Europe would avoid making the same mistakes.

Speaking at the British Irish Chamber of Commerce annual dinner in Dublin, the London-born BoI chief executive said:

“From a personal perspective, living in Ireland for less than a year, I am surprised by the level of urban sprawl, the low-rise nature of most development, even the lack of more intensive residential development running alongside key transport arteries like the Luas.”

Irish Housing Crisis: It’s time for radical solutions