Rural people are more reliant on car based transport, they have less available public transport and tend to travel greater distances. Rural dwellers’ transport and travel patterns need to be central to our climate action planning. There must be detailed consideration of transport issues for smaller settlements and rural areas. Following on from the posts relating to a move to a low carbon Western Region on energy efficiency and home heating and retrofits, in this series of blog posts what we know about journeys and transport in rural areas, and the Western Region in particular, is examined, starting with consideration of available data and concluding with a post discussing issues implications of the data.
As discussed previously the Western Region (the area under the WDC remit) is very rural. Using the CSO definition 64.7% in of the population live outside of towns of 1,500 or more. Using the definition in Ireland 2040 the National Planning Framework, 80% of people in Western Region live outside of towns of 10,000. Thus WDC work has a particular focus on the needs of, and opportunities for, more rural and peripheral areas.
One of the key elements of the transition to a low carbon rural region will be emissions reduction from transport in the Western Region. This will require the three pronged policy and personal approach in line with the ‘Avoid, Shift, Improve’ (ASI) framework, a hierarchy that emphasises reducing journeys in the first place, achieving modal shift, and improving mode efficiencies.
Addressing transport emissions is a key element of the Climate Action Plan where there is specific focus on the need to address rural issues under the transport heading (e.g. Action 94 to review public and sustainable transport policy and to publish a public consultation on public/sustainable transport policy, including rural transport). This recognises that rural transport needs are different. Under the Plan, Action 100 also addresses the need for a vision for low carbon rural transport and commits to develop a new rural transport strategy and to conduct a comprehensive assessment of rural travel demand, and methodologies for determining it.
Addressing transport and travel in rural regions is complex. In order to understand what needs to be done to reduce emissions from rural travel, we need to know what our travel patterns actually are. These WDC Insights posts will set out, in detail, some of population issues and some of the available baseline information on journeys and transport in rural areas and the Western Region. Knowing the current situation means that we can better understand what we need to do to make the transition possible and ways to make it happen.
In doing this we must recognise that transport is not an end in itself; it is a means for accessing employment, and other services and amenities that contribute to healthy and fulfilling lives. Understanding transport as a social practice is essential to promoting positive behaviour change.