Council attempts to drive up car park profits
Doubts that change from a contract to lease deal will increase revenues
Car-park revenues have been hit by the recession, says Cullen: “It’s been bumping along the bottom but we would expect traffic to rise. We have seen the end of the decline in numbers.”
Private operators believe that the council may next lease out the Dawson Street car-park: but the council says “no decision has been made on this matter yet”. Of more concern to private operators is a huge jump in rates proposed for many of the car-parks in the council’s area: Keith Gavin has heard of jumps as high as 310 per cent.
Five companies dominate the commercial car-parking sector – Q Park Ireland, Euro Car Parks, Park Rite, NCPS and APCOA. Ray Teers says that Q Park Ireland runs the biggest off-street car-park operation, with 33,000 spaces. It has just completed a €2 million refurbishment of the Setanta car park at Setanta Place, between Kildare Street and South Frederick Street.
Customers are demanding more in a rapidly changing sector, says Teers: “They want bigger spaces and they want to know before they go there if there is space for them, so demand for pre-booking facilities is rising. People don’t want to pay by the hour, so Q Park has introduced 15-minute parking.” Some like Park Rite have introduced reduced rates for seniors.
Keith Gavin agrees that business has been affected by the downturn, but that this has been location-dependent: massive car-parks like Dundrum Town Centre with 3,500 spaces, Dublin Airport, the largest in the country, and Ilac, the largest in the city centre, have not been so hard hit.
Technology is going to effect the way we pay for parking very soon: drivers will be able to get real-time parking information through apps. Already the council’s facility for paying through mobile phones has made on-street parking far easier. Drivers can now integrate electronic payment for parking with their toll tags. And wave-and-pay technology promised soon by credit card companies like Visa for small scale cash transactions will likely be used for on-street payments too, says Gavin. “It will appeal to local authorities for security reasons.”
Private car-park operators can set their own prices, so long as they abide by bye-laws that stipulate progressive pricing to discourage long-stay parking.
A study of the Irish car-parking sector carried out three years ago by DIT for the Irish Parking Association showed that across Ireland, local authorities owned 108,000 spaces, generating €115 million a year, while car park operators had 101,000 spaces generating €80 million a year.