Council parking review should encourage shoppers
OPINION:DUBLIN TRACES its roots back over 1,000 years. Dublin city centre, between the canals, is essentially a medieval city centre with a retro-fitted transport network. It has narrow roads congested with car-dependent commuters travelling from as far afield as Navan and Carlow. More than 1.6 million people live in the Greater Dublin Area and in excess of two million are forecast by the end of the next decade. Clearly, decisions have to be made to maximise the efficient use of road space in the city.
The Transport 21 programme for an integrated network of rail (Metro, Dart Underground, Luas) and bus services is increasingly providing alternatives to car-based commuters and allows Dublin City Council to give priority to those who need to access the city for business, retail or tourist activities. But the shoppers that keep the retail heart of the city beating travel by car. If you are a family of four, buying school uniforms for the new school year, the car is the logical choice for convenience – or so it should be. Shopping and leisure activities are discretionary activities that differ across the year, across the week and during the course of each day. They need to be accommodated.
Dublin City Council has announced a review of its parking policy and bylaws. The exclusive focus of on-street parking policy to date has been on prohibiting commuters by pushing up the price of parking in the city. Now that a proper network of Quality Bus Corridors around the city is finally coming into place, bus journeys for commuters across Dublin will be more reliable and more efficient. So how has Dublin City Council used its on-street parking policy to promote retailing, leisure activities and tourism to date? The answer: not very well. Premium parking in the city is a prohibitive €2.90 per hour, with the last increase of 20c per hour added for no apparent reason late last year.
The new parking proposals by Dublin City Council go some way to redressing the problem. The council is proposing to keep on-street parking charges high for day-long commuters but is considering introducing new lower rates during the day to encourage shoppers and tourists. These proposals reinforce the recent introduction of the bus corridor at College Green which allows visitors and car-borne shoppers to continue to travel through College Green from 10am when the shops open for business, while simultaneously ensuring freer-flowing public transport during peak commuter times.
The retail and leisure sectors are a vital component of the city’s ecology. More needs to be done to support these activities. If the real objective of the city council’s new parking policy is to free up parking spaces in the city for shoppers, then parking should be free on Saturdays and Sundays to attract shoppers into the city.
Gina Quin is the chief executive of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce