The number of cars using Cork’s main off-street parking options has plummeted by more than 15,000 since parking charges were hiked.
The figures emerged as the northbound lane of the city’s main street was closed yesterday for the summer to facilitate public transport upgrades, sparking fears of another massive drop in traffic volumes into the city.
It prompted calls last night for the scrapping of the increased parking charges introduced by the city council last December, for incentivised parking deals, and for the St Patrick’s Street upgrade work to be done at night.
Cork Business Association (CBA) chief executive, Lawrence Owens, said the parking figures bear out concerns expressed last year by the CBA.
“People are not coming into the city because the parking prices went up — it’s as simple as that,” he said.
“Hiking the charges sends out the wrong message, it’s poor optics — and that has been reinforced now by the statistics. It’s just another reason not to come to the city centre.”
And he said if the quarterly trend continues for the rest of the year, the city could potentially lose up to 60,000 carloads — more than 1,000 a week — of potential customers.
He was speaking after a report on the city’s off-street car parking performance showed the number of cars parking in the Paul St and North Main St car parks fell by 16,000 — from just over 213,300 in the first quarter of 2016 to just over 197,000 in the first quarter of this year.
Car parking charges in both car parks were hiked in December and a key Dunnes Stores outlet in the North Main St Shopping Centre closed.
The number of cars in Paul St dropped by just over 11,600 — from 170,910 in the first quarter of 2016 to 159,238 in the same period this year.
The North Main St figures dropped by around 4,500 — from 42,431 in the first quarter of 2016 to 37,834 in the first quarter of this year.
However, while the parking figures dropped, price hikes delivered an income increase — from €809,000 to €813,000.
City officials pointed to an increase in city bus usage, and a slight increase in park and ride usage, and said further study is required to establish whether the price hikes are to blame for the decline in the figures.
They also welcomed a slight increase in the numbers using the Black Ash park and ride which have gone from 29,181 to 30,381, with income up from €146,000 to €155,000.
Overall, the city raked in €968,000 in off-street parking income in the first quarter — €13,000 more than the same period last year — despite an overall 15,000 reduction in vehicles.
But Sinn Féin councillor Thomas Gould said it was clear parking hikes have had a huge impact. “We should be encouraging more people to come into the city centre. We should reverse the car parking hikes and look at giving cheap parking at off-peak times to get more people back into the city,” he said.
Meanwhile, City Hall has warned of traffic disruption during the St Patrick’s Street works but insisted that access to all shops and businesses will be maintained.
Pedestrian crossings are being repaired and the street will be resurfaced as part of a wider plan focusing on Bachelor’s Quay, the Middle Parish and around the Mercy University Hospital which aims to make public transport more reliable.
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