Residents of the Middle Parish said the 3pm to 6.30pm daily car ban on the city’s main street, introduced on Tuesday has, as they feared, turned their area into a busy thoroughfare.
“We told them (the city council) that this would happen,” local resident Noel Tobin said.
“Where did they think the traffic was going to go? It has to go somewhere. It wasn’t going to evaporate.”
And he warned that the traffic snarl ups will only get worse when local school and UCC reopen in just over a week.
The ban has created a time-regulated bus lane on St Patrick’s St in an effort to improve the efficiency of the 970 daily bus movements from the street.
But after a second evening of congestion on the city quays, Cornmarket St and Grattan St, and renewed calls for better communications about the new traffic arrangements, transport chiefs pledged to install more advance warning signs on the outskirts of the city centre island area to advise motorists about the changes, and about diversions.
In a statement, Cork City Council said it was clear from its analysis of traffic flows that “many motorists continued to arrive on the approaches where the restricted access is being implemented, and that this caused additional delays”.
“On Washington Street in particular, drivers continued to make use of the inside lane which is now designated as a bus lane between 3pm and 6.30pm and then had to be diverted into Daunt’s Square,” they said.
A spokesman said traffic lights on St Patrick’s St and on all adjacent junctions are linked to a central control system, which allows the timing of the lights to be determined in real-time based on actual traffic flows.
And he said the timings of traffic lights on the designated alternative routes have already been programmed to cater for the planned restricted access.
But City Hall urged commuters and drivers to plan their journeys to avoid St Patrick’s St and to make use of the alternative routes.
Lawrence Owens, chief executive of the Cork Business Association, said they will continue to monitor the impact of the ban in the hope that these and other issues will be resolved before the end of the Easter holidays.
“Communications is key here. We are tampering with a very big element here — the customer coming in to Cork City. And if we lose the customer, then we lose the business all around you.
“We are here to see will it work for business, and if it doesn’t, we’ll want it rescinded,” he said.
But the Green Party welcomed the new restrictions and called for new efforts to bring shoppers into the city.
Spokesperson Lorna Bogue said the car ban must be backed by initiatives such as an extension of the public bike scheme.
“Stopping cars from entering St Patrick’s St also means that there is now an opportunity to prioritise access to the city centre for people with disabilities,” she said.
“The restrictions could be tweaked to allow drivers with a blue parking card access to park on the street and to do business on the same terms as users of taxis and buses.”
Earlier this week, councillors called for a review of the city’s parking policy.
Cllr Mick Finn said it is vital to address what he described as the “major imbalance between the city and suburban shopping centres” and to ensure the survival of the city centre and its ratepayers.