The traffic measure, now in its third week, bans private cars from the main shopping street between 3pm and 6.30pm. Traders said it was having a devastating impact on their turnover and the Cork Business Association (CBA) has now asked that the change be reversed immediately.
In a bid to improve visitor numbers to the city, the Council is making the Black Ash Park & Ride free from noon daily and reducing fees in Paul Street and North Main Street car parks. Bus Éireann also released figures showing improved bus times through the city centre as a result of the changes.
However, Lawrence Owens, chief executive of the CBA, said it was not an exaggeration to say the car ban has caused the city’s most continued negative trading period in recent history.
“If we don’t see a resolution immediately we will undoubtedly see business closures and consequentially job losses,” he said.
In relation to the parking initiatives, Michael Creedon of Bradley’s off-Licence said they come after the horse has bolted.
“Anything that might encourage people to come in is a positive thing but it is an awful shame that it didn’t come in at least at the same time as the change in the traffic. A bit in advance would have been even better again, to encourage people into the city in advance of the closure.”
His business is on North Main St but has been severely impacted by the ban: “People think it is confined to Patrick St but it is such a small city. We are all in it together and we are all trading off each other. Less people coming in is less people in all of the city, that is the reality of it.”
Mr Creedon hopes that the incentives will have an impact. He said traders were being harshly criticised for being negative, when ‘we try and be positive the whole time, that is what it is all about. But you have to be realistic as well’.
Other traders felt the same and did not want to comment publicly. Richard Jacob of Idaho Café said businesses would do everything they could to spread the word on the new offers.
“I love the idea of any incentive, anything that makes it to get into the city — the Park & Ride being free sends a lovely, clear message,” he said. “It is just an awful shame that it wasn’t introduced a week before the ban instead of three weeks after.
“But I totally welcome it and I am going to be telling everyone I possibly can about it.”
For other businesses, the loss of the parking spaces at Morrison’s Island are the more serious issue, as John Minihan of Minihan’s Chemist explains in an open letter, published below.
Public transport continues to use Patrick Street in the afternoons and Bus Éireann have welcomed the car ban to alleviate congestion.
“Our analysis shows Route 205 has seen up to an 18% reduction in travel time,” it said in a statement. “Route 208 has seen up to 13% reduction in travel time in the Bishopstown/Curraheen Road direction and a 28% reduction in travel time in the Mayfield/Boherboy Rd. direction.
“While it is still early days and further analysis is required — taking into account the return from holidays — the public transport prioritisation measures introduced, including in the Sheares Street and Washington Street area appear to offer real opportunity to reduce delays to scheduled timetables.”