ON-street car parking in the city is a “waste of space” and more parking spots should be removed and prices hiked up, according to a UCC economics expert.
Frank Crowley has risked angering city traders by saying that cheap parking should be ended, prices hiked up, and more spaces taken out of the city centre to improve congestion.
Traders in the city continue to vent their anger at the imminent loss of more than 160 car spaces and have called for an end to the recently-introduced Patrick Street car ban, which operates daily from 3pm to 6.30pm.
However, Mr Crowley said ‘cheap parking’ is actually clogging up the city centre and insisted that there were too many parking spaces already.
He described Cork as sprawling and congested and called for increased on-street parking charges in the city centre and a levy placed on parking in the suburban areas such as Mahon Point.
Mr Crowley said: “If you reduce parking you are likely to get more walkers, more people coming by bus, more cyclists, more people who actually want to enjoy the city centre because it is a nicer place to be.
“We know from studies internationally that business actually increases when the city is made a nicer place to live or a nicer place to visit or a nicer place to spend time.”
The UCC economics lecturer also said that employers such as Cork City Council or University College Cork (UCC) need to lead by example to reduce car dependency throughout the city region and one way of doing that would be to charge for staff parking.
Mr Crowley said cheap parking in the city has a big part to play in the congestion problem currently being experienced.
“I believe in the principle of reducing parking. Our cities are congested, Cork city is congested, sprawl is a problem and if you allow parking at a very reduced rate, well then you are going to get people who overuse the car.
“It is likely that there is a proportion of people that are using the car that actually could use the bus for instance or could walk or could cycle and they are not using these modes of transport because it has started to become a way of life and it is subsidised and it is a thing that they do on a daily basis. The only way you going to change behaviour is to change the incentive structure.
“People are not going to wake up tomorrow morning and decide that they are going to be sustainable. So if you want to reduce congestion, if you want to reduce sprawl you have to change the incentive around parking, it clearly is not being priced high enough," said Mr Crowley.
With regards fears of the inner city traders that changes to parking in the city will deter customers, Mr Crowley said this was not the case.
“There is no evidence to suggest changing the model from cars away to different modes of transport will result in a deficit for the city centre economy.
“Anecdotally that is the fear but there are studies to suggest that the perception of how much business, traders get from the car is actually much lower than what they perceive it to be.”
Mr Crowley also said that turning the city into a sustainable city was vital for the survival of Cork as an urban centre.
“I understand the fears of Cork Business Association (CBA): it is scary to have change, but I think that their fears are unfounded. It is based on perception, it is not based on evidence.
“I can understand why they could be concerned but coming from a completely different perception of thinking about the long term future of Cork, if we don’t get away from this model we are in trouble.
“The car dependency of the city is not viable for the future, we have to make a shift. You can provide alternatives, but if they are not cheaper and way more efficient, than the private car, then people are still going to drive.”