End of the road for parking meters as pay-by-phone billing much cheaper to run
Irish councils are hoping to expand the use of the Park by Phone system - after it emerged that its running costs are almost one-tenth of those of parking meters.
The system is already in widespread use in Dublin, where it has become extremely successful.
However, other councils nationwide are now planning to adopt it after a special report conducted for Cork City Council found that it was by far the cheapest parking regime to operate.
The study, conducted in Cork following submissions on parking systems from Councillor John Buttimer, found that Park by Phone operates at a fraction of the cost of other systems.
Park by Phone lets motorists use their mobile to call a number after they arrive in a parking spot - they then input the street number they are parked on and select how long to pay for.
The report revealed that the system costs €70,000 to run in Cork - compared to €200,000 for the long-standing parking disc regime.
The council considered the use of parking meters, which are popular in many European cities, but found that the cost was prohibitive.
City council officials were stunned when it emerged that installing just 100 parking meters around the city centre would involve a cost of €600,000 per annum.
The high cost involved maintenance of the machines, cash collections and replacement of damaged units.
This worked out at nine times the comparable cost of the Park by Phone system.
Parking meters have been used in Dublin, Galway and Kerry, but Cork, for various reasons, opted not to install the system on a widespread basis, despite a 2010 trial.
Cork City Council ruled that the high cost of the parking meter system was "not deemed to be a cost-effective method of collecting parking fees".
The council will continue its long-standing disc regime, but now intends to place greater emphasis on the use of Park by Phone.
Cork also aims to continue to promote the use of special Park and Ride schemes aimed at keeping vehicles out of the city centre.
Several other Irish councils are now set to redouble their efforts to promote greater public use of the phone parking system, which offers local authorities the greatest margin on parking fees given its low operational costs.
Motorists must first register with the Park by Phone system before using it - but it allows for greater flexibility as drivers can sometimes extend their time before the expiry of the parking period.