Bus-gate effect takes toll as car parks lie empty
Shoppers desert town in face of restrictions as parking spots register falls of up to 17 per cent
The full impact of the controversial College Green bus gate on the retail heart of the capital has been revealed in a new report.
Numbers using some city-centre car parks have fallen by as much as 17 per cent since the introduction of the ban on private cars travelling in front of Trinity College and Bank of Ireland at peak times.
It means that Dublin City Council could lose up to €4m a year in parking revenue -- both on-street and in its three city-centre car parks because of the restrictions.
Nationally, the recovery in retail sales in the first months of this year has now stalled, with spending falling close to lows registered at the turn of the year.
When the motor trade is excluded from the July figures, the drop in the volume of sales is 2.5 per cent.
Retail Ireland, the IBEC group representing Irish retailers, described the figures as "very disappointing".
"The underlying trend of stabilisation and recovery in retail sales that was emerging earlier this year seems to be stalling," said Turlough Denihan, of Retail Ireland.
"This underlines the fragile state of consumer spending and the retail sector generally," he added.
The city-centre bus gate restricts traffic on College Green to public transport vehicles and cyclists from 7am to 10am and from 4pm to 7pm, Monday to Friday.
Consultants CB Richard Ellis assessed the economic impact of the restriction on the city centre, with a specific focus on the retail sector.
The consultants said they could not fully identify the impact of the bus gate on shopping because the Dublin City Business Association did not supply the necessary information on retail sales.
But the study uncovered stark evidence that car parks had been affected.
The consultants were provided with details by three established private car parks: the Brown Thomas car park on Clarendon Street, Trinity Street car park and the Thomas Street car park.
The city council also provided details that showed a sharp downturn in usage at its Ilac Centre, Drury Street and Dawson Street car parks.
The fall in business varied by location, but ranged from a 1.7 per cent drop in Thomas Street to a 17.4 per cent decline at the Brown Thomas car park, at the heart of the College Green 'no car' zone.
The authors of the report said that, without detailed information on retail sales, it was impossible to quantify how much of the downturn in city centre car park usage was down to the bus gate restrictions or to the general decline caused by the recession.
"Comprehensive transactional data and location-specific retail-sales data would have facilitated the identification of the specific impact that the introduction of the bus corridor had on economic activity and retail sales activity in Dublin city centre," they pointed out.
The consultants warned that any further changes to the traffic system would probably encourage the misconception that the city centre was either difficult to access or closed to traffic, which would damage trade further.