Local councils make €70m from parking fees and fines
Business groups fear spiralling charges are killing high streets
Nationwide parking charges brought in a cash bonanza of almost €70m to the coffers of Ireland's local authorities last year.
The lion's share of the councils' multi-million euro parking charges income goes to Dublin City Council which received more than €29m from motorists in 2018.
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A new survey by the Sunday Independent has revealed that another 17 councils throughout the country are now measuring their parking-charge income in millions of euro.
And Dublin City Council's parking income is set to increase by a further €1.5m a year after new bye-laws raised charges in some areas and increased the size of premium-priced parking zones in the city over the summer
Business organisations declared that retailers are fighting a tough battle to keep attracting customers into their shops at a time when online sales continue to grow.
Any measures that discourage people from travelling into town centres to shop, such as higher parking charges, can have a negative impact on the profits of hard-pressed retailers, they warned.
Also, city and town centres throughout Ireland need to remain vibrant as they compete with out-of-town shopping centres - many of which have free parking or much lower parking charges.
But Green Party MEP Ciaran Cuffe said he would like to see the capital follow the example of Copenhagen which has steadily removed 3pc of its public parking spaces each year as large numbers of Danish commuters continue to opt for bicycles over car travel.
The combined income from on-street parking received by the four Dublin local authorities last year was €35.9m.
Using 2013 as a comparative year, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown had the biggest increase in on-street parking income in a six-year period to last year, showing a rise of 25.9pc in parking revenue which rose from €3.4m to €4.2m.
Dublin City Council's on-street parking income rose 17.9pc from €24.9m in 2013 to €29.3m last year. The council had not raised its parking charges for more than a decade but with increases imposed over the summer, its income from motorists is expected to soar by €1.5m a year.
In contrast, South Dublin County Council reported a drop in on-street parking income of 29.4pc during that period when its income fell from €893,380 in 2013 to €630,509 last year.
This decrease was welcomed by retailers and the motoring public as the decrease is believed to have been achieved by the council introducing free half-hour parking in April 2014 in the region's seven villages of Clondalkin, Templeogue, Rathcoole, Lucan, Palmerstown, Rathfarnham and Tallaght.
Cork City Council's income from parking fell from €3,236,000 in 2013 to €2,959,000 last year.
Waterford City and County received €2,090,301 in parking charges last year, up from €2,008,265 the previous year.
Big increases in parking charge income were reported in some other areas. Limerick City and County stated its parking income increased 25pc from €1.71m in 2013 to €2.14m last year, a figure that included income from parking fines.
A spokesman said parking charges had not changed during the period but there were some extensions to the street parking areas in Limerick City.
Galway City reported a 14.3pc increase during the same period in income from on-street and off-street parking. It rose from €2.3m to €2.6m.
Galway County Council had an even bigger increase of 22.2pc when total on-street and off-street income in provincial towns rose from €590,879 to €722,241.
Mr Cuffe said much of the council parking income goes on parking infrastructure, the rental of the ticket machines, and the employment of staff in parking enforcement. "We need to put more of that income into walking and cycling facilities. There is a waiting list for pedestrian crossings and bike lanes.
"We should be reducing the amount of parking in the city centre and in doing so ,we should improve access for bus users, cyclists and pedestrians.
"We need more capacity on public transport, we need to devote more space to public transport on roads because it is often a free-for-all."
Richard Guiney, chief executive officer of Dublin City Business Improvement District, which represents businesses in the city centre, said 20pc of people who shop in Dublin use their cars.
"The cost of car parking is definitely an issue for people who come to shop in Dublin city centre. A growing percentage of shoppers now use public transport and a decreasing number use their cars for shopping in the city centre," he said.
Motorist champion Conor Faughnan of the AA said drivers accept the need for parking charges but they do not want the charges to be seen as a way of making money for councils.
"There is a tidal flow of commuters into town in morning and out in the afternoon. You don't want commuters occupying parking spaces," he said.
"Our main problem is we do not have public transport capacity. Any Dubliner will tell you that during the morning commute, every public transport asset we possess is full. You would need a can opener to get anyone else on board. They are stuffed full to capacity yet they only take half of the morning's commuters.
"That is the difference between Dublin and other cities. London's public transport was taking 87pc of morning commuters even before the congestion charges.
"Virtually everyone who comes into Dublin by car in the morning is a victim.
"They are doing it because they don't have a Luas or a tube. Cars are not the enemy. It is like blaming sick people for overcrowding in hospitals."