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Sinead Ryan : Is clamping in the city punishment or just profiteering?

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Clamped car.

Clamped car.

Clamped car.

It's hard not to come to a number of conclusions after reading Dublin City Council's latest figures on clamping.

One is that they're a busy lot. Some 56,601 clamps were placed on cars in 2014.

That's an average of 155 per day and with many parking spaces restriction free on Sundays and bank holidays, one assumes the daily average is much higher.

It's also more than last year, so they've obviously upped their game.

The second observation is that clamping is a very lucrative pursuit. Some €4.24 million was collected in clamp charges alone from motorists arriving back to find their car immovable and having to wait on a council or private operator's van to arrive to free them at €80 a go.

Another tranche of money is taken by cars uplifted to the pound, where there's a hefty release fee of €160.

However, with €24.1m collected in parking fees it's safe to say that on the whole Dubliners are far more compliant than they are reckless.

Indeed many people are sometimes unfamiliar with what constitutes illegal parking given confusing signs and notices lost behind trees and poles. They may only realise their mistake when they return to their vehicle.

affluent

Another inescapable impression is that affluent areas generate the most activity, and income.

Merrion Square West once again tops the list for the eagle-eyed parking wardens.

All four sides of the popular square, home to the National Gallery, National History Museum and Dail Eireann resulted in 1,769 cars clamped during the year.

No need to worry if TDs and Senators were among them, as they have their own free parking in Leinster House.

The biggest offence is parking in a Pay and Display area without a valid ticket, but as this columnist, and many other people have found, sometimes it can be near on impossible to find a working machine to issue that ticket.

I met a very enterprising beggar in the comfortable environs of Baggot Street recently who had set up camp beside a parking meter and was busy receiving tips from grateful motorists after informing them that all the machines on the road were out of order and handing them the number to call to 'register' a parked vehicle over the phone.

He helpfully pointed out that it was no defence to a later fine to say the machine was out of order.

His information netted him spare coins he might otherwise not have received from frustrated drivers. Other popular areas the clampers hit include Mespil Road and Waterloo Road, both in the leafy confines of Dublin 4.

Are their drivers really more likely to run the gauntlet of the clamper or are they just more likely to pay up once caught? In any event, the council has benefited from citizens parking in these areas more than any others.

When it comes to timing, it seems Saturday is a bigger risk than Monday, a working day. So, it's shoppers and day trippers who end up with a bill and a sour end to their outing.

1-2 pm and 8-9 am are the commonest times to be clamped, which shows at least a healthy work ethic for breakfast and lunchtime activity.

wardens

However how many of the latter group were simply being careful after a night out, deciding to take a taxi home and leave the car, but making it back to town a few minutes too late to release the vehicle?

Nobody likes parking wardens doing their job but most of us realise it's a job that has to be done.

However, there is a fine line that needs to be drawn between punishment for wrongdoers and profiteering for the City Council.

I'd be interested to know the costs of managing the operation versus the income received, but the amounts being hoovered up in fines and release fees are nothing if not substantial.

As it stands clamping means many motorists are put off driving into the city centre.

Not in favour of public transport, which can be unreliable, they are instead heading to suburban shopping centres and missing out of the wonderful vibrancy a capital city can add to a day out.


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