As Neighbourhood after Neighbourhood Votes Not to Introduce Paid Parking, Council Looks for Solutions

Thomas Corrigan rips chunks from a loaf and tosses them to the pigeons into the small tarmaced area outside his house on St Michael’s Terrace in Warrenmount.

All around are parked cars and the orange traffic cones that people use to reserve parking spaces in front of their houses.

The public space on offer in the St Michael’s Terrace, Hammond Street and St John’s Street enclave, in the heart of Warrenmount, isn’t well taken care of, he says.

A lot of it is taken up by cars, some owned by those who live there, others from outside.

Residents have complained about outsiders’ parking there for free for at least three years, but when it came to a vote, they rejected a proposal to install residential permit and pay-and-display parking.

“We spoke to other areas who got the disc parking and said it didn’t make an awful lot of difference, because the clampers weren’t coming around doing their job,” he says.

“They were saying, it really hasn’t worked a lot for us,” says Corrigan. Some feel the money spent on parking fees may not go back to the community, he says.

This neighbourhood is far from an outlier in rejecting the roll-out of pay-and-display and permit parking.

At last Wednesday’s transport committee meeting, the council’s parking enforcement officer said residents vote against lots of these proposed schemes, and that organising those votes, only for them to be rejected, is a huge waste of resources.

He proposed tweaks to the process by which neighbourhoods vote on pay-and-display parking, including a step to make it harder for proposals to meet the threshold for a council-organised vote.

Councillors disagreed on whether that was the right pragmatic move or a step that makes it harder to bring in paid parking at a time it needs to be easier.

Another measure might be to add a sweetener to make it more likely that people will vote yes, says one academic, Neil Galway, a transport and urban design academic in Queen’s University Belfast.

Money from the fees could stay in the community, he says. “That kind of a model might be something that people would look more sympathetically at if they saw some benefits.”

Facing Rejection

At the moment, to get a permit parking scheme on a road, residents have to send the council a petition with signatures from 25 percent of residents.

After that, the council draws up a scheme, which residents who are on the electoral register vote on. (Another change under discussion is expanding who can vote to residents not on the register.)

There are around 27,000 paid parking spaces in the city, said a council spokesperson earlier this month. They didn’t know how many spaces in the city are free parking – aside from 230 council staff parking spaces.

The council has wanted to impose parking charges to progressively eliminate all “free” on-street parking within the canals and in areas with heavy commuter parking, says the current city development plan which has been in place since 2016.

At last Wednesday’s meeting, Dermot Stevenson, a council senior executive officer for parking policy and enforcement, said that: “A good proportion of the schemes that we’re getting in, even though they have a petition of 25 percent, are returning a no majority.”

So, the council wants to change how many signatures it needs on a petition to call for a neighbourhood vote on installing permit parking in an area, upping it from 25 percent of residents on a road to 35 percent, he said.

The council’s time and resources are sunk into organising votes on schemes that won’t pass, he says, and raising how many signatures are needed will increase the likelihood of a “yes” vote later on.

Ray McAdam, a Fine Gael councillor, says the council has been spending money on ballots where there was never a chance of pay-and-display being approved.

He tells residents who are preparing a petition to have at least 50 percent of households on a street on board, he says. “I would argue that 35 percent doesn’t go far enough.”

Only a few streets have pay-and-display parking in Stoneybatter, Grangegorman and Phibsboro, he said. “The ones that don’t, there’s a big demand for parking on those streets.”

Anne Feeney, a Fine Gael councillor, said at the meeting that she thinks it’s a good change. “If you can’t get 35 percent to sign up, there’s little chance you’ll get you’ll meet the bar in terms of getting the permit parking agreed in the area.”

Why So Few?

Where residents do agree to permit parking, it in most cases currently costs them €50 to park a car for one year and €80 for two years.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Martin Hoey, a Public Participation Network representative, said he is concerned about why such a small number of petitions to bring in permit parking pass. “It should be a lot higher than that.”

McAdam says there are plenty of reasons why residents reject the idea of permit parking.

There might be enough space for everyone to park, he says. “Some don’t like the idea that they have to pay to park their vehicle outside their own home.”

Photo by Claudia Dalby

Janet Horner, a Green Party councillor, said at the meeting that the council should be making it easier for permit parking to be introduced. Residents don’t have a right to public space, even if it is outside their houses, she said.

Horner says she thinks the scheme needs wider reform to stop people from driving into the city and meet emissions targets. “Looking at the disincentivizing car usage, and that parking is a huge way that we can manage that demand.”

The council should begin charging more for those parking spaces too, she says. “For the greater good of the city and the greater good of our neighbourhoods.”

One way to incentivise residents to vote for paid-parking schemes would be for the income from parking charges to be reinvested in communities, says Neil Galway, a transport and urban design academic in Queen’s University Belfast.

That’s an idea proposed in parking expert Donald Shoup’s book The High Cost of Free Parking, says Galway.

Communities could use the money to plant trees, hold events or improve the locality, he says, instead of it being absorbed into the overall council pot.

“Rather than a top-down, councils getting involved in an area where they might actually already be struggling with the living cost of Dublin,” said Galway.

On St Michael’s Terrace, Corrigan points out cracked pavements, unswept gutters, a lack of green space and trees, and no ramps onto the footpaths.

“Look at the state of the streets here. Dublin City Council has not done an ounce of work here,” he says.

In the centre, where the pigeons are pecking, there could be a green space, he says. “We were actually looking for a small little roundabout to be put in there with small little plants in it.”

Some of the parking spaces could be used for green space too, he says, and the number of spaces cut.

“Before Covid, this place was chocabloc everyday,” he says. “People using it as a car park for going into work. And it still is some days.”

Corrigan says he wouldn’t have a problem paying for parking if it would go back to the community.

But a couple of doors down, Billy O’Donnell says the local property tax should cover taking care of the area, rather than an extra cost on residents.

“The majority of the people, they have enough bills. They’re living on pension, state pension, which is not an awful lot of money,” he says.

Paul Marron, who lives on Hammond Street, has two cars. “It’s actually quite difficult to get spaces. People using the area to store cars that aren’t being used, and parking to go shopping.”

Says Marron: “I’d prefer to pay for parking and then you could have confidence that you could actually park your car here.”

Redistributing the parking income is a good idea. “They could plant new trees, and have more amenities rather than it being a concrete jungle.”

But inflation is an issue, and rising rents, he says. “Maybe people don’t have as much disposable cash as they maybe had six or twelve months ago.”

O’Donnell says the orange cones are the locals’ solution to the high levels of parking. “People are used to it, people don’t see any benefit in pay and display.”

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Claudia Dalby: Claudia Dalby is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. She's especially interested in stories about the southside, transport, and kids in the city. Get in touch at [email protected]

Reader responses

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Robert P.
at 17 November at 15:49

It has never been adequately explained to me, either by elected reps or council staff, why it is solely the residents of a street who get to decide whether or not to introduce paid parking on that street. This approach subtly implies that the street 'belongs' to the residents, but it is a *public* road. Why does the Council, as the *Roads* Authority, not just implement paid parking? I am a Tenters resident who fully supports the introduction of paid parking in our area, but I know I'm in a pretty small minority.

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