On Monday there are eight cars and two vans parked with two wheels on Galtymore Road and two on the footpath in front of The Davitt apartment complex in Drimnagh.

Across the road too, in front of the houses there, more cars are parked half on the footpath, half on the street.

With vehicles parked on both sides like this since the new-ish 265-apartment build-to-rent complex has filled up with residents, Galtymore Road is reduced to a single lane in places.

So when two cars meet, or a car meets a Dublin Bus bus on the 123 route, one driver has to pull in between parked cars to make way for the other.

“The bus could be stopped for six or seven minutes there waiting to get up the road,” says Patricia Ryan, who lives across the street from The Davitt, last Thursday.

A peek into the complex’s car park on Monday shows there’s plenty of spots for the 10 vehicles parked on the road to be parked underground instead. So why aren’t they?

Five different people exiting the complex and getting into cars parked halfway onto the footpath on The Davitt side of the road don’t want to talk about it.

But Ryan says that for residents of the privately rented apartments there’s €75 monthly fee to use the car park, a fee resident Leon Brennan says Monday that he pays.

“I don’t mind it, I think it’s grand,” Brennan says. He worries about leaving his car out on the street overnight, he says. “€75 for peace of mind isn’t that much.”

Meanwhile, residents of the apartments that Dublin City Council leases from the owner and lets out as social housing aren’t allowed to use the garage at all.

It’s unclear, though, whether the on-street parking is due to the complex owner’s policies for allocating spaces, or whether it is due to residents owning more cars than there are internal parking spots. After all, the spots that were empty at 4pm Monday might be allocated to drivers and fill up as the evening goes on.

And for these 265 apartments, which are home, of course, to a larger number of residents, there are only 119 parking spaces – as part of national and local policies to push people to use cars less and public transport, bikes and their feet more.

The goal of such policies, of course, is to try to blunt the damage that climate change caused by human activity, including carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels, is going to have in the coming years. “There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all,” according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Efforts to cut car use – and carbon emissions – by reducing parking at apartment complexes are common not only across Dublin, but across Europe and North America. And there’s often a messy transitional phase before people decide it’s just not worth it and give up their cars, says Chris McCahill, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin.

Planning to Reduce Car Use

An Bord Pleanála approved a planning application in 2019 from developer Durkan to build The Davitt. That included 119 car parking spaces, and 560 bike parking spaces.

A condition of planning approval for the project was that the developer produce a “mobility management strategy” for the complex.

That document references national and local policies in making a case for why 119 car parking spaces was the right number.

It says that given The Davitt’s “highly accessible location – at a Luas Red Line stop, on the 123 bus route, next to a cycle lane along the Grand Canal, and not too far from town – the government’s 2018 Design Standards for New Apartments “suggest that a substantially reduced level of on-site car parking may be appropriate”.

Dublin City Council’s city development plan for 2016 to 2022 set out the maximum car parking provision for areas like The Davitt’s location at one per dwelling, the mobility management strategy says.

But the development plan says having fewer is okay at sites “located in close proximity to quality public transport”, that have “locational suitability and advantages”, and where there are “car sharing/car clubs and/or charging points for electric vehicles”.

A Dublin Bus bus driving between parked cars on either side of Galtymore Road near The Davitt.

Several people raised concerns during the planning process that with 119 parking spaces in the complex’s garage, there’d be parking problems in the neighbourhood, according to the An Bord Pleanála’s inspector’s report.

But the inspector had a look at the complex, and the proposed amount of parking, and decided it should all work out fine.

“I do not consider that there is a lack of parking having particular regard to the need to promote more sustainable travel patterns and the presence of the Luas stop directly opposite the site,” he wrote.

From Theory to Practice

It’s unclear what, exactly, the building manager’s method is for allocating the 119 parking spaces in the complex’s garage.

A spokesperson for Havitat, the brand front for Avestus Capital Partners, whose website lists The Davitt among its “assets currently under management” declined to reply on the record to queries about it.

Havitat’s website shows a one-bed renting for €2,015 a month. It also shows “Car & Bicycle Parking” under a list of “What’s included” with apartments at The Davitt.

But Brennan, the tenant, says he’s paying an extra €75 on top of his rent for his parking spot.

Meanwhile, tenants of the social housing in The Davitt don’t have access to car parking at all, says Richard Murray, who’s from Drimnagh and running as an independent for Dublin City Council.

“When I heard it I was like, jaysus can you get away with that?” Murray says. “That’s nearly like segregation.”

Dublin City Council hasn’t replied to queries on why it decided to sign a deal to lease the apartments that didn’t include access for social tenants to amenities such as the car park.

Whatever Havitat’s parking policies are, Davitt tenants are regularly parking down that side of Galtymore Road now.

“It means if I move my car, someone steals my spot. It means two cars can’t pass each other on the street anymore,” says Ryan, who lives on the other side, where people have parked for years.

Some of the houses across from The Davitt don’t have parking spaces so if they’re going to have cars, the people who live there have no place to put them but on the street. For other residents of these houses, it’s a choice.

Brennan, who lives in The Davitt, says residents there get an app that – among many other features – shows them travel options to get to and from the complex.

He holds his phone out, and pulls up the app. “It does push you towards public transport,” he says. “But there’s times you do need a car.”

Transitional or Permanent?

It makes sense to build apartment complexes like The Davitt with limited parking these days, says Ray Cunningham, who’s running for the Green Party in Ballyfermot-Drimnagh for a seat on Dublin City Council.

“Driving a car in the city is only going to become more inconvenient because there’s just too many cars, too many people,” Cunningham says.

And building parking into apartment complexes like The Davitt takes up space that could be used for homes, and adds to the cost, he says.

Not only that, but to meet future emissions-reduction targets for transport – even if it hits its massive target for getting people to switch from fossil-fueled to electric vehicles – the government needs to find a way to cut the distance travelled by the remaining fossil-fuelled cars in the Dublin region by at least 23 percent, says the “Dublin Region Energy Master Plan” drawn up by Codema, Dublin’s energy agency.

During the shift towards using cars less, it’s inevitable that there’ll be a lag between when it makes sense for people to give up their cars and when they actually do, Cunningham says.

“If you’ve always had a car, or you’ve been used to driving, the decision not to buy a car, or to live somewhere where you can’t have a car – it takes a lot,” he says.

“It does take something to make you step back and assess the situation and say, ‘Do I really need a car?’” he says.

That something could be moving into an apartment with no car parking spot, or it could be getting a new job that doesn’t require a car, or your car dying and being faced with the cost of buying a new one, or something else, he says.

The Goldenbridge Luas stop with The Davitt in the background. Credit: Sam Tranum

There are things that can be done to incentivise people to make that switch, says McCahill, who leads the State Smart Transportation Initiative at the University of Wisconsin.

Unbundling the cost of parking from the cost of renting is one step, rather than hiding it away as included in the rent, McCahill says.

It’s also important for the developer to make clear to potential tenants that, “Parking is not the easiest thing to do here, but we do have, you know, good public transit available and it’s really easy to walk and bike.”

Another measure apartment owners could take might be to include the cost of a travel pass for public transport with the rent, rather than including the cost of parking, he said.

And perhaps including a creche on-site at the apartment building or – at the other end of the journey – the tenant’s workplace. (The Davitt doesn’t have one.)

Over time, “People will figure out, like, ‘Oh, if it’s hard to park, it doesn’t make any sense to drive. That’s the long term effect, but then there’s that transitional period,” McCahill says.

In the Meantime

So, what’s to be done in the meantime?

“There are often spillover effects,” says McCahill, like the cars parking on Galtymore Road outside The Davitt.

During the transition, the local authorities need to work to manage the mess, he says. “So that means, you know, regulating the on-street parking better, maybe looking for opportunities to share parking, and stuff like that.”

Patricia Ryan, who lives across the street from The Davitt, and is involved in the local group Dynamic Drimnagh, knows which solutions she doesn’t want.

She doesn’t want the council to bring in a residential parking scheme, making parking official, regulated and paid.

And she doesn’t want the council to put double-yellow lines down the Davitt side of Galtymore Road and then send clampers around to enforce that. That’d just drive Davitt residents to park on her side, she says.

“There’s no solution at the moment,” she says. “The solution is Dublin City Council and An Bord Pleanála need to sort out the traffic management here.”

However, Richard Murray, the independent candidate for Dublin City Council, does see a solution, he says: add more parking spaces.

“But where? There’s literally nowhere you could put parking,” he says. That stretch of Galtymore Road has always been bad for parking, he says.

For the houses across from The Davitt that don’t have driveways, what if the council pays 50 percent of the cost of putting driveways in for them? he suggests.

Another idea would be to get rid of the €75 a month charge for parking for Davitt residents, Murray says. “And maybe stop the segregation of the social housing and let them use the car park.”

Cunningham, of the Green Party, also raises the idea of talking to Havitat to see if there’s a more efficient way to allocate the parking spaces in The Davitt’s garage.

And he suggests an idea he said he heard from Ryan: making Galtymore Road one-way in one direction, and the nearly parallel Benmadigan Road one-way in the other.

“Which would work. Then you don’t need to worry about buses meeting each other, you’d only need the width of a bus to be kept open here [on Galtymore Road],” he says.

CORRECTION: This article was corrected at 13.12 on 7 June 2023 to remove the reference to Avestus Capital Partners as the owner of The Davitt. Herbert Park ICAV is registered as the owner. We apologise for the error.

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