AT a time when it is City Council policy to encourage more shoppers to spend their money in the city centre, a Labour councillor has confessed she left for the Crescent Shopping Centre when she got a ticket minutes after parking - on a taxi rank.
“I took a chance, I shouldn’t have done it,” admitted Orla McLoughlin during a debate on parking at the transport policy committee at City Hall.
She explained that it was at 10am on a Saturday when she parked on the taxi rank as she popped into a hair salon.
“I got the ticket two minutes after. I went out and spent my money in the Crescent,” Cllr McLoughlin declared.
She agreed with the contributions of other councillors that a 20-minute grace period should be introduced if the city centre wants to hold on to those shoppers who only want to make a brief stop.
And Cllr McLoughlin also advocated a free parking day for Limerick in the run-up to busy Christmas season.
Cllrs Kieran O’Hanlon and Pat Kennedy had both argued for grace periods in which wardens would hold off on issuing tickets to motorists.
“One of the biggest issues we have in this city is the cost of parking and worry people have of getting tickets. Obviously I’m aware that it is a source of revenue for us but people can park for free out in the shopping centres and do,” said Cllr O’Hanlon, Fianna Fail.
“What I would like to see is that for somebody who is doing a quick in-and-out out of a shop that they get 20 minutes of grace without having to put up a disc. It is a serious issue.”
The issuing of tickets at night by gardai was also putting people off in some locations, he added.
Cllr O’Hanlon referred to a “confusing situation” at Lower Cecil Street where motorists were allowed park in spaces by day which turned into a taxi rank in the evenings.
“It’s mainly the gardai issuing tickets there at night but this is an issue for us if we are serious about trying to bring people into the city in the evening to have meals and so on.”
Cllr Kennedy agreed that if people wished to park up in the city for “only a half an hour or so, they must not be encouraged”.
“I’m concerned that in the area around the market in particular, there is a flood of tickets being given out.”
“We shouldn’t be concentrating on revenue. When disc parking was brought in in this city, it was brought in to regulate traffic and to manage traffic, not to generate revenue,” said Cllr Kennedy.
His Fine Gael colleague, Cllr Maria Byrne, said business owners in the city centre favoured loading bays being used as ordinary parking spaces when they were not being used for deliveries in the mornings and evenings.
James Nix, representing the environment sector on the committee, cautioned it was a slippery slope going down the road of free parking in major urban centres.
“The concept of the race to the bottom,” he said, was not confined to labour relations, and cities could find themselves in a competitive situation “where everybody has to provide free parking”.
An IBEC report published in late July had found that large centres should charge for parking and “we are into a zero-sum game if we get into a situation of free parking for all”.