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Copyright © LK 2002 All rights reserved


* The Economics of Pay Car Parks
* Car Parking in Towns - A Very Big Challenge Today!
* The Economic Boom in Ireland: Parking Implications
* The Value of a Parking Space
* Cheaper parking on the way?
* Hospital Parking: Cars, Cranes and Confusion
* The Great Shopping Centre Car Park Space Hunt


In discussions with local authority officials we regularly encounter the issue of parking policy, and the conflict between local councillors and traders' perceptions that charges are a major disincentive to shoppers. This is a critical issue in the introduction of parking management schemes and commercial charges in many towns.

Based on research abroad and practical experience here in Ireland, the following facts are now well established:

  • Shoppers and short stay parkers are not sensitive to price, but are very sensitive to the availability of parking spaces close to their destination.

  • Staff and long stay parkers are very price sensitive, and are relatively insensitive to walking distances between their car and their destination.

  • Research in Europe and experience in Ireland indicates that shoppers are very unhappy to walk more than 180 m.

The logic behind these facts is clear. Shoppers are usually parking for short periods and on an infrequent basis, and the cost of parking is seldom significant compared to the convenience factor for carrying bags, hauling children etc. One year paying a Euro per week costs 50 Euro pa. One Euro per day to park for work is 250 Euro pa. A commuter will walk an extra 200m per day to cut his parking bill in half.

Where traders argue against the introduction of parking charges, the usual concern is that they and their staff will have to pay in order to park directly outside their premises. This is selfish and counter productive, when examined from the point of view of any retail business.

In a typical provincial town, the average stay of a car-borne shopper is between 30/60 minutes. At smaller convenience stores they stay less than 15 minutes. In a well managed parking area adjacent to retail outlets, it is not uncommon for 10 or more cars per day to use a single parking space -regardless of the cost per hour. As the typical spend by a convenience shopper is about 25 euro, the difference between a space tied up all day by a trader and one which is open to short stay shoppers is 250 euro per day (77,500 euro pa) of potential spend!

Park Rite took over a 200 space 'free' car park in a provincial centre some years ago and there were approximately 500 cars per day using it - most of which were parking all day. The introduction of a 20p charge led to the usage increasing to 1.200 cars per day! Local traders who had opposed the original scheme were quickly converted to supporters when they totted their takings at the end of the week.

A challenge for towns with ambitions to develop a multi-storey car park, is to realise that parkers will almost always prefer surface spaces to multi-storey, and if the on-street and local authority surface sites are charging low fees then the economics of a mscp will be completely undermined. Based on an average cost of 13.000 euro per space to build a modern mscp, it requires a minimum charge of 50 cents per hour to break even.

The challenge therefore is to find a balance between the competing demands. The logical approach is:

  • Dedicate all spaces located within 180m of shopping destinations as short stay spaces and charge a fee in line with the 80 cents per hour required for mscps. To ensure compliance concentrate enforcement effort in these areas and apply a strict interpretation of the bye-laws.

  • Dedicate spaces which are more than 180m away from the prime shopping areas as secondary or long stay spaces and impose a lower charge. Enforcement effort in these spaces can be at a low level.

  • It may be necessary to facilitate local residents with legitimate requirements for parking by means of a residents' permit scheme, but they should be encouraged to park in secondary areas rather than prime or core areas.

There are 'pros' and 'cons' for the various systems available for parking control. Many towns have very successful disc parking schemes, while others are introducing pay & display schemes. Whichever scheme is used, they need a disciplined application of the regulations if they are to achieve their objectives. The use of local residents as wardens has led to conflicts of interest and local political pressure to achieve selective application of the parking laws. This is the strongest argument for using outside contractors to provide a full warden, notice processing, enforcement, equipment maintenance and management service.

Park Rite has provided a warden service with considerable success for the past few years. This approach has been a "win win' solution for the local authority involved. Compliance levels have exceeded 90% from the introduction of the scheme, and, with a few exceptions there has been strong local support for the scheme.

Park Rite is Ireland's leading provider of professional car park management services for more than 25 years. Today the company manages more than 10.000 spaces at over 20 large public pay car parks and offers a full range of services including consultancy, design, technology, processing, finance including PPP and system support.

Liam Keilthy
CEO of Park Rite Limited 1994-2001.
Phone: 1-353-1-2893746 Email: Liam Keilthy

Copyright © LK 2002 All rights reserved
This article is reproduced here with the permission of the author. Copyright remains at all times with the author, and the opinions expressed are his alone.

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