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Copyright © LK 2002 All rights reserved
Published in the EPA's "Parking Trend"
Volume 15, No.3, December 2001

Articles:

* 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

Introduction

The Irish economic miracle has seen the economy change from a largely agricultural to a largely service and light industrial base since Ireland joined the EU in 1977. Fifty years ago, almost 50% of the work force was employed in agriculture, and today this is less than 9%. The service industry today employs more than 60% of the labour force. Ireland is the largest exporter of computer software in the world.

This success has resulted in the rapid and dramatic development of a dynamic parking industry. This presentation concentrates on developments in the Republic of Ireland, but before that perhaps a short profile of the island of Ireland.

The Country

The island is c 500km long by 250 km wide and has a land area of 84,000 sq km. The island is home to two political entities – Northern Ireland, part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland – see map.

The key statistics for the island are outlined in the following table:

People
Millions
Area
000s sq km
Pop/Sq
Km
GDP/Cap
Euro '000s
Working
Millions
Cars per
'000
Republic3.8 70 53 23.4 1.7 352
North1.7 14 125 16 0.7 362
Combined5.5 84 65 21.1 2.4 356

There are two large urban areas on the island – Dublin (1.2 m) and Belfast (1.0 m). The next largest cities are Cork and Derry at about 200,000 each.

There are approximately 53 people per square kilometer in the Republic compared to 125 in the North – compared with 14 in Norway,123 in Denmark , 107 in France, 335 in Belgium and 230 in Germany.

Economic Growth

Today Ireland ranks in the top 15 of the world’s wealthiest nations with GDP per capital at €23,400. This compares to only €8,000/capita in 1990. Today our economy is on a par with Belgium, Netherlands and Finland and ranks above the UK, Italy and France. Its GDP per capita is almost 95% of the German and 70% of the US figure.

In 2000 the economy grew by more than 11%, and in 2001 is forecast to increase by more than 6%. These compares to less than 3% pa in the rest of the EU.[Recent events in the USA have seen reductions in all these forecasts]

Unemployment levels have fallen from almost 20% in the 1980s to less than 4% today. The total number of people employed in the Republic has increased by 30% in the past 10 years from 1.3 million to more than1.7 million.

There has been a dramatic re-structuring of the retail sector, with many new shopping centres developed with large surface car parks to attract car-borne shoppers. Marks & Spencer and Tesco have been followed by Lidl and Aldi, all of whom compete with domestic chains such as Dunnes Stores and Roches Stores.

These dramatic developments have led to rapid increases in car ownership and usage levels. These in turn have led to dramatic increases in demand for parking in all areas of the country.

Car Ownership

In 1939 the total number of private cars in Ireland was approximately 50,000. By 1981 this figure had increased to 775,000, and at the end of 2000 had exceeded 1.3 million. This represents a shift from fewer than 15 cars per 1000 in 1939, to 220 per thousand in 1981, to 345 per thousand in 2000. The national road network has not changed greatly over this period and so the effects on traffic densities has been dramatic.

New car sales have exceeded 200,000 pa for the past three years, compared to only 60,000 pa in the early 1980s.

Car Usage

There are more than 2 million licensed drivers in the population and the average annual distance travelled by private cars has been calculated to be 12,000 miles or 20,000km.

Parking Supply

Historical reports suggest that Dublin had c 3,500 cars parking on-street in 1939. In a 1998 study for Dublin Corporation – the city management organisation – more than 60,000 parking spaces were identified as follows:

Meter
& Discs
Free
000s sq km
Off Street Residential PNRTotal
Spaces6,158 16,477 9,630 4,223 24,220 60,729

We can find no record prior to 1975 of any purpose built public car parks in Ireland. By 1976 two new office block developments in Dublin city centre included underground car parks –

  1. The Irish Life Centre – 350 spaces and
  2. The Setanta Centre – 250 spaces

The Irish Life car park was designed as a staff and visitor car park, but the public quickly discovered that it was very convenient and so they flocked to this facility. The owners had to introduce charges to control use of the car park. This represented the foundation of the Park Rite organisation.

By 1981, Ireland’s first large-scale public car park was completed at the ILAC Shopping Centre in central Dublin. The 1,000-space facility served one of the major city centre shopping areas and quickly attracted more than 650,000 cars pa. By 1990, there were 15 MSCPs, and today there are more than 70 MSCPs with 35,000 spaces in operation in the Republic. There are an additional 10 facilities under development at this time.

The Dublin area has 22 MSCPs, with 7 in Cork, 10 in Belfast and 5 in Derry. There are large edge-of-town shopping centres with large surface car parks at Tallaght – 3,000 spaces, Blanchardstown - 6,000 spaces, and Liffey Valley with 2,500 spaces. The three main international airports have more than 15,000 spaces, with three large MSCPs at Dublin Airport and one MSCP at Cork Airport.

This rapid growth in new off-street public parking capacity during the 1990s was actively encouraged by tax incentives which included accelerated capital allowances and double rent allowances for tenants. These incentives have now expired in all but a few instances.

The capital investment represented by these developments is very large. Ignoring any land acquisition costs, the current 35,000 spaces in MSCPs alone represent an investment of €600 million at current prices. With land prices in Dublin city centre at more than €60 million per hectare, this is only a small part of the total cost.

Parking Demand

In 1939 there were approximately 25,000 cars registered in Dublin and another 25,000 in the rest of the country. By 1981 there were 775,000 pri