Opinion: How to solve the vehicles crisis in Kildare towns

It's time to offer real, workable alternatives to parking on town streets

Conor McHugh

Reporter:

Conor McHugh

Email:

conor@leinsterleader.ie

Opinion: How to solve the vehicles crisis in Kildare towns

It's often difficult to find on-street parking in towns such as Naas

In this terrible world we live in with all the terrible people in it, there is only one way to change human behaviour for the betterment of the species.

There is no point appealing to their better nature. Only a system of well-balanced financial incentives and disincentives can work.

If you want to make any progress, you have to bribe people.

On the other hand, if you form part of the governing classes it is particularly easy to get people to go in a certain way.

This was obviously a good thing when it came to, for instance, getting rid of plastic bags, and a not-so-good thing when it came to voting Bertie Ahern in election after election after election.

And that’s why it’s easy to solve the parking (and other) crises.

My understanding, and correct me if I’m wrong, is that the general thinking about parking policy is that we don’t want people hogging town centre parking spots all day. We want them being used by people who are only there for a couple of hours, not those who work there.

So, the obvious approach is to disincentivise people who need a parking space all day long from nabbing town centre spots. That’s why higher hourly fees apply the closer you get to town centres.

However, we’re slipping up at the other end. We’ve got the disincentives right, but not the incentives. Yes, it may be a little cheaper to park a little further away from the town centre.

But arguably it’s not sufficiently cheaper — and as a result, the ‘penalty’ for abandoning your car for the whole day in a town centre spot is not as much of a leap as it should be.

I’ll tell you how I know this: I’m one of several dozen people who have discovered a spot to park for free. No, I’m not telling you where — space is at a premium.

It involves a 10 minute walk from the office, rather than 30 seconds that other spots might afford me, but even in the worst weather I don’t mind, because it’s free.

Seeing as neither public transport nor cycling infrastructure are adequate, there will always be a certain number of people who need to enter our towns in their cars beause they work there, but don’t live there.

Charging them parking fees feels like a punishment or an additional tax for having a job that just happens to be in a town that is inadequately served by alternative transport infrasture — paying for the incompetence of others.

If you charge them €5 a day to park in the town, as some car parks do, that’s €1,300 a year, necessitating us to earn €2,000.

That’s why I, and others, walk 10 minutes to a free spot.

Here’s a suggestion: if we provided a large car park, multistorey if necessary, on the outskirts of the town that cost a nominal €1 a day to all those who can prove that they work in the town centre, then I guarantee you it would be full every single day and the parking pressures in the town centre would be greatly allieviated. A €1 per car per day it should be possible to run it at cost.

I’d suggest you have a rental bikes scheme there like Dublin Bikes and maybe even a shuttle bus. It really doesn’t need to be far out of town — there’s plenty of land near the town centre.

Consider this; notwithstanding the well publicised parking problems in Naas there are several car parks in the town that are rarely, if ever, full — essentially because the ratio between cost and the motorist’s walking distance to their destination is wonky when compared to the cost of parking spaces nearer their destination.

Incentives and disincentives are two sides of the same coin. To get the full effect, you need to use both.