Investment in public transport is vital if Cork is to avoid crippling traffic congestion like that in Dublin, the Cork Business Association (CBA) has warned.
And while the reliance on the car as the main mode of transport is unsustainable, the CBA said free parking and other supports will be required in the medium term as that investment ramps up.
CBA chief executive Lawrence Owens said they are calling for a six-month free afternoon parking initiative and for the city’s only park and ride service to be free on Saturdays.
It comes just days after the launch of a new business group which has called for the scrapping of the 3pm-6.30pm daily car ban in favour of buses on St Patrick’s St.
The new Cork City Traders Association (CCTA), fronted by South Main St beauty salon owner Susan Ryan, claims the ban has crippled retail trade since its reintroduction last August.
In a tweet last Friday, Tom Murphy Menswear said they took 90% of their takings between 9am and 2pm, 5% between 2pm and 3pm, and the remaining 5% between 3pm and 6pm.
Another interesting friday as a city centre trader.90 percent of days takings done in the nine to 2 window.5 percent in 2-3 window and 5 percent in 3-6 window— Tom Murphy Suits (@TomMurphySuits) February 15, 2019
City Hall has again defended the traffic management measure, insisting that footfall has held steady and pointing out that retail globally is facing challenges from online shopping.
Mr Owens said Cork must respond to the challenges to ensure it is a city that works for all sectors of business and for visitors.
“Cork is set to become one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, with its population projected to grow to over half a million over the coming years,” he said.
“The city is experiencing a major economic resurgence with a 10% increase in employment in the past five years. Significant commercial development is underway and we need to plan for 10,000 additional workers in the city in the next five years.
“Continuing to rely on the car as the main mode of transport will be unsustainable. If we fail to implement change then ultimately we will end up like Dublin where the average speed at peak times is just 9.6km an hour.”
Mr Owens cited a report from motor data company Inrix last week which showed Dublin’s traffic congestion is the third worst in the world, behind Bogota and Rome, with motorists in the capital spending almost 250 hours, or 10 full days, a year in traffic last year.
“Is this what we want for Cork?” he said.
The CBA has partnered with the Local Enterprise Office to help retailers migrate some of their business online. It is establishing a digital marketing and social media business committee chaired by Eoin Kennedy from Zone Digital, and it is introducing a new digital company category in its annual awards scheme.
“International experience has shown that those cities that innovate, have adaptable and variable business models, and that integrate sustainable transport options into everyday life do best,” said Mr Owens.
Meanwhile, FF Cllr Ken O’Flynn wrote last night to his fellow city councillors asking them to support a Section 140 motion which would direct council chief executive to scrap the afternoon car ban.
He said he believes the council has assisted the decline in retail by “subliminally encouraging shoppers and others to stay away from the city centre”, by “confusing beyond belief” the shopper and visitor with various messages, and by the lack of “adequate public transport”.
“We need the proper infrastructure of adequate park and ride facilities, the northern ring road and other projects in place before we can effectively close off our city centre to traffic in the afternoons,” he said.