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Dublin should follow Paris’s lead and charge SUVs higher parking fees, say campaigners

If Parisian approach was adopted in Dublin, cost of parking larger cars would top €10 per hour and might dissuade motorists from buying big vehicles

27/11/2019 - NEWS - Backed up Traffic on Dublins Grand Canal near Portobello in Dublin  due to the Tractor Protest by Farmers in Dublin City Centre
Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Dublin should follow Paris and introduce higher parking charges for SUVs to dissuade motorists from buying increasingly large vehicles ill-suited for city driving, according to Friends of the Earth.

At the weekend, Parisians voted in favour of tripling parking charges for large SUVs, which will see the cost of parking larger cars climbing to €18 an hour.

If a similar approach were adopted in Dublin, the cost of parking SUVs in the city centre for an hour would top €10.

“The fact is our cars are getting too big for our cities,” said Oisín Coghlan of Friends of the Earth.


He pointed to a recent report from the Brussels-based Transport & Environment (T&E) campaign group which found that new cars in the EU and UK have grown 1cm wider every two years over the last two decades, largely as a result of the popularity of large SUVs.

Brussels-based James Nix is the author of the T&E report and he told The Irish Times that while the average car today is around 180cm, a growing number are 200cm wide, with some stretching beyond that.

His report found that some streets in London, Paris and Rome cannot accommodate two large parked SUVs and moving traffic, while car parks struggle to fit the larger cars into designated spaces.

“I think there’s a fair argument to say that those who require the larger spaces should pay for them,” Mr Nix said.

“The Paris move is an example of cities pushing back, and while one city isn’t in a position to change the European rules, the city is seeing this trend and the response is aimed at checking that, and also aimed at sending a signal to vehicle makers to say there’s a more reasonable-sized vehicle.”

Mr Coghlan said many people are motivated to buy bigger cars because they believe it is safer but “it doesn’t work for the common good. In fact, everyone loses because individuals think they’re getting a slight advantage by having a bigger car.”

In an Irish context, he said there were options including a tax on larger cars at the point of purchase that combines emissions and vehicle size. “That would at least change the incentive structure.”

He also said congestion charges between the canals in Dublin and higher parking charges for larger cars have to be considered.

“I’m not going to pretend everyone would like this but there are lot of people who would be supportive.”

He pointed out that resistance to policies aimed at making urban centres less attractive to cars often dissipate after their introduction. “Congestion charges are popular in London and people are generally happy with pedestrianisation after the fact. A lot of this is about framing the debate. It is not about closing streets to cars but about opening them to pedestrians.

He added that, for a tiered parking structure to work in a city such as Dublin, a directly elected mayor might be needed. “It needs dedicated decision-making and unified decision-making. The mayors in cities like London and Paris feel they have a mandate and the time to make big decisions.”

His view that the public are largely supportive of moves that disincentivise city centre driving are borne out by a report to be presented to Dublin City Council this week which suggest that plans to reallocate road space across Dublin city centre from private cars to buses, cyclists and pedestrians have been “overwhelmingly” endorsed by the public.

More than 80 per cent of submissions supported the Dublin City Centre Transport Plan, which aims to end the dominance of cars on the city’s streets.

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Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast