City council recommends no free Christmas parking

This is a rare post from myself that is almost entirely from the perspective of being a motorist.

As Belfast City Council’s Growth and Regeneration committee recommends that they do not offer free parking after 6pm or on Saturdays coming up to Christmas, my first reaction is that in fact we are only really discussing one thing: free parking on a Saturday.

But what about parking for late night shopping?  Well, only three council car parks charge after 6pm – Hope Street North, outside the Great Northern Multi-Storey, Little Victoria Street behind NICHSA, and Smithfield – and of the other publicly owned surface car parks, I think only Northside and Eastside charge after 6pm.

We know that Translink has entirely fairly highlighted the impact of an avalanche of motorists arriving in Belfast city centre in the early evening on the punctuality of their commuter bus services due to queues for the free parking spaces, with knock-on effects for potential passengers travelling later as drivers omit journeys due to literally running out of time to operate them.  They have angled an opportunity for cheap park and ride in front of the council as well.

However, the line reported about “long queues of cars waiting on spaces to be freed up or motorists circling the city in hope of a space” doesn’t just impact on buses.

They impact on the rest of us commuters too.

I am reminded of my post last year about Poets day and my comments about Thursday evenings, reflected through the lens of spending a couple of years working in Gasworks Business Park, being picked up by my wife, and battling through Belfast traffic just to get home, with parked cars in the Ormeau Road clearway in one direction and traffic blocking the junctions at both the Cromac Street and Short Strand ends of East Bridge Street in the other.

I’m now a car commuter – the joys of working on the north side of town where the bus would cost only £3 a day with mLink pre-purchased Metro day tickets (50p a day more than I was paying to work in the city centre), but the two buses needed would take at least an hour each way against 20 minutes each way in the car, 15 minutes of which is spent getting from our house to the M3. I know that in December, trying to get to east Belfast from the M3 on a late night shopping evening is going to be a nightmare, because of the volume of traffic coming into town.  I’ve spent too long as a bus passenger, a driver, and a car passenger to not be aware of exactly how frustrating the queues are.

So, a conclusion and a plea.

Conclusion: Except for three car parks, council-operated parking for late night shopping is free anyway, and isn’t going to affect you.

Plea: Let everyone get home before you go late night shopping.  Leave the house after 6, all the commuters will have cleared the city centre, and you’ll have an easier journey and peace and quiet to come and park – arrive in town after 7, and you can even use most of the bus lanes legally.  Including Donegall Square East.

(PS: no, I haven’t abandoned the bus.  Used it today as I had a meeting all day in the city centre… and relaxed.)

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  • Surveyor

    Or use that newfangled internet thingy that all those young whippersnappers seem to be using.

  • murdockp

    translink were out of order. they have bus lanes. they also are a monopoly and a poorly run one at that.

    the rate payers fund public service and many of these are Belfast retailers. the council owed it to these businesses to provide free parking.

    the public service stinks

  • Brendan Heading

    You’ll find that during peak periods (evenings and weekends) parking spaces are generally fully or nearly fully occupied. Making the parking free doesn’t do anything except reduce the revenue to the council and encourage commuters to hog the spaces which prevents those who wish to park in the city centre from finding a space.

  • chrisjones2

    Drive the motorists out with bus lanes

    Then stop the Council offering free parking forcing more punters onto the buses which are a State monopoly

    Have the Councillors agreed that they will start paying for all their own free parking at City Hall? Can we get confirmation that its only councillors in person allowed to use these spaces and not their families?

    Still with us citizens driven out it will be easier for them and their families to get in and out to park and shop

    We have no real democratic redress on this so is the answer is simple. Do not shop in Belfast. Let the shops close. When enough of them are shut there will be little traffic and the planners and council will be happy . There is nothing special about the shops in Belfast. You can buy exactly the same things online or in Ballymena, Carrick, Lisburn, Bangor etc. Use the internet or shop outside Belfast

    And keep the list of those who voted for this and next time there is an election don’t vote for them

  • Pacman

    You can also buy exactly the same things in predominantly Nationalist towns too. 🙂

  • AndyB

    Whoever runs the buses will always have a monopoly or practically so, even if they are deregulated, because Ulsterbus loses money and few of Metro’s routes make enough money to attract competition.

    Free parking is useless if nobody can reach it, and besides most council parking in the evenings is free anyway.

  • AndyB

    Let’s try a different tack. What would you do differently if you were running the buses?

  • AndyB

    Precisely – or put differently, charging for parking on Saturdays isn’t chasing customers away…

  • chrisjones2

    No problem with that …i just did a circle around Belfast …..

  • chrisjones2

    The why does it have such an impact that Translink beg for it to be removed?

  • AndyB

    Shop customers in cars.

  • hotdogx

    Yep, internet orders are yer only man!! avoid the crowds!

  • hgreen

    Do these regional towns still have those shops that put men’s Y fronts in the window?

    If you see clothes as something just to keep you warm then I guess regional towns do offer the same things. If you are interested in fashion and your wardrobe extends beyond leisure wear then I think a trip to Belfast is necessary.

  • Croiteir

    And its toffee toon for me. Why on earth would you want to go to dismal Belfast and pay through the nose for over priced goods as traders try to earn their money by inflating prices to help pay their gouging rates? Why would you want to in the risk of fines for changing lanes incorrectly, run the gauntlet of rude and quarrelsome drivers fighting their way around restricted roads, overpriced parking and shop keepers who cannot bargain because the computer says no? Stuff that.

  • hgreen

    And and and it’s full of men holding hands and wimmin having sex outside marriage as well. Awful place.

  • chrisjones2

    Support your local postman!!! And the economy of Luxembourg from where hails our our esteemed EU President

  • chrisjones2

    Just out of interest, how can we find out the rules on Councillors free parking and how often it is used other than for Council Business

    Goose ….Gander

  • Croiteir


  • chrisjones2

    What is Toffee Toon?

    Sounds foreign

  • chrisjones2

    Many seem to…. and to regard that as high fashion.

    I often wondered were those facades in towns like Cookstown secret cover for some Fetish Emporium? Certainly some of the industrial strength lingerie on show alongside plumbing equipment in the windows hinted at that.

    …… but that may all have been a spasm induced by them accidentally serving magic mushrooms as part of my Ulster Fry

  • Sir Rantsalot

    You can take you’re Christmas charging and shove it right up you’re governmental charging hole!

  • NotNowJohnny

    You don’t agree with the Council’s decision then?

  • NotNowJohnny

    Have you actually been to Carrickfergus?

  • belfastconfetti

    As if anyone needed a reason to avoid Belfast City Centre, it’s a skip and the council hates motorists – why on earth would anyone go there for their Christmas shopping?

  • Croiteir

    It is not what but where – and I am surprised you asked – and you a supposedly knowledgeable man.

  • chrisjones2

    Ok. Where …. while I am down with the kids on street patois that is a new one on me

  • Croiteir