Inside Beautybox, on Brookwood Rise in Dublin 5, two women are getting their nails done while “Take On Me” plays on the radio.
Owner Katrina Hyland says that even though there’s a row of parking outside the shops, staff and customers have a hard time finding a space. There’s a line of cars parked up illegally across the road - all four wheels on the footpath, next to double yellow lines.
“People are parking up and going on the DART,” she says. “It’s always been like this.”
The DART is a few minutes’ walk from the salon, after Brookwood Rise becomes Harmonstown Road. There’s no parking at the station, so commuters leave their cars along the road, and the residential streets that branch off it, for free.
Area residents say they’ve had enough of the parking congestion and related safety issues. They’re asking Dublin City Council to help them find a solution.
Trina O’Connor sits in her kitchen on one of the residential streets off Harmonstown Road on a recent Thursday. A criminologist by day, O’Connor runs the Artane/Harmonstown Community Group in her spare time.
She’s the type of person people come to for help. For the past 12 months, she’s been hearing more and more about the knock-on effects of rampant parking in the community.
Its seems down to more people working which is great, O’Connor says, but commuters are parking not only illegally, but dangerously, and for up to 12 hours a day.
At a meeting at the Northside Civic Centre in Coolock earlier this month, O’Connor and neighbour Breda Caulfield presented their case to the council’s North Central Area Committee and asked for a solution.
Excessive parking in the area affected local businesses and prevented home-care workers from reaching their clients, said Caulfield.
“It’s really gotten out of hand over the last few years,” she says.
Caulfield has photos of cars parked two abreast along Harmonstown Road – one row of cars completely on the wide footpath, and the other row half-on, half-off.
She’s taken pictures of cars blocking her neighbours’ driveways. There are more photos of footpaths cracked and crumbling.
“My reasoning for approaching, standing up to the council about the parking issue, is for the safety of my neighbours, especially those using a walking frame” and with other mobility issues, she says.
Caulfield has been going door-to-door, asking neighbours to sign a petition calling on the council’s traffic department to help.
She’s been trying to change things since 2016, and residents are upset and “want to see something done”, she says.
Later on that Thursday morning, O’Connor drives around Harmonstown Road and the residential streets clogged with parked cars. There are a few houses with traffic cones or bins outside their driveways, preventing people from parking there.
Since she and Caulfield spoke to the council last week, more illegally parked cars are being clamped, she says.
“There are two cars parked near that corner. Where’s the visibility? A child could run out there,” she says.
O’Connor drives to the corner of Gracefield Avenue and Brookwood Rise, the road that becomes Harmonstown Road.
“See that plant pot there? We just got it put up there to try and stop people parking there.”
The Number of Cars
O’Connor says they’ve gotten strong, cross-party support from local councillors on the issue, including from independents John Lyons and Damian O’Farrell, Sinn Féin’s Larry O’Toole, Labour’s Alison Gilliland and Fianna Fáil’s Deirdre Heney.
Lyons says the problem is indicative of a “wider issue, which is more difficult to deal with: the number of cars on the road”.
And despite the citywide car congestion, he says the Harmonstown DART station “seems to be the one that’s causing the problem”, on the north side at least.
Howth Junction doesn’t have car parking, but it does have a set-down area. It’s also in a more residential area, where long-term parking is harder to get away with, he says.
“Clontarf has ample car parking provision, and it’s used. Killester has one as well. Most of them do,” Lyons says.
Back at Beautybox, Katrina Hyland and a customer talk about the old 101 bus that serviced the area.
“That was a great bus. The stop was just where the DART station is, and it used to take you to Beaumont,” Hyland says.
Trina O’Connor talks about that bus, too. She doesn’t know why the service stopped, but “there’s definitely a need for it now”.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) didn’t respond to a query about this sent last Wednesday.
There was a feeder bus plan back in 1984 when the DART first opened, says Mark Gleeson of Rail Users Ireland (RUI), a representative group for train travellers. Feeder buses transport passengers to rail or other transport stations, where people continue their journeys.
“[T]hese routes have mostly been reduced to a level of service as to be no use,” he says.
“Feeder bus service is the only real way forward, as extra car park spaces are either unlikely or extremely expensive to provide.”
But for Gleeson, the more pressing matter is improving the capacity of the rail network, which is currently near capacity, to “provide an alternative to driving”.
Feeder buses would be the second step, he says, and they’re “not just about connections to the railway”.
They “serve a local community purpose, as the vast bulk of Dublin Bus is radial and useless for many local journeys”.
The nearest Core Bus Corridor the NTA is proposing with its BusConnects plan is the Clongriffin to City Centre route. The route originates at the Clongriffin DART station, but its path doesn’t encompass Harmonstown Road or the DART station there.
Some councillors have called for more park-and-rides to be part of major infrastructure plans, such as BusConnects and Metrolink, in order to take more cars off the road.
According to a spokesperson for Iarnród Éireann (IÉ), that body can only regulate parking on their own property. And parking at IÉ properties is at capacity.
The IÉ spokesperson also said that, where illegal parking is concerned, it’s the local council’s responsibility to regulate that.
Licensing bus routes falls to the NTA, as does the rollout of BusConnects service, the spokesperson said. He noted there is a bus service – the 102 – between Dublin Airport and Sutton Station, via Swords, Malahide, and Portmarnock, operated by GoAhead Bus.
The NTA has not yet responded to a query sent last Wednesday about feeder bus routes and other links to DART stations.
Some councillors and residents mention the vacant factories along Harmonstown Road, near the DART station.
“There are potential sites there that could be used for car parking,” says Lyons, the independent councillor.
Fianna Fáil’s Heney says she’s calling on the manager of the council to “bring in some kind of engineering solution to prevent people being able to park on footpaths in problematic locations”.
O’Connor and others say they’d like to see a country-wide awareness campaign around responsible parking.
Sinn Féin’s O’Toole said traffic management for very busy areas needs to be looked at.
“Any area with a public transport hub needs to be looked at,” he says. “We have to take a holistic view of the whole lot – the Dublin City Council traffic department, residents, clubs, to come up with a permanent long-term solution.”
O’Connor says she’d like to see IÉ survey the people who use the DART to see where they come from, do a “proper data analysis”, and then provide a bus service.