The Christmas Park and Ride service kept nearly 6,000 vehicles out of the city centre over the busy shopping period – an 18% increase on the previous year.
However, the service came at a high price – it cost Galway City Council €90,000 to subsidise it, as it generated just €18,000 income from the €3 per car fare, and total costs amounted to nearly €108,000.
Bus Éireann was paid €76,000 to run the buses which had a 15 minute frequency in peak times; while the Ballybrit Racecourse got nearly €14,000 for use of the parking facilities.
On the final shopping week, records show there was a 44% increase in the number of vehicles parking at the track and on Christmas Eve alone, there was a whopping 122% increase in car numbers.
On average, there were three passengers per car, which reached 16,335 – a 5% increase on 2013. A survey of the passengers found that 83% of them used the service for shopping, with just 12% indicating they were work-bound. Most came from across Galway, Mayo and Clare.
Director of Services for Planning and Transportation with Galway City Council, Joe O’Neill, said that despite the high costs, the Council intends to provide the service again this Christmas as it encourages road users to use public transport and provides an attractive option for those travelling from the east, north and south to visit the city.
He said there was scope to encourage more workers to avail of the service, given its value for money, which would help reduce the per-capita cost currently reaching €5.50 per passenger.
However, there are no plans to run the service in January or November, or increase the drop-off points as it would interfere with the frequency and reliability of the service.
The Council will look into establishing a bag drop-off near the bus for shoppers to off-load their purchases, something which was suggested several times in customer surveys.
“The big problem with Park and Ride is it’s not being used by people coming into the city for work. The airport [Park and Ride] was a good bit out and there is no dedicated bus lane from there. I think it’s worth investigating more about Park and Ride,” remarked Mr O’Neill.
“For €3 it’s fantastic value so I’d wonder why more people don’t consider using it.”
He poured cold water on the suggestion from Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind) to organise a trial Park and Ride service on the west side of the city, due to the lack of numbers likely to use it.
Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) said while €90,000 was a large investment, the 1,000 increase in passengers showed it was growing in popularity.