“Big dirty ignorant things”

A friend of mine used these words to describe the latest mistake being foisted on the people of Limerick City by its local authority, and I thought his words were apt. As you may have noticed, if you’ve been driving or walking around Limerick city lately, there is a plethora of new information signs scattered throughout the city which are supposed to direct motorists towards our multi-storey parking lots.

At some point, somebody in city hall had the notion that in order to attract people to Limerick we must make parking in the city easy for them. The theory goes that people will then come here and spend their money rather than opting for the out of town shopping centres such as the Crescent, and the city centre will thrive once again. Fair enough, you might say (I personally think they are barking up the wrong tree on this one, and I’ll get back to that further down the page).

That’s the theory. The implementation of it is quite another thing.

Here are some photos, and really they don’t do justice to the calamity given that they represent just a very few of the signs that have been erected. If you want a clearer view, just click on the photo and you’ll see the full size.

A couple of points/questions worth raising.

Who decided where these signs should go and how many were needed? Was there any critical assessment done at all? Was there any thought to their visual impact on the city? The result is clearly horrendous (and if you aren’t convinced by the photo just go for a stroll around the city centre). And can we be sure that they are actually worth it? Are they likely to be effective? The signs tell you the names of the multi-storey car parks and how many spaces are vacant in them, but if you’re a visitor to Limerick, how are you meant to know where “Summer Street car park” or “city centre car park” are? If we are going to spend so much money and if we must further damage the visual integrity of the city, surely we could at least come up with something that is worth both the monetary and the visual cost?

What is the actual cost, you may well ask. According to some reports, there wasn’t much change out of €700,000 for installing these signs. That’s a hell of a lot of money to spend on a slap-dash project such as this. Fair enough if the money came from the owners and operators of the multi-storey car parks. But it didn’t. It came from the taxpayer.

And the final insult. The money that was used to fund this ill-thought out blight on the city actually came out of a budget allocated for ‘Smarter Travel’ initiatives. ‘Smarter Travel’, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, is a government backed scheme for promoting and investing in initiatives designed to get people out of their cars and to use other modes of transport. Plans for real-time bus information signs (i.e. signs at the bus-stops that tell you how long before the next bus arrives, which have already been rolled out in Dublin), plans for cycle lanes, etc., were all shelved and the money re-directed towards these parking information signs. Progress, this is not.

I suggested above, and elsewhere, that the council’s priorities are somewhat misplaced. For them, the priority appears to be to get people shopping in the city centre and they’ll do whatever they can to make that happen. Shoppers spend money and this keeps businesses going and the council receives rates. But who does that really serve? And is it really the best way to get the city to thrive again, or the best strategy for the future? Sure enough, the council itself benefits through rates, and the business community benefits in the short term through increased footfalls and spend, and that is great, but the most effective and long term sustainable way to grow the city centre economy is to focus on attracting people to live in the city. That way, businesses and council and the people who live in Limerick will benefit to a far greater extent in the long term. For more on this see here.

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2 Responses to “Big dirty ignorant things”

  1. Miriam says:

    Hi Brian,

    Good points about the planning process. It makes no sense NOT to integrate public transport in this system. It’s also myopic to use interactive technology to send information in one direction only – from the city to the citizen. Had there been consultation with the public and comprehensive studies of patterns of movement and activity in the city, we would have 1.) a more efficient effort to make the city easier to navigate and, once implemented, 2.) feedback from the system (data from sensors, opinions from people) to make improvements and informed decisions on future plans.

    This short video about smart city planning in Santander puts the case better than I can: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAnQhfRTkcs

    Since the signs are now in place, it would be interesting to know what additional information people think they should convey. What real-time updates do pedestrians, cyclists and residents need? And what information could we send back in return?

  2. Pingback: Limerick Smarter Travel Projects | brian leddin

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