While drivers welcome government plans to introduce new features at parking meters, such as allowing fees to be paid via mobile phone, pedestrians and residents of districts with chronic traffic congestion are appalled.
The Legislative Council paper on the trial scheme says that on-street 'parking spaces are provided to cater for short-term parking needs. These parking spaces are normally metered to discourage prolonged parking.' Currently allocated times are 30 minutes to two hours, depending on conditions in the district.
Allowing drivers to use remote payment methods will encourage them to hog meters for hours on end, causing further congestion on our streets and will make life easier for valet parking operators monopolising public facilities for private commercial purposes. The Transport and Housing Bureau will promise to supervise the parking meters to curtail abuse, but we have heard that before.
Not a single ticket has been issued for violation of the anti-idling engine legislation in more than six months. Street-side parking is the most popular option because of convenience and low fees, HK$2 for 15 minutes, undercutting higher rates at off-street car parks. Instead of encouraging drivers to park street side, officials should be taking measures to reduce on-street parking to generate new lanes and introduce multifold increases in meter charges that reflect the high cost of land. Forcing drivers into off-street parking facilities would reduce both air and noise pollution and make our streets more spacious and pleasant.
The focus of the bureau is as usual all on the convenience of motorists: 'We will examine how the new generation of parking meters could allow greater flexibility in the charging mechanism and parking time arrangements to better serve the needs of the motorists.' No mention of benefits for the long-suffering pedestrian.
The streets belong to everyone and it is high time that what is best for the majority be the priority when implementing new measures. Instead of spending significant amounts on upgrading meters, that will never be recouped because of the low fees, our transport officials should concentrate on introducing congestion pricing to inner city districts to encourage goods deliveries to be executed outside peak hours and to discourage unnecessary incursions.
Hopefully, the members of the next Legco Transport Advisory Committee will get their priorities right and reject proposals inconsistent with the general public interest.
Mary Melville, Tsim Sha Tsui