No reason to shed tears over loss of public car park

The Murray Road facility served only the needs of those who own private cars while adding noxious fumes to the polluted air the rest of us have to breathe

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 May, 2017, 11:11pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 May, 2017, 11:11pm

The five-storey public car park on Murray Road in Admiralty was an anomaly; so low-rise a structure on prime real estate in a busy business and shopping district brimming with tall buildings did not make sense. Understandably, the government decided to sell it and an office tower will rise where it stands. Motorists complain about the loss of convenience and the higher fees being asked by private car parks in the area and there are even warnings of the likelihood of congestion as a result of more illegal parking. But the closure is less a nuisance than a message about reality; Hong Kong’s narrow, crowded and polluted streets dictate that as much as possible, we should be using public or shared transport.

Those wealthy enough to own a car would argue otherwise. For many, it is a status symbol, a mark of having arrived in society. But as the closure of the car park proves, having arrived does not guarantee a space. Worse, the new building is expected to have substantially fewer places for vehicles than the 388 for cars and 55 for motorcycles that the Murray Road facility had.

Hong Kong people have a reputation for adaptability, being able to cope and capitalise on changed circumstances. The loss of a car park is without doubt reason to adapt and for those unable to find a space or unwilling to pay higher fees, there are several alternatives. No city in the world is as well served by public transport and the Admiralty area is flush with choices. There is also the option of connecting with or setting up a car pool with friends or colleagues to share rides, an idea still in its infancy in our city but commonplace among commuters elsewhere.

With among the highest road traffic density of any city in the world, Hongkongers should have learned long ago to wean themselves off private cars. But a number insist on clinging to the idea despite government disincentives, with the result that our streets are congested and in the busiest districts, heavily polluted from vehicle emissions. The loss without replacement of a car park should be seen as further discouragement. It is time car owners took notice of the message they are being given.