Right road must be taken on Hong Kong parking
Bowing to vested interests when it comes to proposed rises in fees and fines does not pay, particularly in a small city with 700,000 registered vehicles
Two dollars for 15 minutes, eight dollars for an hour – this is the price to pay for occupying a roadside parking space in a city where land is gold. Bafflingly, the level has not been raised for more than two decades, giving rise to abuses and other transport woes. The case for a major increase is well justified. Regrettably, the government is not known for being resolute when it comes to tackling parking problems. Just months ago, it bowed to vested interests and abandoned some long overdue increases in fines for illegal parking. The U-turn does nothing for the authority of a can-do government.
In what is said to be a step to help relieve traffic congestion, the Transport and Housing Bureau has proposed doubling the maximum metered parking fee to HK$4 or HK$5 per 15 minutes.
At the same time, existing meters are to be replaced by those with smart payment and remote access functions. Real-time information on vacant parking spaces will also be available to save drivers from roaming around. The upgrade will cost taxpayers HK$304 million.
If a British study is any reference, up to 30 per cent of the traffic congestion in London is said to be caused by vehicles looking for on-street parking. The Hong Kong government believes the fee increase will discourage prolonged parking as well as motorists circulating or double-parking on roads as they wait for metered spaces.
The Legislative Council remains a stumbling block. Officials were forced to withdraw a proposed increase in parking fees – to HK$4 per 15 minutes – in 1999 due to strong opposition from groups with vested interests. A few months ago, a separate attempt to raise fines for illegal parking, from HK$320 and HK$450 to HK$400 and HK$560, was also blocked.
Critics say the government should first tackle the shortage of parking spaces. While certainly more effort needs to be made, the truth is that there are far too many vehicles – some 700,000 registered at present – in our small city. The problem can never be resolved if the growth in vehicles continues to outstrip that of parking spaces.
The adjustment is long overdue. The government must not cave in this time or our traffic woes will worsen.