Fines for illegal parking are set to rise 25 per cent in June 2018, instead of the originally proposed 50 per cent. Photo: Dickson Lee

Opposition from Hong Kong transport trade, lawmakers forces city to slash rise in parking fines

Officials urged to focus on shortage of spaces, not penalties

The government is halving the increase in fines for illegal parking amid strong opposition from the transport sector and lawmakers from across the political spectrum.

Under the government’s latest proposal, fixed penalties for illegal parking and related offences, which now stand at HK$320 and HK$450, will be raised by 25 per cent to HK$400 and HK$560 instead of the originally proposed HK$480 and HK$680, according to a paper submitted to the Legislative Council’s subcommittee on the resolutions relating to the increases.

Offences like making a U-turn causing obstruction and unauthorised stopping at a bus stop, public light bus stand or taxi stand will be subject to a fixed penalty of HK$400, while offences like loading or unloading goods or picking up passengers in a restricted zone will face a fixed penalty of HK$560.

The proposed adjustments, to be voted on by Legco by the end of June, are expected to take effect from June 1 next year.

However, the Transport and Housing Bureau warned it would review the next stage of adjustment at an appropriate time after implementing the new fines.

It said the revised move came after taking into account the views of the subcommittee and individuals that a drastic increase of 50 per cent for illegal parking was “hefty” and that a phased approach should be considered.

Lawmakers across the political spectrum earlier raised concerns over the acute shortage of parking spaces for commercial vehicles, arguing the government should address the problem first before considering any penalty rises, otherwise it would take a toll on the transport trade.

“The government puts forward the above revised proposals which we believe should be more acceptable to the public while still partially restoring the deterrent effect eroded by inflation,” the paper said, adding that the penalties had not been reviewed since 1994.

However, it refuted claims that the lack of parking spaces was the main reason for illegal parking in the city, saying on several occasions even if there were vacant parking spaces motorists still chose to park their vehicles illegally on the roads “for their own convenience or to save parking fees”.

“In any event, we do not wish the community to form a misconception that inadequate parking space is a legitimate defence for illegal parking,” it said.

Increasing fines can’t deter illegal parking when the shortage of parking spaces for commercial vehicles is not resolved
Frankie Yick Chi-ming, Liberal Party lawmaker

The paper pointed out that illegal parking was rampant and had to be stemmed so a rise in illegal parking fines was necessary.

“[In] failing to take this small step, the general public will continue to be plagued by the traffic congestion problem with no sign of alleviation,” it warned.

The number of penalty tickets issued last year stood at 1.6 million, 98 per cent up from about 820,000 in 2011, while the number of licensed vehicles in Hong Kong was over 710,000 in February.

However, the government’s revised proposals still failed to win back the hearts of the transport trade and some lawmakers.

Liberal Party lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming, representing the transport sector, said he would still oppose the proposed rises in illegal parking fines, arguing that the government could enhance enforcement at black spots by towing away illegally parked cars.

“The government is barking up the wrong tree. Increasing fines can’t deter illegal parking when the shortage of parking spaces for commercial vehicles is not resolved. Only strict enforcement such as towing away illegally parked cars can be a deterrent,” he said.

Land Transportation Alliance’s spokesman Stanley Chiang Chi-wai said the transport sector was unmoved by the revised proposals. “The matter is not about how much the fines will be increased, but about whether the parking spaces are enough for commercial vehicles. The government should consider resolving the problem first before raising penalties,” he said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Parking fine rises stir opposition