An influential motorists’ group has called on the government to introduce a citywide parking database with real-time information and to speed up the roll-out of automated systems to tackle the city’s acute shortage of spaces, accusing policymakers of putting their heads in the sand when it came to the issue. The Hong Kong Automobile Association (HKAA) made the plea on Friday, saying the city had been grappling with a chronic shortage of spaces for more than 15 years, resulting in more traffic congestion and problems with illegal parking. “Over the years, HKAA has continuously reflected the problem of inadequate parking spaces to the government, but it has all along adopted an ostrich policy to address the problem, which has led to [the situation’s] deterioration,” the group’s president, Ringo Lee Yiu-pui, said in a press conference. “It is evident that the government has completely ignored the views of stakeholders in its policy.” At present there are about 680,000 parking spaces in Hong Kong, 195,000 of them in government-owned car parks and the rest of them privately owned. As protests wane, regular police work resumes, led by crackdown on illegal parking However, the association – Hong Kong’s oldest car organisation and an affiliate of more than 150 overseas motoring groups – said the parking spaces failed to keep up with the rapid growth of the number of private cars, which stood at over 643,000 as of last month – up 51 per cent since 2008. “From 2008 to 2019, the ratio of private cars and parking spaces was declining from 1.46 to 1.09, the lowest point of the decade, which shows that the government has completely ignored the needs of private car owners,” Lee said. “The lack of parking spaces has worsened into an urgent matter with the rapidly increasing number of new vehicles on the road in recent years.” Despite the increasing number of cars, the government has cut down on public parking spaces over the years, getting rid of 3,680 spaces since 2004, by the association’s count. Starting on Sunday, the Yau Ma Tei Multi-Storey Car Park will become the latest to go as it is gradually closed in phases due to the construction of the Central Kowloon Route. From January 1 onwards, the 770-space car park will completely cease to operate. To tackle the problem, the association urged the government to quickly set up a database to facilitate the introduction of a smart parking mobile application, which could help car owners to locate nearby free spaces quickly, thereby reducing road traffic. It also advised the government to follow Macau in making it mandatory for private car parks to disclose real-time data on spaces. It said the government should also expedite rolling out automated systems, featuring mechanical devices such as electronic “flying carpets” that park vehicles themselves, for smarter parking management. ‘Flying carpet’ parking platforms to free up space, cut costs: urban renewal chief The Transport Department had planned to roll out six automated parking pilot projects, for which four sites have so far been identified: a short-term tenancy in Tsuen Wan, a public open space in Sham Shui Po and two proposed government building sites in Chai Wan. “We suggest that under this pilot project, the government should actively coordinate with various departments, industries and stakeholders to expedite the project with an open mind … The government should reserve suitable sites and locations for ‘smart parking for interchange’ to complement the development of the surrounding road networks,” Lee said.