NEWS

Parking by card, phone

All a driver will need is a mobile phone and a kiosk nearby; the municipal traffic police officer, a piece of electronic equipment and a good database in a municipal office – this is the outline of the new online municipal parking system being planned by Athens City Hall. It might sound simple, but it has proved pretty complex to design as it is based on a pioneering electronic system that has no need of parking meters, parking tickets and so forth. The new system comes from Finland and Spain (Barcelona) and looks like being a long-term, feasible solution to Athens’s parking problem. The main investment will be the software to operate the system. Within this year, a pilot study is to be carried out in the city’s historic and commercial center. The goal is to find short-term parking on the street according to the rules and the traffic code; and long-term parking in indoor and outdoor parking lots. The system under consideration is based on the notion of buying parking time. This can be done by using cards on sale at kiosks that provide a certain number of hours’ parking according to the value of the card. The areas where parking will be allowed will be divided into parking bays, each with a specific code. When drivers park their cars, they will send a text message to a four-digit number at a municipal switchboard naming the bay’s position and the parking time required. The time will automatically be deducted from the card and the police officer on patrol will be able to check with the database if the specific parking spot has been paid for. Although the municipality is still working on the system, it is clear that residents of the center are the ones to be affected by it when it comes into force. Charges still have to be set, but initial calculations appear to be settling on 1 euro for one hour. In the district where the pilot program is to go into effect, there are up to 850 parking places, including those reserved for civil services. A study undertaken by the Office for the Unification of Athens’s Archaeological Sites (EAXA) indicates that these could be increased by 50 percent in places where parked cars or the width of sidewalks would not interfere with drivers’ field of vision or force them to swerve. The same study suggests that the parking system should function during business hours when permanent residents are away, that is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the other working days. To give an idea of the immediacy of the problem, it has been estimated that 22,000 illegal parking spaces are used on working days between 10 a.m. until the end of working hours in the afternoon, within the inner city circle.