Brand-new road, but same old problems

Trying to drive along Marathonas Avenue, now under construction, presents a major challenge. Since 2002, sections of the new 26-kilometer (16-mile) road have reached completion and been opened up to traffic. But traffic congestion has remained just as bad, because parked cars immediately encroach on the new lanes. Billions of euros have been spent on projects intended to relieve congestion, and residents have undergone years of inconvenience in endless bottlenecks, yet the beneficial effects of a new road have been negated by the selfishness of drivers who insist on using their cars even to go to the local kiosk. Fines ineffective The traffic police do their best to little avail. In 2002 alone, on Marathonas Avenue from Mesogeion to Pallini, they issued 16,039 parking tickets, removed 4,514 licence plates and had 1,596 vehicles towed away. The outcome of their policing was positive only in terms of revenue, since fines were paid practically the same day so that the cars could go back on the road and do more of the same. Residents don’t comply with the regulations; they park where they are used to leaving their cars – right in front of shops, banks and offices. «Municipalitites and the traffic police are responsible for parking,» says transport specialist Professor Yiannis Golias of the National Technical University. «If the authorities are indifferent at this stage, before the project is even complete, it will create a precedent for parking that will be very difficult to reverse in the future.» Golias claims: «Drivers shouldn’t expect a significant increase in the average speed just because some widened sections of road have been opened to traffic. The speed at which the project is advancing at this phase is, unfortunately, determined by the narrow parts of the road.» So numerous parked cars worsen traffic congestion on the new road. According to Constantinos Maherinas, traffic police chief in Aghia Paraskevi, when his office asked the Public Works Ministry (YPEHODE) to put up signs prohibiting stopping and parking, he received a reply saying that «the relevant studies are being completed now.» Many claim that the local community, including its leaders, is refusing to comply. The problem of illegal parking is also apparent at many points along Mesogeion Avenue. In Aghia Paraskevi and Ambelokipi the problem is just as bad. Shops, banks and offices have doubled the demand and rather than relinquish their cars, drivers prefer to inconvenience others, undeterred by any fines.