Parking sticks, carrots

Parking restrictions in the big urban centers, with the municipality of Athens being first and foremost, will be fully restored if the minister of planning, the environment and public works and the mayor of Athens have their way. Minister Vasso Papandreou and Mayor Dora Bakoyianni, present at the early December opening of a new car park on Rizari Street, were in agreement on the need to resuscitate the system of restricted parking. In the center of the capital alone, 100,000 vehicles park daily – only 65,000 of them legally in parking spaces or in private car parks. The remainder are parked wherever their drivers can, often hindering traffic and hampering pedestrians’ movements. Papandreou called on the municipalities to proceed immediately with new measures. She also denounced the Council of State’s decision as «not in society’s best interests.» The ruling had declared the consortium in charge of enforcing parking restrictions illegal, when the last attempt was made to put the parking situation in some kind of order. Bakoyianni rose to the occasion, announcing that the Athens municipality is preparing to bring back parking restrictions, using its own resources. Policing A pilot scheme will be launched in the historical center of Athens (around Syntagma, Omonia and Kolonaki squares) which will probably be extended to other districts in its second phase. New parking meters will have been installed by January. But to be effective, these will have to be accompanied by strict policing. Bakoyianni said that the 500 new municipal policemen who will be hired in spring will be trained for this purpose. The adoption of parking restrictions is expected to help improve the traffic situation. Traffic expert Yiannis Golias said that «the abolition of the previous system of restricted parking in Athens resulted in more cars entering the city and a 15 percent reduction in vehicular speed on central arterial routes to and from the center.» Golias felt the main problem was «the total absence of a strategy on the issue: We don’t even know how many cars we want the center to receive, nor where they will park, nor the charges for parking.» As a result, he felt that parking restrictions alone could not make a decisive contribution, which was also true of the new car parks that are being built. «They help, yes, but not in isolation.» The first of four new car parks, that on Rizari Street, was inaugurated on December 2 and is ready to accommodate 660 cars at the four underground levels it possesses. But indicative of the tremendous shortage of parking spaces is the fact that, according to estimates by the managing company PolisPark, there will be a turnover of only 800 vehicles on a 24-hour basis. Many of those spaces will be taken up by permanent residents and not by temporary users, who would leave their car there and then proceed by bus or metro. The new Rizari car park is part of a series of works that have been undertaken by the consortium Athenian Car Parks. Another three are being built at Kaningos Square, Aghia Sophia Children’s Hospital and Aigyptou Square. Steep charges These three car parks are expected to be ready in June of next year, providing 2,200 parking spaces. Parking will cost 5 euros for the first hour, 1 euro for the second hour and 50 cents for every hour after that. Monthly parking will cost 170 euros. If these charges seem high, it suffices to point out that in the Kolonaki area, hourly parking will cost 7 euros and the purchase of a parking space will come to as much as 30,000 euros. Overall, the four new car parks will serve, in a few months, 3,300 vehicles on a daily basis and will free about 5 hectares of ground – the same amount taken up by these vehicles when parked. That is, of course, if the freed-up area is not occupied by the next 3,300 vehicles seeking a parking space in the huge car park that is the city of Athens.