Athens mulls pay-parking

Seven years after the last attempt to make the capital’s notoriously unruly car drivers pay for parking in the city center came to grief, Athens municipal authorities are now hoping to have a new system operational by some time in the autumn, sources told Kathimerini. However, only motorists who own mobile phones will be able to use the new pay-parking network, as City Hall officials have settled on using a system that will require the use of smart cards, in combination with cell-phone text messages. A pilot program will be put into effect in September, in the so-called historic center – a triangular area delineated by Stadiou, Athinas and Ermou streets – of Plaka and Psyrri, while municipal officials, somewhat optimistically, think the full system could be operational a month later in the densely populated districts of Kypseli and Pangrati. If the system finally takes off, motorists will have to purchase smart cards that will be on sale at kiosks, allowing them a certain amount of parking time. They will then activate the countdown by sending a text message to municipal officials. The system will be electronically monitored by the municipal police. Athens has not had pay-parking since 1998, when the Supreme Court outlawed the system that had been in force for a year and a half, finding fault with its joint exploitation by municipal authorities and a private company. At the time, an hour’s parking had cost 200 drachmas (58 cents), 36 percent of which went to the city coffers and the rest to the operating company. Since then, many plans to reintroduce parking meters have been floated, but none made it off the drawing board. As a result, most of the day it is well-nigh impossible to find legitimate parking on the streets, while many car owners double park or leave their vehicles on pavements, pedestrian streets, bus lanes or street corners. Municipal officials say an estimated 22,000 motorists park their cars illegally in the city center between 10 a.m. and noon every day. Within the next few days, City Hall will call for a study of the city center’s current traffic flows, which will take into consideration all the new pedestrian zones as well as the effect of the metro network.