Parking limits on way

Athenian drivers were getting back to grips with traffic restrictions in the center of the capital yesterday as the city council agreed to go ahead with a new multimillion-euro parking scheme that will see residents and visitors pay to park their cars on the clogged streets. The lack of spaces and the haphazard manner in which the scant parking regulations are enforced in Athens mean that finding somewhere to park has become the bane of the lives of Athenian drivers. However, from next year the municipality plans to have a system up and running whereby residents in certain central neighborhoods will be issued with permits to park their cars in clearly marked bays, while visitors will be charged an hourly rate for the privilege. The scheme, which will cost 15 million euros to set up, will be adopted in the central commercial areas of Athens as well as the fashionable residential and commercial areas of Psyrri, Plaka and Kolonaki. Residents in those areas will be charged a flat fee of 20 euros a year for their parking permits. Shoppers and other drivers looking to leave their cars in the areas concerned will only be able to do so for a maximum of three hours. They will have to part with 1 euro for each of the first two hours, whereas the third hour will cost 4 euros – meaning that someone leaving his car for the full three hours will pay 6 euros. The fee will be paid via mobile phone. According to a feasibility study, the scheme will bring in some 1 million euros every two months (excluding parking fines), a percentage of which will go to the firm responsible for setting up and running the project. The system will be in effect from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays – which could prove controversial as extended shopping hours have just come into effect and allow shops to stay open until 9 p.m. during the week, so the parking scheme would not allow shoppers any opportunity to park their cars without charge. The parking restrictions will also be in effect from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays but will not apply on Sundays and public holidays. Local authorities in Athens have attempted similar schemes in the past but these have tended to fall flat in the face of concerted opposition from residents, store owners and shoppers. However, Athens Municipality seems determined to go ahead and is due to launch a tender for the project within the next few days.