Lack of parking in Athens center intensifies area’s traffic problems

The lack of parking is also worsening Attica’s traffic problems. On average, it takes Athenians more than 30 minutes daily to find places to park their cars. As a result, drivers are anxious and the roads clogged. But time – or the wasting of it – is not the only problem. Parking is also costly: Greeks spend between 20-60 million euros a month on parking. Some buy or rent parking spaces, but others try to find spots on the road, often settling on areas forbidden by law. Some 45 percent of cars in the center of Athens are parked illegally. According to university research, about 55 percent of Athenians park on the street when returning home from work, 73 percent park there when arriving at work, and only 21 percent leave their cars in private or public parking spaces. Some 55 percent take 30 minutes to find a parking place on the street or in the closest lot, while another 20 percent need 40 minutes. Because it takes so much time to find a parking space, Greeks choose to pay a considerable amount to have a sure parking spot in a lot or garage. The same research shows that 42 percent of Greeks drive for about two hours a day, while another 35 percent drive for an hour. Some 65 percent of drivers say they use their cars primarily to get to work. Most Greek streets are clogged by parked cars. Some 80 percent of about 9,000 kilometers of the capital’s driving space is filled with parked cars. According to Antonis Stathopoulos, the transportation expert and professor, «illegal parking must be the biggest problem standing in the way of lessening traffic congestion. «Since no one can control the increase of cars, the only way to keep traffic congestion at bay in the city center is to absolutely ban illegal parking and to make sure available spaces are very expensive [to discourage driving],» Stathopoulos continued. «Whatever you hear about tolls to enter the city center cannot be implemented lightly. These kinds of solutions require cooperation of the relevant ministries.» Panayiotis Papadakos, president of the Hellenic Institute of Transport Engineers, says that in Greece the last relevant study about automobile traffic, street congestion and the effectiveness of measures to deal with these problems was done in 1996, when the design for the Athens metro was under way. «At the time, there were 1 million automobiles in Athens,» Papadakos said. «Today, that number is much higher, and all the parameters [of the study] have changed. New measurements [for studies] are needed… The last study for ‘General Plan for Transport in Attica,’ which would have concerned mass transit, was announced in December 2003. The proposals were submitted in March 2004, but a month ago the tender was officially abandoned.»

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