That great big urban parking lot called Athens

Not even the spirit of Christmas helped to ease Athens’s traffic congestion, worsened by hundreds of thousands of cars parked illegally on sidewalks, in the middle of dead-end streets, pedestrian precincts, on corners, traffic islands and median strips. The new year found the Transport Ministry in the midst of consultations and announcements of moves to beat the city’s traffic chaos. Much more used to be said about the need to find a solution, but no specific proposal was presented. Attica’s streets were designed to hold 430,000 vehicles, but today an estimated 2.3 million are circulating. Considering that so much of the road surface is covered with parked cars, no wonder the traffic is congested, not only in the center but along main roads in all suburbs. When drivers arrive at their destination they park willy-nilly, first of all because there is no room for all of them and secondly because private parking lots are unaffordable. Private cars are still Athenians’ preferred means of getting from A to B. There are no parking lots at public transport hubs apart from one recently opened at the Syngrou-Fix metro station. As a result, about 25,000 cars are illegally parked in the center every day, not just hindering the flow of cars but slowing down the speed at which public transport can move. According to a study by the National Technical University some time ago, banning parking along a street can increase traffic speed by 14-145 percent, and reduce the time cars wait for others to park by 33-88 percent. According to the same survey, parking at bus stops more than doubles the time it takes all vehicles to pass. Poor management of the city’s roads has allowed illegal parking to become a way of life in Athens. At the same time, the lack of any real parking policies is compounded by the lack of any systematic policing or sufficient parking stations. The City of Athens is about to introduce a system of controlled parking that will ensure space for 5,500 vehicles within the next few months. Parking lots at transport hubs could discourage the use of private cars by providing easy access to public transport. The one recently opened at the Syngrou-Fix station, run by the Attiko Metro Operation Company (AMEL), has space for 642 cars and is mainly for the use of metro passengers, who pay an adjusted fee. The Polis consortium has four parking lots, in Kaningos Square (500 places), Rizari (660 places), the Children’s Hospital (550 places) and the Pedion tou Areos.

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