Parking will get Athens moving

Transport experts said yesterday that the government must tackle the thousands of cars that park illegally in the center of Athens every day before it implements any other plans aimed at easing the traffic flow in the heavily congested capital. Yiannis Fratzeskakis, professor emeritus of transportation engineering at the National Technical University, told a parliamentary committee that more systematic supervision of parking in the city center is required instead of the adoption of costly policing measures. An estimated 100,000 cars enter the capital’s center every day. Of those, some 30,000 are parked illegally. A recent study found that a third of Athenians spend an average of 40 minutes per day looking for parking spaces. The parking hassle is making Athenians more anxious, but it is also harming the city’s standard of living by contributing to the massive cloud of pollution – or nefos – that often hangs above Athens. Experts say reducing the number of illegally parked cars will improve traffic flow. Measures such as banning parking on the street can ease congestion and help prevent traffic jams caused by drivers backing into parking spots. Fratzeskakis criticized the current system that allows cars to access the city center on alternate days, based on their license plate numbers, and called it a «world first.» Transports experts, along with state officials, have been examining ways to convince Athenians to leave their cars at home and hop onto the city’s growing public transport system. Panayiotis Papadakos, the president of the Hellenic Institute of Transportation Engineers, said a reorganization of the city’s mass transit system that includes an upgrading of bus lanes is needed. He also said that more parking spaces were needed near transit hubs so commuters could make an easy transfer from their cars to public transport. Suggestions that a toll system be put into place around the city center were dismissed by Fratzeskakis. The expert said that such a plan would not work now but might be possible after solving the illegal parking situation.

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