The City of Athens will launch a fee system on November 20 for parking in downtown streets in an attempt to lure Athenians out of their cars and onto public transport. Athens Mayor Theodoros Behrakis, set to be replaced by Nikitas Kaklamanis in January, said yesterday that the initial introduction of the parking plan will involve 5,494 spaces. Permanent residents will be allocated 2,538 spaces for an annual fee of 10 euros while another 1,000 spaces will designated for special use, set aside for services such as government ministries. Municipal authorities said the measure will help to reduce the number of people who drive into the center of the city and cut the number of illegally parked vehicles, which often block traffic and cause congestion problems. «The basic aim is to secure parking spaces for permanent residents, encourage commuters and visitors to leave their cars at home and take public transport, as well as drastically reduce illegal parking, which impacts heavily on traffic circulation and the environment,» Behrakis said. According to transport experts, the government must deal with the thousands of cars that park illegally in the city center before it implements any other plans aimed at easing the traffic flow in the heavily congested capital. An estimated 100,000 cars enter the capital’s center every day. A study released at the start of the year found that a third of Athenians spend an average of 40 minutes per day looking for parking spaces. Behrakis said that the cost for the first half hour of parking will be 0.50 euros, which will then rise by 0.50 euros for each additional 30-minute increment. Drivers can pay the fee by purchasing a card from a kiosk. A three-hour limit will apply and the parking system will operate on weekdays (9 a.m. to 9 p.m.) and Saturdays (9 a.m. to 4 p.m). It will be introduced to the areas of Kolonaki, Exarchia, Plaka, and around the Hilton Hotel, among others. Behrakis stressed that the new measure is not aimed at filling municipal coffers. «If the new parking system is successful, the level of income from illegal parking will decrease substantially,» he said.