NEWS

Illegal parking solution sought

Illegal parking is a growing problem in central Athens, according to traffic police statistics that were made public just as more than 5,500 spaces were added to a municipal pay-and-display parking scheme. Sources told Kathimerini that traffic police issued 17,771 illegal parking tickets in downtown Athens alone in January. Last month, 13,158 tickets were issued. More than 2,000 cars and motorcycles were towed during this time. It is estimated that some 100,000 cars park in the city center every day and that 35,000 of these do so illegally. In an effort to tackle this problem, the City of Athens introduced a pay-parking scheme for 5,200 spaces three years ago. As of March 1, this program was extended by another 5,700 spaces in other parts of the city center, including Thiseio, Ano Petralona, Goudi, off Alexandras Avenue and around the Athens Concert Hall. Some 1,600 of these spaces are reserved for motorbikes while about 2,000 are for nonresidents. Visitors can buy pay-and-display tickets from kiosks that will allow them to park their cars at a cost of 50 euro cents per half-hour. Municipal police officers who are responsible for checking that drivers display the appropriate permit have been equipped with personal digital assistants (PDAs) that can scan the ticket and inform them whether they need to issue a fine. Sources said that the Citizens’ Protection Ministry, which oversees the traffic police, is thinking of changing parking rules so that it becomes illegal to park in certain places during the day but legal at night. However, Ilias Beriatos, president of the Greek Association of Urban and Regional Planners, says that authorities have to start exercising more control over parking. «Parking spaces have to be marked out all over the city,» he said. «Marking them out does not necessarily mean charging but it does mean controlling things. Those parking in the city center should be charged to deter people from using their cars in this area.»