Parking Meters Not User-Friendly

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK THE rapidly growing numbers of vehicles and traffic flow in the capital city have resulted in dire shortage of parking space in the city. To compound the problem, the parking meters leave motorists even more frustrated. There has been a rapid increase in the number of vehicles in Windhoek lately, resulting in frequent traffic congestions along the streets in the city. The public has also complained about the not so user-friendly payment system where motorists risk being ticketed every hour unless they carry with them lots of coins and keep returning to the parking bays to drop the coins into the parking meters. At N$3 per hour, motorists also find parking fees expensive. The large traffic volume in turn has resulted in a shortage of parking space, precipitating a parking dilemma for motorists and other road users. A concerned member of the public, Joseph Amutenya says the problem is not only with the “inconveniencing” parking meters but also the parking space. “More space should be created for parking and a new system should be introduced to replace this coin-dropping business,” he says. For long, there has been an outcry that parking meters in town are not user-friendly despite the areas being part and parcel of the Central Business District (CBD). Some people have to interrupt meetings after every hour to feed the meters, he adds. Motorists have little option as parking metres can only take three one-dollar coins that would allow them to park for a maximum of one hour even if they can afford to pay for longer than the one-hour limit. Frustrated motorists try to avoid traffic tickets that are issued if the parking metre expires after one hour by giving tips to vehicle guards to keep an eye on the seemingly overzealous traffic police. Jerry Mpingana, a car guard at the OK parking area told New Era that due to this problem, “some drivers request the car guards to drop in coins should they happen to take long and upon return, pay the car guard about N$10.” He however acknowledged this practice is regarded as illegal. “Once traffic officers get to know about this, they tell us they will arrest us and only release us on bail of N$300,” he said. City of Windhoek Engineer for Traffic Flow Planning and Road Safety Lisse Horst says his office is aware of the situation and plans are already underway to address the rapidly increasing problem involving parking. Though the public is already suffering severe traffic and parking problems, Horst stated that there are no intentions to create more parking spaces but rather to remove parking from the CBD to somewhere else. He could not indicate which area would be allocated for parking should the space in the CBD be allocated for other purposes. “We have just completed investigations and indications are that we remove parking instead of creating more parking space to cater for present traffic demand,” he said. The recent study by his office shows that by 2011, there will not be any parking space, as vehicle ownership figures seem to outnumber the parking spaces available. “The present situation shows a deficit in parking area and according to the study, we should have been expanding the parking area by five percent which has not been happening,” he explained. Presently, there are 1 600 parking spaces of which 600 constitute free parking, and for the rest a certain amount of money has to be paid. Off-street parking consists of 12 000 parking spaces and 6 500 of these are private spaces, with the remaining 5 500 being for public use. However, Horst stated that the City of Windhoek with its stakeholders is in the process of looking into the system and hopefully the next financial budget would include this project. “We will call for the interest of various people/companies who will show what they can offer and then we will look at the financial implications which would then follow the replacement of the system,” he said. Horst would not shed more light on this new system that he insisted is the only practical solution to this problem. The current parking fee, ranging from N$1.50 to N$3 would also be another issue to be reviewed in the next financial budget.