Rate hike could backfire

Kuala Lumpur City Hall increased the charges for the parking bays under its ownership by between 100% and 200% on July 17. While I agree completely that traffic congestion in the city needs to be reduced, that the public should be encouraged to take public transportation, and the new fees are appropriate for the central business district (CBD), the implementation of this hike has not been well considered, particularly for the non-CBD areas.

There was insufficient notice to inform Klang Valley residents of the increase and news of this impending move only surfaced earlier this month. How are those with low earnings going to accommodate this sudden jump in cost under such short notice?

The increase is so drastic it may significantly deter people from driving to the affected areas, depriving businesses there of much-needed patrons.

City Hall must also be sensitive to the fact that in a working environment where time is money, people have no choice but to drive. Thus, the focus should be making it as affordable as possible while ensuring that drivers do not overstay their welcome.

In many developed countries, parking in public bays is typically free (technically tax payers have already paid through road tax but that’s a debate for another time), although paid long-term parking lots still exist for those intending to park longer or for seasoned durations, particularly those working in the city. Drivers can only park for a limited amount of time in these “time zones” – 15 minutes, half an hour, an hour, two hours, four hours, etc. The time limits set on parking zones depend on the parking turnover to enable outlets to achieve sustainable business.

For instance, in a city centre, parking lots would typically be limited to 15 to 30 minutes to allow workers to conduct brief work-related errands. Too long and businesses would not be able to gain enough patronage volume.

Further out of the city centre and in the outskirts, at eateries for example, 30- to 60-minute parking zones could be designated to give people a reasonable amount of time for a quick meal. A four-hour zone would be typical for places with shopping centres, but even these areas have lots limiting drivers to 30 minutes near supermarkets for grocery shopping or doing other errands.

Upon arrival at a parking bay, tyres are chalked by parking attendants or “meter maids”. This allows attendants to keep track of a car’s arrival and take necessary action if the time limit is exceeded. Such a limit will subject drivers to the temporary use of the parking bay and allow others to go about their business.

The chalk marks help to encourage compliance as there is something visual for drivers to be mindful about and to remind them to relocate their vehicles – which will crucially open up opportunities for others by shuffling up the pack.

Some drivers are looking to park their vehicles for the whole day, inconveniencing others and is incompatible with the nature of businesses, which require a high parking turnover particularly in shoplot areas.

The new parking rates will only hurt the little guys who are unable to afford the high cost. This will reinforce elitism as the rich have the means to pay for their stay and it has been made more convenient for them to find parking.

However, credit must be given to City Hall as it is planning to impose a two-hour limit in CBD areas such as in Bukit Bintang, Imbi and KLCC.

Ultimately, the feasibility of any proposal will depend on the effectiveness of enforcement. More often than not, drivers can get away with not paying the parking fees. Some would even park at unauthorised locations such as bus stops and yellow lines, all adding further to traffic congestion.

City Hall also must realise the prime purpose for these regulations. The issue of reducing traffic congestion is only on the surface. The real problems are the economic cost associated with too many cars driving into the city. In this case, too many cars hogging up parking bays over extended periods of time can be detrimental to business. Therefore, the primary focus must be to stimulate business and the economy. If this aim is defeated, then increasing the parking fees may not only fail, it will also risk inflicting more harm than intended.

Article published in The Star.

Sharing is caring!