A bill on “proof of parking” is now up for consideration at the Senate. How this legislation can actually be effective in easing traffic congestion in Metro Manila is still lost on me. Instead of moving on it hastily, by making it a “priority” measure, I strongly suggest a proper study first be done on how it can best work for us.
There are at least three other cities abroad — Tokyo, Hanoi, and in some states in India — that have reportedly considered or experimented with “proof of parking.” Their experiences deserve consideration as our legislators try to craft a similar policy to deal with the twin problem of traffic and congestion, particularly in urban areas.
Should we even consider a “national” policy when the “traffic” problem appears to be more local to densely populated cities? What do farmers in far-flung rural areas, grappling with poverty and other concerns like hunger and housing, have to do with car ownership and suitable parking?
The strategy of “decongestion” can be national, but policy and implementation might best remain local. This is more in line also with devolution, regional autonomy, and possibly federalism in the future. Not all cities and towns are the same, and face the same problems. There is no “one size fits all” solution to this issue.
Also, will the proposed law just make it more difficult particularly for the middle class to become self-sufficient in transportation? For many, it is easier, and perhaps more urgent, to buy a car or motorcycle than a home with parking. But with Senator Sherwin Gatchalian’s bill, it seems you cannot have one without the other.
His proposed Proof-of-Parking Space Act will reportedly require individuals and businesses to execute an affidavit confirming that they have acquired a parking space before being allowed to purchase vehicles. But if you park in a public parking space for a fee, what proof of “acquisition” can you actually present?
In Makati City, for instance, the local government instituted “one-way” streets and “one-side parking only” in places like San Antonio and Bangkal. Meantime, a big public parking lot, for pay, was put up by a private group within the San Antonio area. People now park at this lot, with option to pay daily, weekly, or monthly. In a way, congestion and lack of parking was addressed, without a proof-of-parking law.
The proposed law also mandates the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and local government units to conduct road inspections and to remove illegally parked vehicles. But local ordinances to this effect are in place. Also, is it within the mandate of LTO to deal with illegal parking issues?
See this link (in the online version of this column) to get an idea of what I mean by one “proper” study on an “issue” or concern — in this case, car parking in Metropolitan Tokyo. Another useful link is the Asian Development Bank study on parking policy in Asia. The study was authored by transport policy expert Paul Barter and a team of experts.
In the case of Tokyo, information available online from Barter indicate that as early as 1957, a parking law already banned “on-street” parking, in general. But there are exceptions to the rule. Then in 1962, Japanese law also required motorists to prove they have access to a local parking space.
In his blog, “Reinventing Parking,” Barter noted that Tokyo motorists must first get a “parking space certificate” or “garage certificate” from local police prior to car registration, or when changing residences. Barter, an Australian who lives in Singapore, is a transport-policy researcher and adviser and has been writing about urban transport policy in the last 25 years.
Tokyo’s “on-street” ban specifically prohibits “overnight parking” but allows for some daytime and nighttime parking in some areas, Barter noted. However, never overnight parking. The same rule applies in places such as Paris and San Francisco. Day-time parking is metered and time-bound. By a certain time in the evening, parking will be free for all, if first-come, first served. But by a certain time early morning, the streets should be clear of parked cars. Then metered parking applies again by mid-morning.
In Tokyo, day-time on-street parking spaces reportedly have a time limit, Barter noted. And “free” on-street parking in the evening is tolerated, only because meters have stopped working, but after 3:00 a.m. all vehicles still parked will be towed away. Pay parking also adds to city revenues.
The “on-street” parking ban, the overnight parking ban, and the parking certificate requirement all work together in Japan. Not just one but three policies working simultaneously. The ban on all-night parking reportedly makes it useless for people to cheat on the proof-of-parking rule, Barter added.
“Basically, you would need very effective control over on-street parking and a very efficient parking permits system that avoids issuing too many permits. Not easy. And these steps can be prone to corruption problems too, of course,” Barter added, noting the realities of local governance.
He also noted that Hanoi in Vietnam also experimented with the “proof-of-parking” requirement, but reportedly dropped the program for “fear of corruption.” In 2017, however, the iParking application was launched in Vietnam to allow motorists to find parking spots and pay parking fares using their smartphones. With the app, one can look for parking, pay electronically, extend parking, and receive parking receipt.
Meantime, Hanoi has also significantly raised on-street parking fees since late 2017. It is also implementing an odd-even scheme where vehicle owners will be required to park on the side of the street with odd-numbered houses on odd days, and on the side of the street with even-numbered houses on even days.
Obviously, many Asian cities are now grappling with congestion issues. Traffic and parking concerns are consequences of such congestion, and it has now become urgent for many cities to consider decongestion policies and programs to keep themselves livable and sustainable.
Doing updated transport studies involving our cities, and making them public prior to public hearings, will add to transparency and accountability in legislating and policy making. Such a process can help prove that policy went through a proper vetting process that involved extensive research and comments from stakeholders.
Policy should not be the result of whim, or caprice, or election considerations, or bowing to vested interest, or possible personal gain. The Senate should make public scientific research on the matter before it finalizes the proof-of-parking bill. That way, stakeholders can all be on the same page as to why this is absolutely necessary.
Marvin Tort is a former managing editor of BusinessWorld, and a former chairman of the Philippines Press Council