It’s about time we talk about parking metres

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa ,

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The government can never win when it talks about adding more charges on the shoulders of members of the public. Whether it’s justifiable or not, critics will always find a way to accuse public officials of doing everything they can to milk members of the public dry of their hard-earned money. 

But then that’s just the nature of the beast so to speak. 

In some cases, the government deserves every bit of criticism, which comes their way. It doesn’t help that over the years, we have seen so many cases of abuse, corruption, mismanagement and unaccountable use of public funds. 

Now when we think about those millions that could be better collected and utilised, members of the public certainly have every right to feel aggrieved about the idea of yet another additional charge.

But there are instances where user pay charges are absolutely necessary. 

And although some people say this doesn’t have to happen in Samoa just yet, the idea that the government is considering parking meters is long overdue. 

If you live in Samoa, you will know just how difficult it is to find parking space on Beach Road alone – let alone anywhere at some of the most popular places in town. It doesn’t help that those government-owned buildings, the majority of parking spaces have been allocated to government officials so that members of the public really do not know where to park.

There is another element to this of course and that involves those annoying taxi drivers who not only slow down traffic considerably, they park everywhere and anywhere at will. Sometimes, they take up most of the parking. It’s frustrating.

Which is why it’s such a relief to hear the Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, hint at a government plan to install parking meters in the Apia Township.

Speaking in Parliament, Papali’i said the idea is all part of a plan to better facilitate the use of public spaces in Apia. 

“I can say that the L.T.A [Land Transport Authority] is looking at installing parking meters in the town area and public places,” he said. “This will somewhat alleviate the overcrowding of public parking spaces.”

The idea though is not new.

For many years now, some members of the public have been calling for such a system to free up much-needed parking spaces in town. Take a story published on the pages of this newspaper five years ago under the headline “Govt. urged to fix parking issue.” 

The story said that parking spaces have become so limited in downtown Apia some businesses have taken to – illegally – claiming public spaces as reserved for their own customers. At the time, the government was urged to provide more parking spaces instead of just putting up more and more office buildings.

“Government should seriously do something about it,” a businessman said at the time. “It should set up a parking area somewhere because there are so many cars in Samoa these days and people don’t know where to park their cars.”

The businessman said if the government insists on building more tall structures, it should also provide somewhere for people to park their vehicles.

The business source said it is unfair for many businesses already in town that now find themselves near big building projects that have not provided enough space for their own staff and others trying to shop. People working in these buildings come to work in their cars, park in areas in front of other businesses, along government roads, taking up parking spaces allocated for customers.

Let’s remember that was five years ago. The number of vehicles in Samoa since then has grown dramatically. Which means that if it was bad then, we guarantee you that it would be considerably worse now.

Which is why Minister Papali’i’s plan is timely.

Besides, we cannot avoid what is happening everywhere around the world and that is governments moving towards a more user pay system – especially when it comes to addressing the use of public spaces. 

The solution of course – if you want to avoid paying for parking – is to use public transport. But that’s beside the point. 

The fact is that in Apia at the moment, most of the parking spaces are being taken up by taxi drivers and public officials. 

Somebody needs to put their foot down and do something. 

And if it means the introduction of parking meters, so be it. The concept is simple, you park you pay. Otherwise if you don’t want to pay, find somewhere else to park and free up space for someone who is willing to pay.

This will provide more money for the government – hopefully not to abuse and misuse – but to put back into fixing those roads with some being in horrendous conditions. That’s what we think anyway, what about you? 

Write and share your thoughts with us.

Have a fabulous week Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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