Parking meters a necessary headache

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Here’s what we think. Sometimes laws and regulations are absolutely necessary to knock some common sense into some people and force them to do the right thing.

The Government’s decision to install parking meters is one of those issues where we find that while it is sad to see a rule is needed to monitor certain behaviour, we are relieved something is finally being done about it.

We are talking about the issue of public parking spaces in the increasingly busy township of Apia. It is no longer a secret that it is becoming harder and harder to find park, especially in some of the busiest areas in town.

But that’s not because there are no spaces for parking. There are spaces, and lots of it. The problem is the people who hog the spaces and take them up as if the parking belongs to their families – including many senior Government officials.

Then there are the taxi drivers who congregate at these public parking spaces making it virtually impossible to find park.

Let’s face it. No one wants to pay for parking. It’s a headache and there will be many people who will argue against the decision. If the Government was unpopular before with a number of measures they had introduced to squeeze cash from the public, they have not done themselves any favours with this law.

Let’s be fair here. If you were in the Government’s shoes, what would you do to try and alleviate the problem of finding park in the Apia Township today? 

It’s probably fair to say that in the beginning, the issue of parking was not well thought of given the fact there weren’t many vehicles in Samoa back then. 

But times have changed and Samoa is a very different place today as opposed to what it was. The opening up of Samoa’s doors to more vehicles from overseas obviously means all these cars will need somewhere to be parked. 

And during the past few years, we have all seen how congested the traffic in Apia has become and just how hard it is to find park. 

Now the Government has resorted to install parking meters as one of the tools to manage the parking spaces. They have started rolling out the meters this week with the Chief Executive Officer of the Land Transport Authority, Galuemalemana Ta’atialeoitiiti Tutuvanu-Schwalger saying they will probably be operational in a few months time. 

“There is a process that we need to follow that is why we can’t really set a time on when (the meters will become effective), but for sure it will be operational in six months time,” said Galumalemana.

Part of the process obviously will involve determining how much it would cost and other details like the peak hours, early bird specials, late night rates and holiday rates where users might expect parking to be a bit cheaper. 

There is also the issue of which parts of the Apia Township are premium parking space and how much more should they cost as opposed to general areas.

On the other hand, with the decision to charge for parking, there must be a long-term plan and campaign to encourage the use of public transport within the vicinity of the Apia Township. 

Think of overseas cities like Melbourne where you can take a tram from one end of the city to the other at a fraction of the cost to drive and park a vehicle. Of course we are nowhere near how advance those big cities have become in terms of town planning, but it is something worth thinking about.

As Samoa grows in technology and developments, the challenges here will not be much different from most cities and towns in the world. We need to be able to learn and adapt best practices that work for us.

But then all these should be considered when it comes to the bigger, especially the Apia Waterfront development. They need to ensure that these parking meters are taken into account and that the relevant authorities are talking to each other.

That said, we are aware that move will not be popular with many people. The Government will certainly cop a lot of flak in the days to come.

But this is one way of ensuring that parking spaces are readily available for all members of the public and that they are not selfishly hogged by drivers who think they can do whatever they want in town at all hours of the day.

Lastly, we hope the Government will free up all those parking spaces they have allocated for themselves at some of those big buildings in Apia. If they are going to move to a user pay system, let the Government officials, including Cabinet Ministers and the Prime Minister, pay for their parking space too. It would be so hypocritical of them to charge ordinary members of the public while they reserve prime parking spaces for themselves. 

What do you think? 

Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

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