Con­struc­tion of park­ing lots still in slow lane

Poor man­age­ment and bo­gus fee col­lec­tors add to the prob­lem, re­port Cao Yin and Zhang Yuchen in Bei­jing, and Wang Ying in Shang­hai.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

He Xiaobei, 25, is al­ways frus­trated when he drives in down­town Bei­jing. He is wor­ried about park­ing be­cause it can of­ten take 15 min­utes or longer to find a space. On a re­cent trip, it took him more than 30 min­utes to find a space on Gu­lou Da­jie in Xicheng dis­trict. The fee, 15 yuan ($2.45) for 15 min­utes, drove him crazy too. There is no fixed ci­ty­wide tar­iff and dif­fer­ent ar­eas charge dif­fer­ently.

“You would not be­lieve how many times I drove around in cir­cles, des­per­ate for a park­ing place,” he said.

“Many peo­ple just leave their cars on the side of the road, but I’m wary of do­ing that be­cause it is against the law. I was once fined 200 yuan for do­ing that,” he added.

“The con­ve­nience of park­ing has be­come my first con­sid­er­a­tion when I drive, es­pe­cially on the week­ends,” he said.

He is just one Bei­jing res­i­dent con­cerned about the lack of park­ing spa­ces as a re­sult of the mas­sive in­crease in ve­hi­cle own­er­ship in re­cent years.

By March 2012, around 5 mil­lion au­tos had been reg­is­tered with the mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment of Bei­jing. How­ever, the num­ber of park­ing spa­ces is only 2.48 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to a joint re­port by Bei­jing Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy and the Chi­nese Acad­emy of So­cial Sciences, which noted that the cap­i­tal needs an­other 2.5 mil­lion spa­ces in the in­ner-city ar­eas to meet the ris­ing de­mand.

The re­port noted that three types of park­ing sites are cur­rently in use in Chi­nese cities: Spe­cially built lots in shop­ping cen­ters, rail­way sta­tions, air­ports and other large build­ings; of­froad pub­lic park­ing lots; and park­ing ei­ther on the side of the road or on the side­walk.

“The on- the- road or pave­ment park­ing ar­eas are the source of most of the park­ing-re­lated prob­lems in the city, such as ar­bi­trary charges and dis­or­derly park­ing, but the com­pa­nies that man­age the spa­ces are not the only ones at fault,” said Ding Limin, a pro­fes­sor who spe­cial­izes in traf­fic safety at Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Univer­sity.

The prob­lems, in­clud­ing the rise of bo­gus war­dens who charge driv­ers il­le­gally and the use of fake park­ing fee in­voices, re­quire more ac­tion from the govern­ment. “Park­ing is a pub­lic ser­vice, and the govern­ment should de­vote more time and re­sources to it. It should be han­dled like pub­lic trans­port,” said Ding.

Con­fu­sion reigns

A de­vel­op­ment plan for Bei­jing will see the es­tab­lish­ment of 280,000 more park­ing spa­ces of all kinds in a bid to al­le­vi­ate the dif­fi­cul­ties faced by driv­ers, said the re­port.

Tang Di, a su­per­vi­sor of park­ing lot ser­vices in the city’s Haid­ian dis­trict, said the num­ber of spa­ces in the city is far from suf­fi­cient and urged the govern­ment to clearly iden­tify the ar­eas where park­ing is al­lowed to avoid con­fu­sion.

“The es­tab­lish­ment of new park­ing ar­eas is a slow process and doesn’t sat­isfy de­mand. In ad­di­tion, many driv­ers have no idea which ar­eas are le­gal park­ing lots be­cause some of the street signs are dif­fi­cult to see,” said Tang, who noted that the sit­u­a­tion pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties for il­le­gal charg­ing and dis­rupts the use of park­ing lots.

A list of the lo­ca­tion of le­gal park­ing lots and the fees is avail­able on the web­site of the Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal Com­mis­sion of Trans­port. In the­ory, driv­ers sim­ply have to en­ter the name or area code of the place they plan to visit to dis­cover the lo­ca­tion of lots and the lo­cal fees.

In re­al­ity, very few driv­ers take ad­van­tage of the site, ac­cord­ing to Tang.

“Af­ter all, most peo­ple don’t search for park­ing lots be­fore they set off,” he said.

In re­cent years, so-called mul­ti­lay­ered park­ing lots, where cars are stacked by hy­draulic lift, have been used in many old com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing the hutong, the nar­row al­leys that criss­cross Bei­jing, and lanes, “but the main­te­nance fees are too high,” said Tang, adding that the fees are the main rea­son the tech­nol­ogy has failed to de­velop as ex­pected.

Wang Yan, an of­fi­cer re­spon­si­ble for the man­age­ment of war­dens em­ployed by Jin­ganda Park­ing Co, echoed Tang’s com­ments, say­ing that the poorly la­beled park­ing sites also con­fuse her em­ploy­ees.

“We pro­vide reg­u­lar train­ing and tests for the war­dens and ask them to wear their uni­forms and dis­play their ID cards, but we can’t en­sure that ev­ery one of them abides by the reg­u­la­tions and charges driv­ers the cor­rect amount,” said Wang, whose com­pany em­ploys more than 30 war­dens.

“We can’t su­per­vise them (the war­dens) all day, ev­ery day, so we can’t ex­clude the pos­si­bil­ity of peo­ple ask­ing for ex­tra park­ing fees in un­reg­u­lated ar­eas, where the mu­nic­i­pal com­mis­sion doesn’t make it clear if park­ing is al­lowed,” she ex­plained. num­ber of park­ing spa­ces in Bei­jing

at the end of March, 2012 num­ber of park­ing spa­ces Bei­jing needs to add in the in­ner-city ar­eas

Shi Xiangqian, a war­den re­spon­si­ble for spa­ces on Huixin Dongjie in Bei­jing’s Chaoyang dis­trict, ad­mit­ted that he doesn’t know the stan­dard fee for the area and said that he some­times re­duces the charge for driv­ers he meets reg­u­larly, while up­ping the rate for new­com­ers.

“If driv­ers park their car for the en­tire day, I charge 15 yuan or 20 yuan, but some­times I give up charg­ing af­ter 8 pm be­cause I don’t have time to wait around for driv­ers to re­turn to their cars,” said Shi, who earns 3,000 yuan a month.

Wang Bing works on a stretch of road roughly 100 me­ters from Shi’s. He charges driv­ers 9 yuan per hour, but said he is pow­er­less to act if they refuse to pay.

“Some­times we’ve even had dis­putes with car own­ers who claimed that we have dam­aged their cars and used that as an ex­cuse not to pay,” he said.

Bo­gus war­dens

In ad­di­tion to th­ese is­sues, new prob­lems have arisen re­cently, such as bo­gus war­dens who is­sue fake park­ing fee re­ceipts that un­scrupu­lous driv­ers use to make money from their com­pany ex­pense ac­counts, said Liu Xuming, a prose­cu­tor in Dongcheng dis­trict.

Be­tween Jan­uary and June, Dongcheng dis­trict dealt with the six cases of peo­ple sus­pected of ei­ther mas­querad­ing as war­dens or of us­ing fake re­ceipts. One of the sus­pects, a man sur­named Zhu, is ac­cused of il­le­gally charg­ing driv­ers in the area around Hepingli Hos­pi­tal in Chaoyang dis­trict. He net­ted al­most 3,000 yuan dur­ing a two-week pe­riod, much more than his monthly salary, ac­cord­ing to Liu.

In the past, mis­de­meanors such as this were pun­ished by fines, but a re­cent change in the law means those who pose as war­dens or who pro­duce and sell fake in­voices in amounts of more than 100, or to the sum of 400,000 yuan and more, face two years in prison.

Li Long, an­other prose­cu­tor in the au­thor­ity, said war­dens should hand in in­voice fees to their com­pa­nies, but they will make more money at lit­tle cost if they buy fakes.

In one case, a man bought 200 fake in­voices at 25 yuan each. How­ever, the face value was 500 yuan, so he made 475 yuan ev­ery time he pre­sented one of the re­ceipts, said Li.

How­ever, col­lect­ing ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing is dif­fi­cult, said Zhou Zhi­jun, a prose­cu­tor at the Chaoyang in­ves­ti­ga­tion depart­ment.

“So many peo­ple park cars ev­ery day, it’s hard to work out who is buy­ing the fake re­ceipts or how many have been sold,” said Zhou. “Some­time we catch peo­ple red-handed, but they usu­ally only carry a small num­ber of re­ceipts and that makes it dif­fi­cult to pros­e­cute them.”

Zhou and Li sug­gested that point-of­sale ma­chines should be used to col­lect park­ing fees; driv­ers could ei­ther swipe a pre­paid card or use a credit card to pay, thus re­duc­ing the in­ci­dence of fraud and low­er­ing the cost of hir­ing so many war­dens.

How­ever, Wang said the plan would be im­prac­ti­cal “be­cause the com­pa­nies would have to in­vest a large amount to es­tab­lish the sys­tem and mon­i­tor­ing the ma­chines would take up too much time.”

Co­or­di­nat­ing au­thor­ity

Zhu Tao, a lec­turer at the school of so­ci­ol­ogy at Bei­jing Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, said an over­all co­or­di­nat­ing au­thor­ity should be es­tab­lished to tackle the cap­i­tal’s park­ing prob­lems.

“There’s a lack of fo­cused man­age­ment, and gov­er­nance is weak. The mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment should think about giv­ing power to a park­ing au­thor­ity that could han­dle all the is­sues such as plan­ning, build­ing and pric­ing the lots, plus reg­u­lat­ing and man­ag­ing all the fa­cil­i­ties and their use,” he said. Zhu sug­gested that the city govern­ment could learn from the ex­pe­ri­ences of other large cities, both in China and over­seas.

Shang­hai, one of China’s largest mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, is also ex­plor­ing de­vel­op­ments in the field of park­ing.

By June 2012, the city had 389,000 park­ing lots, pro­vid­ing space for 80 mil­lion cars an­nu­ally, ac­cord­ing to Zhou Huai, deputy di­rec­tor of the Shang­hai Trans­porta­tion and Har­bor Ad­min­is­tra­tion at a me­dia brief­ing held by the lo­cal govern­ment.

To im­prove the ef­fi­ciency of pub­lic park­ing lots, the city has set up 267 in­for­ma­tion boards in the down­town dis­tricts of Huangpu, Xuhui, Jing’an, Changn­ing and Yangpu. The boards pro­vide driv­ers with in­for­ma­tion about the avail­abil­ity, lo­ca­tion and fees of 193 park­ing lots in those ar­eas, said Zhou.

The city will also add more than 10,000 park­ing spa­ces this year. They will be lo­cated in res­i­den­tial ar­eas and close to hos­pi­tals and schools, ac­cord­ing to the news por­tal Peo­ple, which cited the Shang­hai Static Traf­fic Man­age­ment Work Con­fer­ence.

In Bei­jing, the State-run Bei­jing Gonglian Co is the big­gest player in the field of park­ing man­age­ment, far over­shad­ow­ing its ri­vals. That’s an un­healthy sit­u­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to Ding.

“A lack of ef­fi­cient com­pe­ti­tion in the mar­ket and an un­fair pric­ing sys­tem means the park­ing busi­ness in Bei­jing is in poor shape,” he said. Ding urged greater com­pe­ti­tion among park­ing-man­age­ment com­pa­nies and also sug­gested that com­mu­ni­ties and govern­ment de­part­ments should al­low driv­ers to rent pre­paid park­ing spa­ces that are un­oc­cu­pied dur­ing the day when their own­ers are at work. Con­tact the writ­ers at caoyin@chi­nadaily.com.cn and zhangyuchen@chi­nadaily.com.cn

FENG YONGBIN / CHINA DAILY

Dis­or­derly park­ing on the side­walk is a com­mon prob­lem in big cities, es­pe­cially Bei­jing and Shang­hai.

FENG YONGBIN / CHINA DAILY

A war­den col­lects a park­ing fee from a driver in Bei­jing.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Park­ing in in­ap­pro­pri­ate places, such as bus lanes, of­ten re­sults in traf­fic jams in down­town Bei­jing.

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