Park right, it’s your civic duty

AS in all urban areas, Penang Island, especially George Town and its surrounding areas, is flooded with many vehicles, mostly cars. Although there are many parking bays in the commercial areas demarcated by the Penang Island City Council (MBPP), they are always inadequate as cars are still the preferred means of transport.

The present Penang Island coupon parking system was introduced in 2014, replacing the use of parking attendants and parking meters.

There were three parking zones, namely green, blue and red, with each having different parking times and days. In the red zones, users had to pay daily; in the green zones, users had to pay from Mondays to Saturdays (free on Sundays and public holidays); users in the blue zones paid from Mondays to Saturdays (free on Sundays and public holidays).

The different parking times for the three zones had confused many motorists, especially those from other states.

To avoid confusion, from July 1, MBPP has imposed standardised parking times and charges. The single uniform rate is 40 sen per half hour from 8am to 6pm Mondays to Saturdays, including public holidays, but on Sundays parking is free. All zones will become yellow zones.

The parking fee is reasonable and acceptable. It may be useful to note that most private car parks in the commercial areas of George Town charge about RM4 or more per hour.

Although the city council may have reasons to increase parking fees, it is hoped that it does not. At present, the biggest concern among the urban working class is the high cost of living and the depreciation of the ringgit.

In addition to the coupon parking system, there is also the introduction of a Smart Parking Gadget (SPG) system. SPG is an electronic parking device where credit is stored and activated by the user when parking in a council parking lot.

MBPP has also announced its decision to gazette another 290 roads on Penang Island to have parking charges. Among the places that will have gazetted parking bays are the commercial areas in the vicinity of Pesiaran Karpal Singh, Bandar Baru Ayer Itam and Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah. The charges will be imposed in stages.

Even with an efficient public transport system, parking spaces are important and necessary in every city. However, there are rules and restrictions for parking for systematic traffic flow, cleaning of streets and other purposes.

For liveability, there must be enough parking space for residents to park their cars near where they live and also at their workplace. Ample and affordable parking spaces are important to attract tourists to the city.

Generally, many motorists have little respect for traffic rules. They not only drive everywhere, even for short distances, but also park anywhere they like.

For example, in Jelutong, a thriving township just south of George Town, irresponsible motorists park their vehicles on the road space allocated for buses that need to stop for commuters in front of the post office. As a result, bus drivers have no choice but to stop in the middle of the road, thereby obstructing the flow of traffic.

Indiscriminate parking is common at most school entrances. Cars and vans can be seen double-parked or even triple-parked with parents or grand-parents waiting to pick their beloved children or grandchildren. Thinking of their convenience and their loved ones, they inconvenience other road users.

Do they not realise that they are setting a bad example for pupils on the need to follow traffic rules?
Many lazy and selfish motorists like to park as near as possible to their favourite hawker stalls, while waiting for their orders to be handed to them.

Some even sit in their cars sipping their drinks, oblivious that they are blocking half the road.

Town planners are trying to find ways to reduce the use private cars to reduce the amount of land used for parking. Hopefully, public transport like light rail transits and improved pedestrian facilities will help to solve parking woes.

It is long overdue for us to pay attention to civic responsibility as much as economic development.

Datuk Dr Goh Ban Lee is interested in urban planning, housing and urban planning. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com.