Johannesburg Paid Parking, Lessons Not Learned

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The City of Johannesburg is moving ahead with the roll out of extended pay parking systems in suburban areas across the City. This comes fast on the heels of heighten protests that have taken place in communities like Parkhurst over the implementation of the same system.

Watch our video on the impact the parking scheme has had on the Parkhurst Highstreet.

The logic of installing a pay parking system, according to the COJ has been that it will ensure compliance with parking laws, that motorists will pay for the use of parking bays, the collection of parking fines and the collection and accurate reporting of parking revenue. The system is now being extended to the suburbs of Norwood, Melville, Brixton, Emmarentia, Rosebank, Roodepoort, Birnam, Parkview, Sandton, Florida, Fordsburg, Greenside, Linden, Rivonia, Craighall Park and Northcliff.

What Have We learned From the Parkhurst Implementation?

The suburban environment functions very differently from a Central Business District (CBD), even in the suburbs were an identifiable high street exists. There is usually a clustering of small traders and restaurants. The peak congestion point is usually on weekends and evenings, when visitors spend time in restaurants. The parking system that the COJ has installed will only operate on weekdays and not evenings. So in effect it will have not impact on parking congestion at all. The impact it will have is on day time traffic, which will include shops and restaurant customers, suppliers of goods to the stores and any mobile businesses or tradespeople operating in the area.  Mobile businesses and tradespeople would have to pay each time they stop in the area. Suppliers will have to either absorb or add the cost of pay parking to their prices of their goods.

Customers will have to justify their purchases at these small stores given the additional cost of parking.

In the Parkhurst suburb, businesses reported massive loss of customers and income in the first month of the system being introduced. This was due to the increased cost of day time visits to Parkhurst and the reported harassment of motorists by the parking attendants and the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), which created an unpleasant, combative environment, changing the vibe and appeal of Parkhurst, to visitors to the community. It was reported that businesses have in a month noted losses of between 20-50% in revenue as a result of the introduction of the pay parking system. This makes continuing to trade in Parkhurst unviable for many businesses, who have now begun to consider closing down or moving to shopping malls, where the parking costs are cheaper and there is guaranteed traffic.

This system will effectively change the nature of suburban businesses, making it impossible for small traders to exist. Small niche stores on the corner of suburbs will become a thing of the past, with both customers and businesses having to find security in impersonal megamalls. For the loss of these stores and transformation of suburbs, the COJ will gain 25,2 % of the fee charged. The service provider administering the scheme will acquire the rest. The only real beneficiaries of the scheme remain the service provider who administers it and the shopping malls, who absorb that customer pool fleeing the suburbs.

The COJ was reported as noting an objection in regards to the nature of consultation it had with affected communities. While this is relevant, the consultation is only one small factor in the objection to the scheme. The scheme makes very little money for the COJ, the administration of the scheme through JMPD officers is labour intensive and costly for the COJ, it does not resolve any of the parking issues that exist in the suburbs, its forces businesses and the current informal parking attendants out of business and it changes the relaxed vibe of suburbs into a hurried, harassed space with pay parking attendants and police patrols.

In latest development the parking project’s successful bidder, Ace Parking, may be in breach of its contract and is also a dispute over the validity of the tender process.

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