THE overwhelming majority of the Committee of the Guyana Consumers Association as well as many members of the public with whom the Association related were entirely against the very idea of parking meters for the City of Georgetown.
A large number of reasons were proffered covering legal, social, economic and cultural aspects but we will not recount these reasons simply because this article would then become an anti-parking meter harangue. A much smaller percentage of the Committee including a few of the Executive felt that ways of making the parking meter scheme fully acceptable to the public and to particular interests should be explored. It should be mentioned that it was emphasized that the Scheme should be allowed to function without the much talked of threat of vandalism of the meters. Such threat of vandalism is illegal and must be eschewed.
In making the Scheme work and being acceptable, the following ideas surfaced:-
Hospitals. It was felt that the vicinity of the Georgetown Public Hospital should be exempt from such meters. Family cars or taxis go the hospital to convey sick persons or to receive them to take them home. People who do not own cars or have relatives who do, depend on taxis which ply their trade outside the hospital. These taxis provide an invaluable service to lower-income people.
Schools. Teachers may have to park on the roads outside the school for most of the day and parking expense would absorb a good percentage of their salaries. This would result in a great deal of stress which would negatively affect their performance, thus affecting their charges. If they were to use public transport many would get to school late through no fault of theirs and may be even tired before they begin the day’s work. We understand the Parking Meter authorities are in discussion with the teachers’ union and hopefully a satisfactory formula would be arrived at.
Just before going to press, we learnt that an agreement was arrived at whereby there would be no parking meters outside government schools. We think that such meters should be removed from all recognized private schools as well.
Law Courts. Lawyers, Court employees and litigants go the Courts because of duty and to uphold an essential pillar of Society. The vicinity of the Law Courts should be free of parking meters.
There are usually no traffic jams or disorderly parking outside the hospitals, law courts or schools and those who park there move away as quickly as they can. The raison d’etre of parking meters therefore does not obtain in the vicinity of these institutions and paying to park would be regarded as exploitative. The parking spaces around these institutions are a very tiny percentage of the total number of parking spaces and exempting them would not affect the profitability of the Scheme and will temper a great deal of the resentment and hostility to the scheme.
Lower Parking Rates. Though we have not done a statistical survey of what rates the market would bear, speaking with consumers, the impression we got was that the maximum the market could bear would be $15 for 15 minutes. It was felt that if that rate was used, the project would take off without the present resentment, hostility and bitterness. If that rate were used, we think the Smart Choice company would still make a reasonable profit.
Consumer people reasoned it this way: The main investments and inputs to the Parking Meter Scheme were (a) the road system (b) the parking meters (c) staff (mostly enforcement). The Guyana side would be providing the roads which are worth billions of dollars and the enforcer staff in the person of the City Constabulary and the Company’s main investment would be the parking meters which could be the left-overs from the many countries in which the Company operates or would have been bought at special wholesale rates. The Company’s investment would therefore be infinitesimal as compared to the cost of the roads. On this basis, a lower profit margin may be very possible.
At a rate of $15 for 15 minutes, it would not encourage private persons to accommodate cars to be parked on their bridges or in yards or owners of empty lots to allow parking in such lots. If private persons accommodated cars, the project may face competition. A fair market rate would eliminate competition.
If the things which are suggested are done, the public relations section of the company would be more successful in convincing the population to accept the project. So far, attempts at public relations have not been very successful and resentment has grown in an increasing crescendo.
To strengthen the public relations campaign, the Feasibility Study of the Project must be published since omission to do so has led to an aura of corruption enveloping the project. If this is done, it will exorcise a great deal of the criticism of the project and make impossible any risk of failure.