The government has knocked back a request from district councillors to transform a Sheung Wan bus park into a truck unloading centre, claiming the plan would impede bus operations and compromise road safety, but has promised to explore other ideas to turn “idle” green spaces into car parks.
Councillors Bonnie Ng Hoi-yan and Kam Nai-wai, for Central & Western District Council, proposed turning a 32,000 sq ft bus parking lot adjacent to Central Police Station into a parking and unloading zone for container trucks serving Sheung Wan. The bus parking is under-utilised, they say, and sharing with trucks could offer an antidote to the problems of container trucks illegally parking on Des Voeux Road West and Queen’s Road West.
But bus companies hit back, saying the bus park is in constant use. Both New World First Bus (NWFB) and Citybus said the parking lot was the main service and holding area for buses serving the district. “Parking buses here reduces unnecessary driving and extra pressure on traffic in the Central area and on connected road sections,” they said in a joint letter to the councillors. They denied there was excess space in the lot – after parking space, driving space and pedestrian access, all the space in the lot is accounted for, they said.
Transport Department (TD) said the bus depot had marked spaces for 53 buses, of which around 40 would be used during off-peak hours (off-peak hours being the busiest time for the bus parking). “If more buses were idle for any reason, almost all the spaces are needed,” said TD.
“If trucks are allowed to park in the lot, it will affect the operation of buses entering and leaving – it will affect the frequency of buses and cause service delays,” said TD.
TD also said allowing trucks to unload on the site would likely tempt delivery drivers to dash across the highway with goods, rather than using the footbridges, thus posing a risk to road safety. As such, TD considered the site unsuitable and rejected the request. TD also said it was already running a Consultation Study on commercial vehicle parking which will create a commercial vehicle parking demand model for all districts up to 2031.
“Idle” green space could be converted to car parks
Meanwhile other DC proposals from the C&WDC to turn “idle” green spaces into car parks found more favour from government sources.
Councillors Napo Wong Weng Chi and Sam Yip Kam-lung put forward a proposal to transform so-called idle spaces “to solve the problem of insufficient parking spaces in the Central & Western District”.
The councillors say there are many unused sites in the district, such as spaces under bridges, around former government buildings, or in more rural areas of the district. “If these places can be used, it will greatly ease the pressure on parking spaces in the area,” they say, with the C&WDC Traffic & Transport Committee highlighting 13 such sites for follow-up, including green areas around Barker Road; on Conduit Road along the edge of Pok Fu Lam Country Park; near the summit of Mount Kellet; and a waterfront site near Western Fire Services Street.
The Transport Department (TD) says it is studying the proposals and has put forward a site underneath the Connaught Road West flyover as a potential starting point.
The Public Accounts Committee has recognised a growing shortfall in private car parking spaces in recent years, but also blames government reluctance to tackle vehicle growth. “PAC expresses grave dismay and finds it unacceptable that the Administration fails to address the growth in the size of the vehicle fleet, which has further aggravated the parking problems,” a spokesman said.
The growth in vehicle numbers on Hong Kong’s roads has outpaced economic growth: by the end of 2018, the number of private cars exceeded 560,000, around 40% above 2008 level. In 2018 Hong Kongers drove nearly 14 billion kilometres, 1.5 billion kilometres more than they did in 2012.