The government has rehashed public street space larger than the Avenue of Stars waterfront park into free overnight truck and tourist coach parking over the last few years, with plans to accelerate the programme in the coming years, Transit Jam has learned.
According to a Transport Department spokesman, the government has carved out 279 new free overnight parking spaces across the city in the last few years, including 98 dedicated truck spaces and 181 spaces suitable for trucks and tourist coaches. The spaces are 11 to 12 metres long by 3.5 metres wide.
The programme began in 2016 but is currently being expanded, with around 88 new spaces installed in the last year alone. On top of this, in 2018-19, TD also created 126 free daytime bus parking and loading zones for mainland tour buses in areas such as Tsim Sha Tsui and Southern District.
The government says it plans to continue the project. “To increase car parking spaces as appropriate, the Government is actively pursuing a host of short- and medium-to-long-term measures, including designating suitable on-street locations as night-time parking spaces for CVs,” says Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan.
One of the District Councillors consulted over the new spaces was Ted Hui Chi-fung, who says the decision posed a dilemma for the Central & Western District Council.
“We have the face the reality, the lorries are already there, they park on the streets overnight because it’s difficult for them to find a car park, it’s expensive, they are far away. If they get a few tickets every month, it’s just like rental for them and they accept it.”
Hui says the police strategy in the district has been to not tow vehicles between 10 and midnight. “So we thought, why not just accept reality, and with those streets that are not close to residential areas, we accept they can become legal parking spaces.”
But the free new legal spaces may have backfired in attracting yet more illegal parking. A daytime visit to the site of three new truck parking spaces on Man Kwong Street in Central, showed three trucks and 29 cars and vans illegally parked along the road. A view of Kin Fat Street, one of 10 streets reclaimed in Tuen Mun, shows rampant daytime illegal parking and parking on the pavement.
Donald Shoup, a professor of Urban Planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and author of The High Cost of Free Parking, says the Man Kwong Street situation is an interesting problem and there may be a “broken window” effect in operation here.
The broken window theory, proposed by George Kelling and James Wilson in 1982, says that if a broken window is left unrepaired, it acts as a signal that nobody cares. The rest of the windows will all soon be vandalised, says the theory.
“If we substitute cars parked [illegally] for broken windows, North Westwood Village [in Los Angeles] illustrates this theory,” wrote Shoup in California Policy Options 2014, a UCLA publication. “Where enforcement officers do not ticket the first cars parked on the sidewalk, more drivers will park on the sidewalk, Eventually, drivers will park on sidewalks throughout the neighbourhood. Because the city has relaxed parking enforcement, an informal parking market has taken over the sidewalks.”
Today, Shoup says the concept is not limited to illegal pavement parking. “I suppose the broken windows theory applies to all illegal parking where the enforcement is lax or non-existent,” he tells Transit Jam.
TD defends its actions, and says legalising illegal parking is within its power. “According to Road Traffic (Parking) Regulations (Cap 374C), the Commissioner for Transport may designate any place on a road or any place to which vehicles have access as a parking place by means of road markings and may indicate that a parking space may be used for vehicles of a particular class or type at particular times or on particular days by the use of appropriate traffic signs,” says the spokesman.
The issue was raised in LegCo last week, with a question from FTU lawmaker Aron Kwok Wai-keung. He claimed residents in the Eastern district of Hong Kong Island had complained about parking being in short supply, which, he said, aggravated traffic congestion and caused inconvenience to residents.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Chan, replied the government’s priority is to meet the parking demand of commercial vehicles, while not attracting passengers to opt for private cars in lieu of public transport. But contradicting his own statement, Chan said the government plans to increase the number of on-street parking meters for private cars by over 20% to 12,000, starting at the end of 2020.
Between 2008 and 2018, the number of parking spaces in Hong Kong grew 9.4%, while the number of vehicles jumped by 38.5%. As at the end of 2018, there were 102 parking spaces per 100 vehicles, down from 129 spaces in 2008.