Parking of vehicles in a busy city like Colombo isn’t easy. People have got used to a parking fee being collected manually when parking their vehicles. Charging of this fee is done by municipality workers or authorized private personnel. Municipality employees, in green uniforms and private employees in orange uniforms, have been engaging in collecting parking fees within the city.
The revenue generated through charging of fees, goes to the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC). However, it is learned that some issues have emerged in this regard like parking attendants having the habit of stealing money and taking money without issuing a ticket. It is also said that these parking attendants have difficulties in carrying a lot of money and as a result are inconvenienced. Motorists are also complaining that the parking attendants are
over charging them. These issues have made the CMC to think of ways to resolve these issues.
Accordingly, the CMC initiated a programme during the tenure of former Colombo Mayor A.J.M. Muzammil (2016) to introduce parking meters within the Colombo Municipality. The project was launched in view of minimizing traffic congestion and also to put an end to errant parking and carry out a proper procedure when collecting fees.
The Gazette notification issued on July 26, 2017 in this regard, specifies that the project was launched to make provisions for the parking of vehicles, prohibit unathorised parking, provide places for parking, impose a parking fee and establish procedures in apprehending defaulters within the administrative limits of the Colombo Municipal Council.
Parking meters and charges
It was decided to fix the parking meters along the Galle road from Galadari roundabout up to Wellawatta city limits, Duplication Road and all by roads and connecting roads as per the provisions of Municipal Council ordinance and by-law and regulation.
One hundred (100) meters have been set up within the city, each of which has the capacity to charge fees for 20 slots.
Accordingly, Rs.10 will be charged from motorbikes per hour, Rs. 20 from three-wheelers, Rs. 30 from vans and Rs. 50 from buses and Lorries.
Tenders for the Private Public Partnership were called for by the CMC in January 2016 due to the high cost of implementing the project. Accordingly, the tender for the pilot project was awarded to a private company named Tenaga Carparks (Pvt) Ltd, which received the authority to conduct the project, the first of its kind, in Sri Lanka.
The tender for the ‘Smart parking for Smart City’ was granted for eight years with the cost of implementation borne by the project company, during which earnings are to be divided at a percentage of 40: 60. Thus, forty percent of the income is given to the Municipality, while the company takes the balance.
The project was scheduled to commence on 2016 January 01. Until the parking meters were installed, parking wardens were deployed on a temporary basis during the first six months. (From 2016 January 01 to July 01)
Promises to upgrade the facility
Traffic Engineer at the CMC Manjula Udalamaththe told the that people have the option of paying by cash or the mobile app (Tenaga Park Smart app) or smart parking cards.
“Since the Central bank of Sri Lanka hasn’t given the approval yet for the card system, the smart parking card system isn’t available. But we are hoping to establish a card payment option at the site,” Udalamaththe said.
“It is true that the project does not provide every facility. The main issue highlighted by the users is that they don’t receive a balance if there is any in return and also the fact that coins can’t be loaded. We have discussed the issues with the private company and would provide maximum facility to users in the future,” Udalamaththe added.
It was stipulated that if a person fails to pay the relevant fee within the first hour of parking, he has to make a payment as a fine. It is learned that people have been complaining that the fine imposed due to this delay is unfair.
After considering the above fact that the fines are unfair, the incumbent Colombo Mayor Rosy Senanayake instructed CMC Commissioner on May 18 to suspend all fines charged in connection with the parking meters. Mrs. Senanayake confirmed issuing such a directive via a tweet.
“The charging of fines would be halted temporarily until necessary amendments are made. It isn’t suspended forever. We will charge fines in a way that wouldn’t burden people,” Udalamaththe said.
Although the project was launched with all good intention, there have been constant complaints from the general public that they aren’t aware of such parking meters and how they are operated.
The Mayor’s instructions came after several motorists publicly complained that they had been slapped with exorbitant fines. The authorities were forced to take note after the recent incident where a man who failed to pay a parking fee of Rs.30 at a parking slot in Wellawatte, was fined Rs.10,120, after a lapse of 13 days.
The man had parked his car in Wellawatte on April 25 and had forgotten to pay the fee of Rs. 30 via a machine placed near the parking slot.
The person hadn’t been aware that the payment should be done via a machine. When he found that there was nobody to collect the payment, he had left the place without paying the fee, which was calculated at a rate of Rs. 30 per hour.
After 13 days, he had been informed by the relevant institution that he had to pay a fine of Rs.10, 120 as he had neglected to pay the necessary amount. The man had paid the due amount accordingly.
This incident reflects that people have little knowledge about these machines an how to operate them properly.
That is the very reason to suspend all fines charged relating to parking meters. It was a reasonable decision. But citizens must now see whether this whole process would be beneficial to the whole society.
Meanwhile, a director of the Tenaga Carparks (Pvt) said that the company would always consider the welfare of the people and added that if any shortcoming occurs in terms of the parking meter machines, they would upgrade the facility.
Earnings are to be divided at a percentage of 40: 60
“There has been criticism over our mobile app not operating at times. But I say with responsibility that it is functioning fairly well and all those are rumours that are being spread to discourage the work done by our company,” the director said.
“We admit the fact that the balance of payments is not paid in return. It is a known fact that the balance isn’t paid at any parking meter machine in the world. But we are doing our level best to introduce a system to recover the balance payment soon,” he said.
He said that the majority of people (2800-3000) use the meters to make their payments. A few people (4%) use the mobile app to make payments.
This incident reflects that people have little knowledge about these machines
Chairperson of the Centre for Environmental Justice, Mechanical Engineer Ravindranath Dabare told the that the parking meter project wasn’t successful and wasn’t operating properly.
“If it’s to be effective, it should be approved by the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA). The project should come under the supervision of the CAA. It seems that the existing project isn’t functioning in a proper manner,” Dabare said.
It is true that the project does not provide every facility
“It won’t work effectively as long as the project is merged with a private company. A project like this should be handled by a Governmental body whose objective is the welfare of the general public,” Dabare added.
This article aims at providing assistance to the people to make them fathom the comprehensive idea behind these machines and the process of using them.
The main grievance of the people is that they have little knowledge of these machines. As this is a positive move by the CMC, we would like to educate our readers as to how their meters operate.