Parking space tug, pull

Without affordable leased parking, it will remain to be a cat-and-mouse game between motorists without parking and the traffic enforcers.

Here we go again with yet another proposal to pass into law a no-garage, no-car bill, which created a lot of buzz when first filed in 2016 and in 2019 when it was touted to be nearing approval by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The measure has raised a ruckus at the start of and midway through the Duterte administration and has again fueled debates early on in the Marcos presidency. The arguments then and now have remained the same, foremost of which is that it is anti-poor.

Primarily, the measure would require buyers of new vehicles to provide a notarized affidavit attesting that they have garage spaces — their own or leased — where they would park those shiny hunks of metal.

Having guaranteed parking spaces for vehicles, according to the bill’s proponents, would ensure that their owners do not add up to the already big problem of embankments and streets being commandeered as parking spaces.

Let’s see if our lawmakers would have the political will, this time around, to pass a law that had proven successful in Japan under its 1962 Garage Act, which required motorists to obtain “garage certificates” from the local police.

The certificates prove that motorists have leased off-street parking spaces, and so would not burden the community and block the flow of traffic by parking on-street in front of their houses.

While on-street paid parking is allowed in Japan, it does not extend into the night, thus there’s no going around its no-garage, no-car policy, except for the exemption given those tiny “kei” cars bearing yellow plates.

The “kei” cars, nonetheless, are not exempted from the ban on overnight on-street parking, so where to park them during the night remains a daily challenge to their owners.

On the argument that the no-garage, no-car policy is anti-poor, it’s odd to hear people say they can afford a vehicle but not money to lease parking space. That should hold true in Tokyo or Manila, even if there’s an ocean of differences between the two.

Japan boasts an efficient public transportation system for its salary men and women to even consider buying cars. Why drive around when you can take the train? True enough.

Likewise, since the 1962 Garage Act, the provision of leased parking has already matured in Tokyo and other Japanese cities to be cost-effective for motorists. This is one area that needs to develop fast in the Philippines in the event a no-garage, no-car law is passed.

Presently, even the more affluent Filipinos would balk at paying overnight parking fees ranging upwards of P500. Without affordable leased parking, it will remain to be a cat-and-mouse game between motorists without parking and the traffic enforcers who issue them illegal parking tickets or who tow away their vehicles.

For the team of retired Colonel Bong Nebrija tasked by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to clear streets and sidewalks of illegally parked vehicles, roadside eateries, junkshops, etc., the City of Manila poses a special challenge.

It has to do with the fact that on-street parking is allowed in Manila for a fee. And so as MMDA personnel issue traffic violation tickets to owners of illegally parked vehicles, they could not do the same for those vehicles for which the Manila Traffic and Parking Bureau (MTPB) attendants have issued parking tickets.

MMDA personnel are left scratching their heads when confronted with stalled vehicles on roads they are trying to clear of obstructions. How can the MTPB issue parking tickets to vehicles without engines and wheels if it prohibits overnight on-street parking?

Many such junk vehicles litter Manila streets and the MMDA is helpless against them just because parking tickets are paid for them and issued by the MTPB personnel, curiously whenever Nebrija’s boys are around.

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