The Hà Nội People’s Council yesterday approved a People’s Committee proposal to increase street and pavement use fees as well as parking fees for cars and motorbikes.
I guess there are always reasons to increase fees, fines and other charges, but this one comes with some lofty aims that we need to consider with some scepticism.
The specifics first.
If approved, the plan will take effect on January 1, 2018.
Motorbike parking fees will go up from VNĐ3,000 (US$0.13) to VNĐ5,000 ($0.22) each time, and that for cars from VNĐ30,000 ($1.33) to VNĐ50,000 ($2.1). The monthly fee cars in designated spaces will increase from VNĐ1.7 million ($75.5) to VNĐ2.6 million ($115.5), depending on the area.
Vũ Văn Viện, director of Hà Nội Transport Department, said the increase would not have much of an impact on people’s spending and it will force businesses to become more competitive, thereby providing better services to customers.
"This is also an economic measure to limit personal transport, encouraging investors to build concentrated parking lots," Viện told the Tiền phong (Vanguard) newspaper.
“The current parking fare is not adjusted according to the market mechanism so many parking lots have violated the city’s regulations on this,” he said.
He noted that a department survey found that people were in fact paying fees 1.5 to 2 times higher than regulated at many parking lots.
This was also a measure to encourage people to use public transport and a step to restrict individual vehicles in the city’s central area, he added.
The official is right that people are already paying parking fees that are higher than regulated, but will the latest increase be adhered to scrupulously, all over the city? I think we all know the answer to that question.
The second “benefit” touted by the official warrants even greater scrutiny. Will the increase in parking fees actually restrict the use of individual vehicles in central areas? What would they do instead? Use buses? Do we have a bus service that millions of people can use comfortably and get to their destinations in time? And if they do start using buses, do we have the infrastructure to put many more buses on the road?
At a time that the automobile industry keeps wanting greater Government support to be able to make, assemble or import more cars, how will a mere increase in parking fees encourage a shift to public transportation?
There seems to be a wide gap of scale between the problem and the solution.
Nguyễn Tuấn Minh, a resident of Minh Khai Street, highlighted these issues as he disagreed with the proposal.
“I think the plan to adjust parking fee is not unreasonable compared with general living standards. The city authorities should also punish violations where unusually high parking fees are collected.
“It is said that the increase is to limit people’s use of personal vehicles in the city and use public transport, but the fact is that public transportation does not meet the current demand.”
He also said that his family often went to Hoàn Kiếm Lake, a pedestrian street at the weekend, on a motorbike instead of car because it was difficult to find parking space.
The car and motorbike parks were always full and it took a lot of time to find a space, Minh said.
Vũ Trọng Ninh, an old man living near Hoàn Kiếm District, said this increase by the Government would typically lead to parking lot owners increasing their prices even higher.
“They have done it before, and this time will be no exception if the authorities do not improve management,” Ninh said.
He also said that in his experience, every time the State increases the price of a product or service, it leads to increases in the prices of other things.
Responding to questions about management, Viện said inspection and control of licensed parking lots will be strengthened and e-parking developed in all inner districts.
Then there are those are welcoming the increase because it affects them directly in a more significant manner.
Vũ Hà Thanh, director of the Hà Nội Old Quarter Electric Car Travel Service Centre, Đồng Xuân Joint Stock Company told Việt Nam Television: "The current street and pavement use fees account for 30 per cent of the enterprise’s turnover. Therefore, the city should consider increasing the fee for parking (that the enterprise charges customers on land that it has leased for parking lots) to help enterprises cover expenses and balance business activities."
Some people, like economist Ngô Trí Long, have called for a “roadmap and a reasonable increase” after studies are done to find the “appropriate rate.”
I think it is high time that we realise parking fee adjustments can at best be band-aid solutions to the very serious problems of air and noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and others faced by the city in particular and the country in general.
Far tougher, comprehensive solutions and decisions are needed. The problems are mounting and cannot be parked anywhere. — VNS