Tuesday, July 31, 2012

ABCs of illegal parking

A is for anger

The sound of a car horn blaring into the night is a barometer of sorts in this estate. It measures the anger quotient of someone whose right of way has been blocked by an illegally parked car.

 Just how a small space can cause such a big problem becomes evident as we approach a man outside his home at Jalan Sembilang in Upper Thomson Road.

The mere mention of the words "illegal parking" triggers an immediate response. The elderly man jumps out of his outdoor chair in his house. Anger palpable on his face, he points to the pavement just outside his home. Says the man, who declined to give his name: "I told a driver that it's not so wise to park here because you could get a fine. "You know what the driver told me? 'It's okay, uncle, I can afford it.'"

Those who park their vehicles illegally and block residents' homes often don't realise the pain that it causes others, says another resident, Mr Lawrence Lee, 45. He experiences problems with motorists who park illegally outside his home about once or twice a month and sometimes has to wait up to 45 minutes for the obstructing vehicle to be moved. "Getting in and out of our homes then becomes a frustrating affair, " Mr Lee laments.  

B is for bad

 Just how bad is the problem?

Data on parking summonses in private estates aren't categorised, but figures provided by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) show an overall rise in summonses issued for illegal parking. An LTA spokesman says that in the first two months since the LTA took over the enforcement of illegal parking on Nov 1, 2010, about 22,000 summonses were issued per month.

The following year, the figure rose to about 25,000 a month. No wonder some residents are fed up. Some have even come up with imaginative ways to discourage errant motorists from parking illegally. This month, a few residents of private estates wrote to The Straits Times to highlight their plight.

They put the blame on "outsiders" who visit their estates. One reason private estates, like the one in Upper Thomson Road, are swamped with illegally parked vehicles is their proximity to popular eateries, say some residents. Along the main stretch of Upper Thomson Road, there are many restaurants and coffee shops serving local delicacies and Western cuisine.

"People come here from all over Singapore just for the food," says one Mr Eu, whose shop, Tai Huat Tyres and Batteries, has been in business for 20 years. "I have lost count of how many times I have seen drivers arguing over illegal parking. Some even park in front of my shop only to walk away to take a bus."

C is for congestion

Mr Eu says illegal parking is a problem no one seems to have a solution to. He says that after the road beside his shop, Jalan Keli, was made into a two-way road in recent months, things got worse. "It's havoc on weekends when you have the foodie crowd, the illegally parked cars and those leaving after church services," he says. "Just last month, a luxury car driver entering Jalan Keli refused to move out of the way as cars were leaving the church nearby.

It caused a 20-minute jam and a few loud exchanges." But it's hard to blame the driver and those leaving the church as the the lane leading out of Jalan Keli and into Upper Thomson Road is usually blocked by a row of illegally parked cars. In another private estate in Siglap, workers appear to be the ones who are to blame.

 In the quiet neighbourhood of Ernani Street, the problem occurs when workers leave their vehicles and go to work at nearby factories and offices, says former police officer K. Kalidas, 74. Mr Kalidas, a retiree, had written to The Straits Times suggesting the use of a parking label system for private estates.

 He says: "When I go for my morning jogs, I see the foreign cars parked in the neighbourhood. In the evening, the cars are still there... "These illegally parked vehicles give a lot of problems to garbage disposal crew in the mornings."  

D is for damage

Residents have told Mr Kalidas that their cars have been nudged by passing garbage trucks,which try to squeeze past illegally parked cars.

Despite this, Mr Kalidas says he's against setting up paid parking in the neighbourhood as there would be a cost involved.

He believes that a dialogue with stakeholders, residents and Members of Parliament can help ease the situation. Some MPs have also weighed in on the situation.

 E is for excuses

 So, why do people park illegally knowing that there's a hefty fine involved? The common reasons offered seemed to be a lack of parking spaces, says one driver, who gave his name only as Mr Devaraj.

 This reporter approached him on Thursday evening as he parked his car along Siglap Drive. "It's just for a short while," says Mr Devaraj. "I'm just going to buy food from the coffee shop and I'll be out of the way."

In the 10 minutes he was gone, a bottleneck formed as cars tried to exit Frankel Avenue.

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