One of the blatant problems of local governments in urban and urbanizing areas in the country are the monstrous traffic congestions aggravated by the absence of short, medium and long-term traffic management plans as part of a local government’s development plan. The absence of sufficient parking areas has compelled motorists to use the sidewalks, widened portions of roads and even roadsides within the road-right-of-way of roads as their parking areas for their own convenience.
In developed and developing economies like Baguio City, people tend to have their own vehicle or vehicles to be able to freely roam around the city instead of using the available public transportation because they want to escape from the traffic jams by using alternate routes to go to their destination. The need for sufficient parking spaces in these areas has become an equally important program of those who are in power, especially with the ongoing campaign of the national government mandating local officials to take back public spaces appropriated by individuals and businesses for their private use.
In Metro Manila, big, medium and small establishments are required to provide adequate parking spaces for their clients within their structures or available parking spaces within their properties to provide convenience and stress-free transactions so as not to contribute to the worsening traffic congestions around the metropolis. Aside from intensifying their anti-road obstruction campaign, local governments, in partnership with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), commissioned towing companies to tow illegally parked and stalled motor vehicles to clean up the streets and free the same from obstructions that impede the smooth flow of traffic round the clock.
The tremendous increase in the number of motor vehicles compared to that of parking spaces, private or public, is inevitable. Thus, local governments need to empower the private sector to take responsibility and contribute to the ongoing efforts to ease the traffic congestions by providing adequate parking spaces for motor vehicle owners inside or outside their homes and establishments.
One of the problems of the Baguio City government in dealing with the inadequate parking spaces inside and outside structures despite the requirements of the National Building Code mandating building owners to provide parking areas for their customers, is the rampant conversion of supposed allotted parking spaces to commercial purposes for more income instead of providing their clients convenience in doing business inside such buildings. During the previous administration, all building owners that converted their parking structures to commercial spaces were given ultimatum to return the parking areas and a good number of buildings were issued notices with most of these complying with the same.
In the case of SM City Baguio, it has incorporated in its original structure a 2-level parking area that could accommodate some 765 motor vehicles at one time and this has greatly helped in providing its customers convenient shopping and dining for over a decade now. In its newly opened 5-storey parking building which is part of its multi-billion expansion project within is property, SM again provided for 698 parking slots for motor vehicles and 22 slots for bicycles which contributes significantly in getting motor vehicles off illegal parking areas along major streets in the city.
We believe SM management has set the standards in the construction of buildings where parking must be incorporated within their structures. Admittedly, pay parking alone is not an attractive business venture but we appreciate SM for partly giving up its opportunity to maximize the use of all of its expansion project for commercial purposes and limiting itself in the compliance to the provisions of the National Building code in terms of parking requirements. The opening of its additional parking structure has sent a clear message to property developers in the city that providing for pay parking areas within their structures is actually doable even if it will affect one’s opportunity to earn bigger income but creates good business as people with cars would prefer to patronize establishments with adequate parking areas. SM’s endeavor to provide parking spaces for its clients must be emulated by other building owners in the city. Providing extra number of parking slots in the different structures round the city is helping ease the burden of motorists and reducing the headaches of government officials on how to force building owners to comply with the rules. It has time and again been stated by experts that parking alone is no business at all. We should remember that investors helping the local government in providing sufficient parking spaces for the public are shelling out hard earned money for the realization of government projects that could not be financed by the meagre government resources. The local governments must aggressively plan parking spaces with the citizens and balance this with the goal of creating sustainable cities.
We challenge investors to help the city in solving the traffic problem and insufficient parking spaces around the Summer Capital. Parking building are not the only solutions. Support for pedestrian facilities must also be prioritized. Providing incentives for the use of non-motor vehicle may is the more sustainable solution.