Parking Fees to Be Banned

City authorities said Wednesday that roadside parking attendants would be banned beginning next week in an effort to root out corruption among those who make drivers pay to park on city streets.

Beginning Sept. 10, drivers will be able to park for free in the city wherever there are no road signs forbidding them to leave their cars, said Igor Khokhalyov, head of the company that manages pay parking for City Hall.

"No one on the side of the road will be able to come up to you and ask for money," Khokhalyov said, Interfax reported. "If it happens, these people are swindlers."

Only 15 pay parking lots will remain in the city, most of which are near train stations and where drivers use special plastic cards to pay, Khokhalyov said.

For the last decade, private companies have been allowed to operate roadside parking. The attendants, often dressed in green vests, are supposed to charge a fixed rate set by the city government.

But widespread abuse by the attendants has forced City Hall to implement the ban, Khokhalyov said. The companies often charged above the city rate and threatened drivers, he said.

The companies falsify their profits, he said. "For example, a car park for 10 cars which works for 10 hours per day gives a report that it only had two cars," Khokhalyov said, Interfax reported.

"In the end, we made a 'zero-tolerance' decision," he said. "Beginning Sept. 10, there won't be a single person in a [uniform] vest on the streets of Moscow."

Drivers can call a hotline -- 609-2993 -- after the ban comes into force to report incidents of people asking them to pay to park, Khokhalyov said.

The ban by Mayor Yury Luzhkov follows a long battle by City Hall to regulate parking.

In an attempt to stamp out corruption, Luzhkov issued a decree in 2005 forcing attendants to wear vests with the city parking rate written on the back.

This year, Luzhkov introduced a system whereby drivers have to buy a plastic card in advance and hand it to parking attendants to complete the transaction.

But drivers reported that attendants offered to take a lower cash fee in lieu of the cards.