A Half Step Toward Better City Parking

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The Moscow city government should be commended for its decision to banish the collection of curbside parking fees by attendants and make most of the city's 120 parking lots free starting this Wednesday.

Drivers will be able to park their cars along any street free of charge unless road signs prohibit them from doing so, said Igor Kokhalyov, who heads the company that manages paid parking for City Hall.

In addition, restaurants and other businesses will not be allowed to charge drivers who park their vehicles in front or near their entrances. In other words, Kokhalyov said, anyone who tries to collect a fee for parking on Moscow streets is a swindler.

Only a handful of the city's parking lots will continue to require payments, but instead of attendants they will have parking meters that accept plastic cards sold at kiosks.

Just about anyone who has tried to park a car in central Moscow has encountered parking attendants, who tend to demand exorbitant fees, reaching 300 rubles and more per hour, even though the city authorities have explicitly set fees at 40 rubles within the Garden Ring, 30 rubles between the Garden Ring and the Third Ring Road and 25 rubles elsewhere.

We can only guess how much of this money has gone into the pockets of the attendants and what share has been pocketed by their employers, who have been renting municipally owned lots from the city government. But the fact that many attendants -- most of whom are able-bodied males -- agree to work for an official salary of just 12,000 rubles per month in a city where the average salary is at least twice as much speaks for itself.

While commendable, the decision to make roadside parking free is only a half step.

The city suffers from a severe shortage of parking lots, and the situation worsens every year as the number of cars clogging the streets grows. Because of this shortage, drivers often double-park or abandon their cars on parts of the road where it is strictly prohibited to park, exacerbating already torturous traffic jams. Drivers also park on sidewalks and yards, inconveniencing anyone who might be passing by. Even the re-introduction of towing illegally parked vehicles has not made the problem go away.

City Hall needs to facilitate or finance the construction of free or affordable parking lots both downtown and in other parts of the city, including key metro stations at end of the various lines. Only then might the lives of both drivers and pedestrians start improving dramatically.