Rough Path: The pain of parking for city motorists

Traffic along Thika Superhighway. Driving is being seen as a luxury and now car owners feel like they are under siege to the extent that they don’t know where to turn to as authorities come up with all manner of charges. [File, Standard]
The outrage that greeted a plan to increase parking fees at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) this week has once again amplified the pain of being a motorist in Nairobi. 

In a city where owning a car and escaping the disorganised passenger transport system is everyone’s wish, the costs that come with the vehicle in a city where almost everything apart from oxygen is paid for, provides a unique set of challenges.

Although the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) has clarified that the increased costs only apply to certain sections of JKIA to improve traffic flow, the number of establishments that are charging parkingfees are on the rise.

“In the new plan, the Central Square, Parking 3 and Parking 6 will exclusively serve as a passenger pick-up and drop-off points, therefore attracting premium rates for any parking violation,” KAA said.

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“Airport users are discouraged from parking at designated drop-off and pick-up zones as it creates congestion, traffic snarl-ups leading to poor customer experience. Airport Taxis and staff vehicle parking is reserved at the remote parking area opposite the Control Tower,” the authority said.

Proposed rates

KAA argues that the proposed rates which take effect today (Sunday) are bench-marked against international standards and are a response to “feedback from customers to decongest circulation areas during peak travel times. In the plan, owners of saloon cars parked at the airport’s drop-off and pick-up zone for between 20 and 40 minutes will pay Sh250 while those parked for between 40 minutes and one hour will pay Sh350.

However what began by charging motorists for parking at the JKIA almost two decades ago continues to spread with each coming day as owners of establishments realise they can make an extra coin if they charge vehicle owners for letting them park their cars.

Today, you will be charged for parking at a mall, hospital, some schools, churches, some entertainment joints..the list grows every day.

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At stake is a desire to feed from a growing number of motorists afraid that their vehicles will be vandalised at City Hall-owned parking bays. It is also what motorists have referred to an ‘unnecessary greed.’

“The car is being misconstrued as a symbol of wealth so you are being punished for owning one,” Peter Murima, the chair Motorists Association of Kenya says.

At the parking bay of St Andrews Church in Nairobi, motorists pay Sh50 for one hour. At the MP Shah hospital in Parklands, you will only be allowed to park for free if you are there for less than 15 minutes. After that, you will be charged Sh50 if you park for up to two hours and Sh300 if you park for 12 hours.

At the Kenya National Theatre, you will be charged Sh400 for parking there for six hours.

Sh100 gets you 30 minutes at the Upper Hill Medical Centre. At Wilson Airport, a parking toll station outside the airport affects all premises surrounding the air facility including banks, restaurants, warehouses and other entities that operate near the airport.

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“Driving should be taken as a convenience. It is not a luxury because they are charging us for giving them business which is very wrong,” Murima says.

“We are under siege to the extent that motorists don’t know where to turn to. All authorities are coming up with all manner of charges. This could have been solved if the county government constructed more parking bays but what we have are promises,” he says.

City Hall owns 12,000 parking bays of which 10,399 are slots for daily and seasonal ticket holders. Loading zones account for 1,601. It charges a flat rate of Sh300 per day.

A parking survey done by IBM in 2016 found out that motorists in Nairobi spend an average of 31 minutes to find a parking slot against an international average of 18 minutes.

Even then, you still have to pay an upwards of Sh20 to street boys who man most of the bays in town so that they can ‘take care’ of your car. Those who fear for the safety of their cars park them in about six parking yards spread across town and which are privately run. They also also charge Sh300 per day.

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In August 2016, City Hall advertised for tenders to construct a Sh4 billion multi-storied car park that would have added 3,000 parking spaces in the city centre. The building, which was to have commercial and office space, was to be situated on the Sunken Car Park land next to the Aga Khan Walk and Harambee Avenue.

The then County Executive for Land, Housing and Physical Planning Tom Odongo said the initial design would’ve been a 17-storey structure, which could go up to 30 floors depending on projected investors’ returns.

The development, he said would have been a public-private partnership with the county providing the land while investors pump in capital. The investors would have built, operated and transferred the structure to the county within agreed timelines.

Parking was to be charged based on the amount of time spent unlike the current system, where motorists pay a flat fee of Sh300. However, two years down the line, the project still remains a pipe dream.

Nairobi governor Mike Sonko says his job is not to provide parking for every motorist.

“Infact that is not on our priority list. Our priority is a good public transport system with space on our road for pedestrians and cyclists,” he says.

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