“Why isn’t mummy here?”
This is a question that often comes from the tiny lips of four-year-old Danielle Ramsoomair.
The lack of parking in Port-of-Spain’s strangling the capital city, but with the building of more parking facilities and establishment of a reliable transit system, including re-introduction of tram and train systems, the city can be saved, says Gregory Aboud, head of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (Doma). Last week, the T&T Guardian reported on the parking crisis facing the city, highlighting that the Government Campus Plaza Parkade was already being filled to capacity although the plaza is yet to open.
In an interview with the T&T Guardian, Aboud said: “We wish to emphatically point out that the lack of parking is a more serious threat to the city of PoS than crime, cleanliness or vagrancy. “It remains one of the most formidable problems facing the capital city and it is not dramatic in any way to say the lack of parking combined with the ruthless towing of vehicles is strangling the city to death.”
He disagreed with the notion, put forward by former Port-of-Spain mayor Louis Lee-Sing, that there was no need to build additional parking facilities. “Urgent action is needed on the question of parking which includes the need for centralised multi-storey parking facilities,” Aboud said. “We already know that reliable multi-level parking is the principle initiative of many of the metropolitan management techniques that have saved cities all across the developed world.”
Before implementing park-and-ride systems and pedestrianising areas, he added, a reliable public transport system had to be established. “All of the talk of pedistrianisation and park-and-ride is totally premature and entirely outside of reality given the shambles of the current national transportation infrastructure,” Aboud said. “We first need organised peripheral parking that is safe. We also need to see a strengthening of organised mass transit, including a reliable inner city bus service.”
“Of course, we wish that we still had a tram system and train system but that sadly is not the case.” Allan Thomas, owner of Thomas & Sons, said a major obstacle to implementing parking and traffic management initiatives in the city is unregulated and illegal vending. “The park-and-ride is a good idea but roads must also be free of congestion. We can’t have vendors lining the roads, otherwise the system will be just as irritating.”
Thomas said vendors contributed to the parking crisis by parking their vehicles overnight on the streets. “A system is needed to regulate vendors in the city. A lot of vendors park their cars overnight on the streets. Some of them hang their items on your windows and if you try to move them, they will bust your windows. These things are very discouraging to investors.” “We were promised by several ministries and mayors that Salvatori site will be used as a car park but it was given to vendors,” Thomas added.
Talk but no action
Aboud blamed successive governments for the current state of affairs, saying they never had any real interest in the city. “In Trinidad successive changes of government have brought zero action. The fact is that local and central governments had no financial interest or stake in POS and all of their ministerial and governmental positions will be unaffected regardless of whether POS lives or dies.”
Thomas said, “After all these years, after all these technocrats addressed us, it is shocking that there is no plan for the city except to run a cable car from City Gate to Fort Picton.” Wary that previous talks with governments have brought no meaningful change, Aboud said he looks forward to working with a committee established by Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie and chaired by Richard Young.
“We are extremely hopeful that measures will soon be considered by the committee which has already set about formulating plans for implementation in the very immediate short term. “The plans are intended to address the chronic shortage of parking, security issues that are related to daytime and night-time business and other issues related to the emergency resuscitation of POS.”
“The fact that all available parking facilities are operating at maximum including the parkade is a clear indication that time is not on our side and that the need for attention is urgent and desperate,” Aboud added.