Wednesday, December 9, 2009

No Parking

Yesterday, Korea's National Police Agency made the headlines for the wrong reasons :
- first, it was named the most corrupt central administration (with a score of 7.48/10, the best possible score being 10)
- second, it wants to allow free parking in all cities on Sundays and holidays in all roads except in "absolutely banned areas"* (crossroads, bus stops...).

Someone should tell them people are gathering in Copenhagen these days, trying to find ways of curbing the use of private cars, that all major cities
including Seoul pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, that all major tourist destinations want to substitute cars with public transportation. Actually, parking fees have increased recently to deter people from using their car in the city !

Meanwhile, the police has "opened" 55 areas to parking in July 2009, the number reached 470 in October and may explode in the near future should this urban management heresy continue.

The measure is popular because citizens complain about the lack of parking spaces. But that's not the correct answer : there is a lack of solutions, alternatives and connectivity. Instead of inviting more cars on the streets, Korean cities should invest in peripheral underground parkings connected with public transportation hubs. And like in Paris, most areas should have a public underground parking serving both the local community and visitors. In that city, street parking spots are being suppressed, replaced with Velib' bike racks, bike lanes and trams. There is a lack of concertation and much can be said about the way things are being done, but at least they're trying something.

Of course, the streets of Paris are more suitable for pedestrians, who can easily hop from one place to another. But Seoul has very much improved the pedestrian experience recently, suppressing overpasses, redesigning streets, adding pedestrian crossings... take Hoehyeon Sagori, for instance : as we saw recently ("
Ranju Ramien"), this crossroads which used to be only reserved to cars has been completely adapted to pedestrians, who now walk seamlessly and pleasantly between Shinsegae and Myeongdong. The shopping experience is changing as well. By the way : why is Myeong-dong so popular ? Because you don't see any cars, and shoppers own the street. They don't have to take a car to go from one shop to another.

While I'm at it : Seoul is considering a special parking for tourist coaches near Gyeongbokgung and that's a good thing to remove them from the streets, but new regulations should be implemented so that buses and coaches are, like in other capitals, fined when they park with their motors on (ie for air con or heating purposes). Of course, such parkings should have a place for bus drivers to rest comfortably instead of becoming a nuisance.

Once again, focusing on "parking problems" in Seoul will only lead to wrong answers : we should be working more comprehensively on making life better and simpler for everyone, and sound decisions will follow.

Seoul Village 2009

* "
More free parking in cities being considered" (JoongAng Ilbo 20091210)

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