Six per cent drop in Harbour Bridge traffic during paid parking – General Manager

General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge, Rawlston Adams reported yesterday that there was a drop of about 6% in traffic on the bridge during the period parking meters were implemented, compared to similar periods in years past.

Adams related this information yesterday during a consultation held at the Pegasus Hotel where presentations were done on the feasibility study and design for the New Demerara River Bridge.

“When the parking meters were introduced there were people protesting, there were no people parking in Georgetown so everybody wants to know where those people went, where they’ve gone, and we are saying we saw a drop in our traffic by as much as 6%,” Adams said in a comment after the session.

The General Manager related that although the figures have not yet been analyzed, “instinct” is suggesting that the shift in numbers is linked to the implementation of the parking meters.

“In February for the very, very first time in eight years, outside of last May elections, we saw traffic drop 6.7% and in [late] February saw a minor increase of 0.8% and that’s when we got a pullback from the parking folk.”

Adams had raised a question of whether it is expected that the trend of reduced traffic experienced during that period should be anticipated once parking meters are implemented again.

Jacqueline Mouws, Traffic Expert with LievenseCSO, a firm operating out of the Nether-lands and tasked with executing the bridge project, stated that in her experience, that drop in numbers would usually be followed by a steady growth, and that within a year to a year and a half, those numbers would increase.

Protests against the implementation of parking meters began early February, after a petition was penned by a group now known as the “Movement Against Parking Meters.”

As part of the activism against the implementation, drivers were encouraged to “starve the meters” by parking outside of the parking zones. One protester, a contractor, had expressed that he had taken to buying supplies on the West Bank where he resides and in other closer locations as he now found it more affordable as he was saving on money he would have otherwise spent on parking.

On August 31, 2016 city councillors voted in favour of a motion to approve amendments to the contract with National Parking Systems/SCS, which saw the reduction of the parking tariff to $50 per 15 minutes from the originally proposed up to $125 per 15-minute interval, as well as the reduction of the length of the contract to 20 years from 49 years.

These amendments came following reviews of the contract by the Ministry of Finance and the Attorney General. The Ministry of Finance’s review severely criticised the deal, saying that government procurement rules may have been transgressed, while the AG’s review also pointed out that the terms were highly in the favour of the contractor.

The reviews, however, did not find the contract to be illegal and government recommended only that the city renegotiate the contract after seeking the advice of an accountant.

The city had implemented the paid parking project in late January. Subsequently, the group, which was organized on social media, took to the streets and held a protest; hundreds of persons turned up to show their support for the revocation of the contract.

The movement kept the protests going strong for eight weeks straight until the by-laws were eventually suspended by Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan.

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