It’s a road, yes, but park here until the expat appears to decongest these streets

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By JOACHIM BUWEMBO
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The recent hike in parking fees by Kampala Capital City Authority highlights the planning chaos that afflicts Uganda’s largest urban centre of three million people by day and half that number by night.

As of September 1, KCCA has raised the daytime parking charges by 150 per cent on progressive basis, so that the more parking time you consume the higher the rate per hour.

To park for three hours now costs Ush3,600 ($1) which is three times the old rates of Ush1,200 for three hours. One hour used to cost Ush400 and is now up to Ush1,000. But should you park for longer than two hours, punitive rates apply and you are “upgraded” to Ush800 per 30 minutes.

The new rates are very welcome since their primary reason is to decongest the city which has probably the worst traffic jam in the region. We could even say the new rates are not high enough, because they are still lower than private parking spaces in the city which on average cost Ush2,000 per hour.

Any complaints about the new rates can only be attributed to Ugandans’ usual whining about each and anything that affects whatever they are used to, even if it is for their benefit.

But KCCA will also make some money because from receiving some $40,000 a month from the Multiplex, the company running the street parking operations, it will now receive about $100,000. The $1.2 million a year equals over Ush4.3billion, quite a substantial amount.

However this is still peanuts compared with the cost of constructing and the opportunity cost of occupying the “parking,” because the so-called parking in Kampala is actually road surface space.

What happens is that entire motorable lanes of streets, built at a cost of hundreds of millions of borrowed dollars, are what are used for parking! And all taxpayers, including those who live until they die without stepping into a car, are paying for this road surface, for the comfort of a few thousand motorists who occupy the driving space with their stationary car.

Now if you attempt to compute the cost in all the hours lost because of congestion caused by the road space being occupied by stationary cars, the millions of litres of petrol burnt by the idling cars every years, you would come up with a shocking figure. So the minimum KCCA should do is to clear all the street side parking. Period.

Building laws require that developers provide parking for their structures in the city. By allowing the use of motorable road surface for day-long parking, KCCA is punishing the entire country for the amusement of a few thousand car owners who should be paying for private parking.

Kampala’s leaders and managers should be ashamed that theirs must be one of the most congested cities in the world. Since Ugandan leaders are so fond of seeking foreign consultants to tell them some common sense things, they should hire one to tell them that unblocking junction bottlenecks on key routes using under and overpasses can go a long way in de-congesting Kampala.

The consultant could also google about Dar es Salaam’s Rapid Transport, Nairobi’s Thika superhighway, Addis Ababa’s new train service and tell them those examples. It would help everybody.