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On the increase in overnight parking fees at NAIA

I’ve been reading some posts on social media complaining about the increase in the overnight parking rates at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). This seems to be a recent development considering the last time we used any of the parking facilities of NAIA was last November 23 when the wife parked to wait for my arrival at Terminal 2. It wasn’t overnight parking but then she said she doesn’t recall seeing any signs announcing changes in the parking rates. The posts I saw through Facebook are for overnight parking at Terminal 3 where the old charges were 50 PHP (about 1.14 USD) per day. This is actually very cheap even considering that parking is on an open lot with marginal security. Even parking lots in Makati, Taguig and Ortigas charge more for overnight parking on open lots.

The new rate is basically 300 PHP per day including taxes, which apparently surprised a lot of people after everybody got used to the 50 PHP/day rate of old. That meant that for a 3 night trip to Bangkok or Singapore, for example, where people left their cars at the airport, they had to fork over 900 PHP instead of the 150 PHP they used to pay for parking. Indeed, that’s a big jump in parking fees!

NAIA’s parking rates can be compared to the parking rates at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is provided in their website. 30 USD (about 1,315 PHP) is charged for 24 hours for use of the multi-level/covered parking structures at the airport. Meanwhile, open lot parking charges 12 USD (about 526 PHP) per day. Suddenly, NAIA’s parking charges don’t seem to be expensive beside the 526 PHP/day charge at LAX. However, these rates are arguably in a country where there are higher wages and standards of living and so perhaps a fairer comparison would be for parking in a major airport in ASEAN. Doing a bit of research online, I found that Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport charges the equivalent of about 341 PHP per day for parking. Singapore’s Changi charges the equivalent of around 701 PHP per day. And Kuala Lumpur International charges the equivalent of about 575 PHP per day for parking. [Note: Rates from the link may not be updated.] These are generally for multi-level parking buildings where vehicles are practically protected against the environment (e.g., rain, sun, etc.).

A comparison is also made for the nearby Park n’ Fly facility, which also publishes their parking rates in their website. The site of the private parking provider states a rate of 340 PHP + EVAT (taxes) per day. And this is for a multi-level, covered parking structure near NAIA Terminals 1 and 2. An argument can be made here for the location and proximity of NAIA parking spaces compared to Park n’ Fly but note that the fee for the private entity includes airport transfers with their own vehicle. Compared to this, the NAIA rates are quite expensive considering that it is for open lot parking and for what is perceived as marginal security. In fairness to airport parking security, I have not heard or read about incidents of burglary or stolen vehicles in relation to NAIA parking areas.

And so there are many questions that need to be answered in as far as the sudden and steep increase in parking rates at NAIA. The most important question here is what is the basis for the parking rate increase? It is assumed that the additional monies generated will cover certain expenses like security and maintenance. So there needs to be transparency in where the additional funds will go or how it will be allocated (e.g., repair works towards ultimately opening the multi level facility at T3). Also, perhaps the information dissemination for this rate increase was lacking and therefore ineffective in advising the public about the change. But then there was generally no major uproar over the increase so perhaps those complaining weren’t paying attention or were caught in the transition to the new parking rates. One can even say that certain posts in social media can be qualified as rants rather than objective takes on parking rates.

I would like to think that parking as an amenity should not generally be a revenue generating scheme for the airport. Collected fees should cover operating expenses and excesses can be used to build a trust fund, for example, for future expansion of the facility, but the latter should be clearly spelled out in a plan for the airport. After all, it is in the best interest of the public, the users of the airport, if improvements can justify what they are paying for and how much they are paying.

Another look at traffic along Morayta, Recto and Legarda

Heading to another appointment one morning, our driver avoided Quezon Boulevard and the Quiapo area, which we learned later had serious flooding at the underpass. Our driver said we were actually waved off by a traffic enforcer from heading into Quezon Blvd. to head instead towards Morayta and Recto. And so I decided to take some new photos along our way, which took us to Morayta, Recto, Legarda, P. Casals and Ayala Blvd.

IMG06413-20130717-0931Morayta Street with the Far Eastern University (FEU) at right is part of an area that is called the University Belt because of the academic institutions located in the area including several major universities like FEU, the University of the East (UE), the University of Sto. Tomas (UST), San Sebastian College, San Beda College, Centro Escolar University and College of the Holy Spirit.

IMG06414-20130717-0931On-street parking along Morayta Street – there should be parking fees for such spaces in Manila since vehicles significantly reduce road capacities and cause congestion. These streets are public spaces and should benefit the general public and not just a few people who happen to have cars but no parking space in an area where space is very limited and therefore valuable.

IMG06415-20130717-0933Approach to intersection of Morayta with Recto Avenue.

IMG06416-20130717-0933Recto Avenue eastbound with the elevated tracks of the LRT Line 2.

IMG06417-20130717-0935Approach to the intersection of Recto with Loyola Street. San Sebastian College is just after the signalized intersection. The pedestrian crossing is for people crossing to or from the University of the East, which is on the other side of the road.

IMG06418-20130717-0935The alignment of the LRT Line 2 led to its posts dividing the eastbound lanes of Recto for the section between Loyola Street and Legarda. San Sebastian College is at right with its arcade walkways.

IMG06419-20130717-0935The divided eastbound lanes of Recto merge at the approach to the intersection with Legarda and Mendiola.

IMG06420-20130717-0935That’s Mendiola from across our turning vehicle with San Beda College on the left and a branch of Jollibee obscuring a view of Centro Escolar University at right.

IMG06421-20130717-0935Southbound lanes of Legarda in the general direction towards Arlegui Street. There are many new buildings along the street including the one on the right, which replaced what were already decrepit buildings and houses. Some of these houses probably had historical value but were demolished nonetheless after the property was sold to more enterprising people.

IMG06422-20130717-0936A peak at San Sebastian Church from Legarda and downstream along Bilibid Viejo Street. This image has been captured in many photos and drawings from the time it was completed during the last years of the Spanish period, to the American period until the present.

IMG06423-20130717-0936Legarda ends at its intersection with Nepomuceno and Concepcion Aguila Streets where the most prominent landmark is the National Teachers College. Here, Legarda becomes Nepomuceno and proceeds towards Arlegui and P. Casals.

Walking and parking in Quezon City: Tomas Morato

Continuing on the series featuring pedestrian and parking facilities in Quezon City, featured in this post is the case of Tomas Morato Ave. Like Visayas and West Avenues, the pedestrian sidewalks and off-street parking spaces along the avenue were constructed to address the lack of off-street parking facilities and sufficient pedestrian walkways along streets that had significant commercial development. It should be noted, however, that the lack of parking spaces is due likely to many establishments not complying with the minimum standards set under the National Building Code and City Hall’s approval of plans and construction despite this non-compliance (note: LGUs issue the building permit upon approval of plans including what is supposed to be a review of compliance to various standards.).

Morato-1A view of a stretch of Tomas Morato Ave. – note the absence of or weathered pavement markings and the vehicles parked at spaces constructed by the Quezon City government. Space was relatively more limited along Morato and so much of the spaces available were allocated for parking. Pedestrians, thus end up walking along whatever remained or along the edge of the carriageway.

Morato-2Establishments such as the many restaurants along the street. From a purely transport planning perspective, one wonders how these establishments were able to get approval from City Hall without having enough parking slots for their customers. These are not your neighborhood turo-turo or karinderya types and so they will generate a lot of vehicle traffic and require more parking spaces in addition to the token slots they provide.

Morato-3Some of the larger and older establishments along Morato already have sufficient parking spaces and these were upgraded by the LGU to have uniformity along the road.

Morato-4The off-street parking spaces definitely benefited traffic as road capacity is not reduced by on-street parking. There are still problems though especially during noon and night time when the restaurants generate traffic resulting to some vehicles parked or standing along the street.

Morato-5One issue along the street are public parking constructed using public funds being reserved by establishments such as this bank along Morato.

Morato-6Another case concerns slots reserved by restaurants like this one.

There are still issues concerning the construction of parking spaces for establishments who have not complied with building standards (minimum parking spaces). These issues are rooted on the use of public funds that otherwise could have been used for other, perhaps more important purposes such as healthcare or classrooms. However, one should not lose sight of the fact that there are benefits derived from these parking spaces from the perspective of traffic flow. Moreover, the inclusion of pedestrian facilities definitely enhance safety. These are benefits which are often quite difficult to quantify in monetary terms but contribute to better quality of life for the general public. Such projects also show that the city is doing something to improve public facilities unlike the cases of other LGUs that have sufficient revenues but seem to be lacking in the provision of similar infrastructure.

Airport parking

I’ve been to Metro Manila’s airport terminals quite frequently lately. It’s only March but I’ve traveled to Singapore twice, once using NAIA Terminal 2 for a Philippine Airlines flight in January, and again last February but using Terminal 3 for a Cebu Pacific flight. I’ve gone to Terminal 1 several times as I either dropped off or fetched the wife who flew in and out via either Singapore Airlines or Tiger Airways. Every time I went to any of the three airports, and especially when I was fetching someone, I couldn’t help but make some observations about the parking.

I’ve been to many airports including the huge modern ones in our neighboring countries. I must admit that I haven’t had the chance of using their parking facilities first hand. Most of the time I use public transportation from and to the terminals like when I use Changi or Suvarnabhumi. I have seen their parking buildings from the outside though. And I can say that my impression is that they are sufficient for their purpose whether their users be well wishers, people fetching relatives or friends, or travelers opting to leave their vehicles to return for them on their ways back.

I must say that the parking facilities of the three NAIA terminals can be viewed as a progressive case considering that there have been steady and obvious improvements when comparing features from Terminal 1 to 3. I won’t get into the technical aspects as qualitative assessment from fellow users like friends and colleagues point out that NAIA 1’s parking seem to be always full as with Terminal 2’s. The latter is quite unusual as it is used exclusively by PAL. Terminal 3 should have the largest capacity and this was expected for a terminal whose designers should have learned from the lessons of Terminals 1 and 2. However, in my recent trips to all three airports, my experiences have been quite the contrary in terms of finding a parking slot that is convenient enough; that is, not so far a walk from the respective terminal buildings.

It was surprising for me to find good parking slots in my most recent trips to NAIA 1 and 2. Meanwhile, parking at Terminal 3 seemed to be laborious especially considering the linear layout of the open parking facility. In that last sentence, allow me to emphasize open and add to it “outdoor” since Terminal 3 is supposed to have a multi-level parking building. This was supposed to be one of its features distinguishing it from 1 and 2. The problem is that airport officials have not given the go signal for this multi-level facility to be operational. This causes problems to airport users considering that there is a significant number of vehicles left by their owners for their return trips. These include overnight parkers who probably took a local trip with a schedule that prevented them from returning the same day. All these vehicles are parked along what should be a lane dedicated for traffic circulation. In fact, the line of parked vehicles extend all the way to the ramp leading to the entrance to the parking building.

Perhaps it is already time to open the parking building to the general public. It doesn’t take a genius to see that parking at NAIA 3 is already insufficient given the travel characteristics of its users. Operational costs including maintenance and security should not be a problem since users will be charged fees according to their parking durations. Also, a variety of services may be offered to users including cleaning like the ones offered in shopping malls and even quick repairs for those encountering some trouble with their engines or tires. It shouldn’t be so difficult to come up with a system for parking management that would enhance NAIA 3’s services. And it should be done now and not later.

I have other impressions of parking in the other terminals I have had the opportunity to use across the country including those of international airport in Mactan, Cebu and Davao. But these terminals do not generally serve as many people as Manila’s three terminals do so their assessments would have to be tempered against this backdrop.

Parking as an election issue – Conclusion

A couple of years ago, Quezon City embarked on several projects that led to the construction of pedestrian and parking facilities along its major roads. Pedestrian facilities include the nice, wide and well-lighted sidewalks along Tomas Morato, Panay Avenue and Visayas Avenue, the underpasses across the Elliptical Road (one connecting Quezon Memorial Circle with City Hall and the other with Philcoa), and several overpasses where the MMDA had not yet put up one. Parking slots were constructed near or in front of establishments located along streets such as Tomas Morato. These were perpendicular to the road and integrated with the pedestrian sidewalks to allow for unimpeded flow of person traffic. Upon completion, people need not have to walk on traffic lanes and be exposed to the risk of being side swiped or worse, ran over. It made sense for the walkways and parking spaces to be located in areas where there were not enough spaces. Morato, for example, was usually congested due to vehicles parked or waiting along the roadside, and pedestrians taking the road for lack of walking space.
Since all of the above infrastructure were projects implemented by the Quezon City government,  funding for these projects probably came from either the treasury of the LGU or sourced from loans such as the foreign kind. Whatever option was used, however,  it is clear that funds were drawn from or will eventually be charged to taxpayers’ money, most probably from the internal revenue allotment (IRA) of QC that is based in part from its outstanding tax collections during the 3 terms of the current, outgoing administration.
Last year, one councilor proposed that parking fees be imposed for use of the slots. That launched a firestorm of protests from fellow councilors, and groups claiming to represent the interests of the general public. Even the Roman Catholic Church pitched in with the bishop issuing a pastoral letter opposing the proposal for parking fees. Their argument against the proposed fees were anchored on the latter being anti-poor. This argument is at best peculiar considering that parking is not for the benefit of the poor but for those who owned cars. And it can be assumed that those who owned cars could afford the purchase and maintenance of those vehicles as well as the continuously increasing fuel prices. Thus, it can concluded that car owners are not to be classified as poor.
Public facilities are built using taxpayers’ money and are supposed to benefit the general public rather than the relatively fewer and privileged car owners. Funds used for the purpose of constructing parking facilities could have been used elsewhere including social and health care programs. However, parking spaces offer an opportunity for income generation that can be sustainable and could then be used to fund programs that were otherwise deprived of the budget they required due to the allocation of money for infrastructure that are not necessarily for everyone’s use (i.e., parking spaces).
In conclusion, it is clear that parking fees are not at all anti-poor and in fact can be used to generate revenues that will in turn fund programs that were deprived of budget. Further, the revenues generated are sustainable since they are by nature recurring and therefore it can be expected that such recurrence will translate into a steady source of funds for suitable use by the local government. In this case,   parking facilities may be regarded as an investment and one that is surely beneficial to the general public in the long term. Short-sighted politicians are quick to draw their guns on such and make claims to the effect of making themselves appear to be on the side of the poor. This is an obvious ruse that even the Church leadership has fallen for and demonstrated, in my opinion, their disconnection with fact and the realities in this day and age. It is only hoped that we would be able to elect leaders who are not at all ignorant of ways and means to provide for the needs of our fellowmen whether they be of the temporal or spiritual kind.

Parking as an election issue – Part 2

Parking or the lack of it for many establishments is partly due to the obsolete minimum parking provisions stipulated in the National Building Code. A review of this guide reveals extensive shortcomings that will always result in inadequate parking spaces when followed to the letter. In a recent project I was involved in, for example, following the NBC would have led to the conclusion (and God-forbid the recommendation) that 20 to 21 parking slots would be sufficient for a 245-bed hospital! Meanwhile, parking generation rates from abroad (Note: We don’t have local rates.) suggest a more realistic 431 slots.

Architects, engineers and developers are quick to interpret minimum parking space requirements as equivalent to the required number of slots. However, it is obvious that NBC minimum parking provisions will never be a sufficient basis for estimating the number of parking spaces to include in designs. Trip and parking generation rates have been developed in other countries and have been the basis for determining a suitable and reasonable number of parking spaces. These rates are based on trip or travel behavior and factors in typical dwell (parking) times for various types of land use. Thus, there are different parking generation rates for fast food joints when compared with fine dining restaurants. There are also different parking rates between condominiums and subdivisions, and the same applies to different types of offices.

The major shopping malls have become more aware of this and have provided more than enough parking spaces for car-using customers. In many cases, there is only the perception of parking being inadequate because drivers will also have preferences on parking space location within a lot or building. One shopping mall manager mentions that even during the Christmas holidays when mall trip generation typically peaks, their parking building’s top floors are not filled up and motorists would rather wait for slots on levels closer to the bridges to the mall.

One issue that is almost always raised by establishments regardless of type or size is the cost of providing parking spaces. Indeed, it is cheaper to mark spaces along the roadside or arrange for the use of vacant lots for the one’s purposes. But what happens when the same open lots are developed to make way for other buildings and road space is required to address traffic congestion? In the case of high rise condominiums, the cost of a parking slot is not included when one purchases a unit. The price of a slot can even be as much as a studio unit. Thus, residents would often resort to parking along streets or renting for overnight parking in nearby lots or buildings.

The experience in Makati has shown that parking can indeed become a serious problem. Makati streets were used as parking lots and office buildings could not accommodate the increasing number of vehicles owned by employees who were becoming more and more capable of buying cars. The latter is a natural phenomenon due to continuing economic development and the resulting increase in incomes. Those who can afford new cars would probably purchase one (or more) while those with less budget will acquire used vehicles. It took some time before Makati was able to build parking buildings and enforce strict roadside parking policies including pay parking managed by the city’s parking unit.

Schools are major traffic generators attracting many car users. Some campuses are fortunate that they have vacant lots or seldom used roads at their disposal. However, as one can see through fences, committing vacant lots to parking is not at all the wisest usage for such space. And as one song goes, should we “pave paradise to put up a parking lot?” On the other extreme, and there are many such cases, schools do not have the space for parking. One such school along Ortigas Avenue imposes its parking problems on the general public when cars and school service vehicles take up lanes along the major arterial as well as occupy sidewalks while waiting for their passengers.

For public places like churches, parks, markets and the like, accessibility to public transportation is often used as an excuse for not planning and providing for parking spaces. The argument is that since these are public spaces, they attract mostly commuters. What is not stated is the reality that these same public spaces also attract car and motorcycle users that when proportioned with commuters would require a significant number of parking spaces. This is very much the observation near places of worship, public markets and parks where traffic congestion is likely caused by vehicles parked along streets and even on sidewalks. [In many cases, there aren’t even sidewalks so people use the streets anyway.]

[Next: The case of Quezon City, and Conclusion]

Parking as an election issue – Part 1

A magazine article caught my attention the other day. A candidate for councilor of Quezon City, the largest city among the units comprising Metro Manila, mentioned that the candidate was against pay parking and that if elected will oppose all initiatives for pay parking in public places in the city. Further, the candidate made statements to the effect that free parking for churches, markets and schools should be guaranteed by the government.

While I am tempted to trash the candidate for being moronic in his/her view of such issues as parking fees, I will resist such temptation. Instead, I offer here my arguments “for” pay parking and let the reader assess for himself/herself if a stand against parking fees could hold water. First off, allow me to trace the origins of this issue. I believe it was last year when a local bill was filed at the Quezon City Council seeking to charge parking fees for parking slots constructed by the Quezon City government along major streets including Tomas Morato. If my recollection is correct, the parking spaces were part of a bigger project that also constructed decent sidewalks along the same streets. It is important to note here that these were projects funded by local funds and therefore were sourced from taxpayers money. It should also be noted that among the justifications for the project were the expected alleviation of congestion along the roads, considering that there was a propensity for on-street parking or waiting, and the lack of sidewalks have resulted in pedestrians also using the carriageway.

One aspect of the problem that was rarely if ever it was mentioned was the fact that the parking spaces were constructed in high activity areas where establishments failed to provide an adequate number of spaces for their customers or clients. Many of these are restaurants and shops (e.g., the ones along Morato) while there are also examples of schools and churches. I say “failed to provide” here because it is quite obvious to even the untrained observer that establishments like restaurants and bars attract many people. In the case of those along Morato, the people attracted are most often the ones who have cars. When you attract a lot of cars and do not have the spaces for them to park along, it doesn’t take a genius (or even a 6th grader) to arrive at the conclusion that there will be traffic congestion in the area. Such congestion is the result of cars being parked almost anywhere where there is open space and that includes part of if not an entire lane of the road.

[Next: Trip and parking generation concepts]