Saturday, 20 March 2010

Moscow jacks up parking fines by 1,000%

Roadhogs who block bus routes and pedestrian crossings are set to be hit with a huge increase in fines - but many feel that pushing penalties up 1,000 per cent will merely increase corruption.

Last week the city duma approved mayor Yury Luzhkov's proposals in a bid to curb chaotic parking around town and urged the federal government to impose similar charges nationwide.

"Originally, we suggested that a fine for parking on public transport stops, on zebra crossings and on sidewalks in areas where it could hamper pedestrians should be 5,000 roubles, but later we reduced the figure to 3,000 roubles", Vladimir Petrosyan, head of the city government's population's social protection department, said last week, RIA Novosti reported. "The fine for parking on spots designated for people with disabilities is also going to be 3,000 roubles."

Current fines are a paltry 300 roubles for parking on crossings and pavements, or 200 roubles for taking spots reserved for disabled people.

The new laws will also increase fines for blocking roads from 100 roubles to 500, while stopping or parking in a tunnel attracts a 3,000 rouble fine, up from 300.

According to Petrosyan, the measures are primarily aimed at protecting the rights of pedestrians and people with disabilities, including wheelchair users and guide dog owners.

"According to information from [the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate] GIBDD, increases in fines do discipline drivers", Petrosyan said. "Motorists shouldn't solve their problems at the expense of other people."

Motorists fear that higher fines will merely benefit corrupt traffic cops, who will see it as a fast lane to bigger bribes.

"In the current situation, when the level of corruption [among traffic police] is very high, such a step will only provoke more corruption instead of getting the parking situation in order," Sergei Kanayev, head of the Russian car owners' federation's Moscow office, told The Moscow News.

He suggested installing physical obstacles, including retractable bollards and barriers, would be a better solution to illegal parking - but also called for desperately needed extra parking

"If there are enough paid parking lots, like in those Western cities where the parking issue has been solved, then the introduction of high fines for unauthorized parking would probably make sense, but what good would it do if there is nearly impossible to park a car and there is basically no way around it, except for parking where it is prohibited?" Kanayev noted.

Mayor Luzhkov, in a separate interview on TVC, called on car park bosses to play a part by cutting their fees.

"200 roubles per hour is too expensive," Luzhkov said. "[Car park owners] don't understand that if they made the price 40 roubles, they would be always full."

Alexander Rybalko, a lawyer at the board of legal protection of vehicle owners, argued that the sudden hike in fines was unfair and could undermine trust in the authorities.

"The size of fines should be based on careful calculations, including those of people's incomes. One shouldn't just raise fines at a whim," he told The Moscow News. "It's possible to make fines very high, but is that going to be fair?"

Fair or not, Kanayev suggests that the fines are simply a revenue-boosting measure following the abolition of mandatory charges to retrieve vehicles towed away by the police.
Drivers looking to reclaim their car were charged 2,000 roubles per day to get it back until the law was changed in summer 2008 - but local authorities have been looking to reintroduce the measures since then to boost revenues.

"The Moscow government didn't dare to reintroduce the evacuation fee because that would provoke a lot of indignation in people at a crisis time", Kanayev commented. "So, they chose another way to achieve the same goal."

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