Thu, 29 May 2003

Motorists appreciate new system of parking

Zakki Hakim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

An unusual scene unfolded on Wednesday along Jl. Haji Agus Salim, Central Jakarta, where about 30 parking attendants appeared to be busy using handheld computers to collect parking fees from motorists.

At first, it seemed that both attendants and motorists were feeling awkward, because the first had trouble explaining the new system, while the latter had not the slightest clue of what was going on.

After extensive explanations from attendant coordinators, the motorists enthusiastically tried the new system.

"The system looks promising because it may guarantee that the parking fees go to where it should go. But we might have to wait and see," Manaf, a resident of Jatiwaringin, East Jakarta, told The Jakarta Post after trying the new system.

Debby, another motorist who lives in Menteng, Central Jakarta, said that the new system would cut down the chances of having to engage in fierce debates with the attendants over unclear parking fees.

"The new system allows me to pay parking fees within the official range, plus I get a receipt as proof," she said.

However, shop owners along the street, which is better known by its old name of Jl. Sabang, questioned the new system that imposed a fixed rate of Rp 1,000 per hour. As the shop owners themselves parked along the street during work days, they were worried that they might have to pay up to Rp 24,000 per day.

Ivan Valentino, a senior official at the city's parking agency, said that his men had explained to the shop owners that the new system only charged a maximum of Rp 5,000 per day, even if a car has been there for more than five hours.

"The shop owners accept our explanation for now, but we might soon work on something like membership cards, so that the system will be more efficient and beneficial for both the shop owners and the city administration," he said.

Eng Seng, a photo studio owner, said that it would be no problem if he parked his car on the street the entire day, but if he made several trip throughout the day, then he still might have to pay a lot.

"Well, this is a new system, so we might have to wait a while and see how it goes. But overall, I hope it works so the parking fees I pay go where they should," he said.

Wesley, a Saint John's high school student, said that he was reluctant to buy a parking voucher at first, because he thought it could only be used on Jl. Sabang, but the attendants explained that the system would soon be applied to four other streets in the city.

The new system will be in operation as of June 2 on the following streets: Jl. Bulevar Raya, Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta; Jl. Jatinegara Timur, East Jakarta; Jl. Gajah Mada, West Jakarta; and Jl. Raden Patah, South Jakarta.

The city administration prepared the cashless parking system jointly with PT Adiwira Sembada, the system's operator. The system requires motorists to use prepaid cards, or vouchers, to pay for their parking fees.

Kunto Wibisono, spokesperson for Adiwira Sembada, said the parking attendant would swipe the voucher on a modified Handspring Visor-brand Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), and a printer attached to the palm-sized computer would print out a receipt. The PDAs are each worth Rp 17.15 million (US$1990).

A technology expert had earlier questioned the price of the device, as a common handspring PDA costs only about Rp 1 million.

The vouchers, which have a Bank Artha Graha logo printed on them, carry a fixed value of Rp 10,000 each, and may be recharged.

Activists have criticized the system, saying the scheme would not ease the capital's traffic woes and had little hope of succeeding where other parking systems had failed.

Critics said the administration should impose a policy that would significantly reduce the number of cars plying the city's streets, instead of installing a system that still encourages on- street parking that only compounded traffic problems in Jakarta.