The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, states that for many problems or challenges, 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the cause
PHNOM PHENH (Khmer Times) – With the rise of Cambodia’s middle class and the concomitant increase in the volume of cars imported each year, the long-standing problem of chaotic parking in Phnom Penh is set to grow dramatically.
Although the planned new fly-overs along Russian Boulevard will be welcomed by the motoring public, they have the potential to exacerbate the parking problem by dumping more cars into the city center over a shorter time frame, all of which will need to park somewhere.
To be sure public parking stations are needed, but unless the private sector funds them, the prospect of seeing them any time soon is slim. Low-cost solutions deigned to make best use of the currently available space should obviously be looked at first.
There are many factors contributing to the lack of parking in the capital. Undoubtedly well-designed research is needed and solutions need to be applied based on empirical evidence of the causes.
Some of the causes however, are pretty clear to even the casual observer and do not require a team of researchers or consultants to state the bleedingly obvious. There is scope for the Minister of Public Works and Transport and the police to start to do something about the issue in the meantime.
Fifteen Thousand Tuk-tuks
There is no doubt that tuk-tuks provide a low-cost, effective way of moving people around the city. They are highly maneuverable and provide employment for many drivers, but the reality is that there are way too many of them.
According to the Secretary General of Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association (IDEA), Heng Sam Oun, a union which represents tuk-tuk drivers, there were approximately 15,000 tuk-tuks in Phnom Penh in 2013. No current figures are available.
Unlike most countries, where taxi licenses are regulated, anybody with around $1,400 to spend can buy a tuk-tuk and set themselves up in business.
While some drivers are industrious, many just use the vehicle as a platform for drinking and playing cards, or to escape a wife that wants them to get a job. The riverside end of Street 178 is a good example of this, with a long line of tuk-tuks clogging a narrow street each day, the drivers mostly socializing with each other.
The problem with this is the already limited parking spaces are often occupied by vehicles that have little purpose but to provide a sleeping booth for the driver. Because of the limited parking, they regularly stop in traffic lanes, forcing traffic to converge into other lanes to get around them.
The number of tuk-tuks needs to be gradually reduced by licensing, vehicle inspection and natural attrition, with a moratorium on new licenses being issued. Tuk-tuks should also be allocated designated areas in which to operate.
Ironically Norodom Boulevard, which is supposedly off-limits to tuk-tuks, is one of the more suitable parking areas because it has wide footpaths that are not encroached onto by businesses.
Business Encroachment onto Footpaths
Throughout the city, businesses like metal fabricators, body shops, window manufacturers and many others spill from shop-fronts onto the sidewalk, forcing pedestrians onto busy roadways. This prevents off-street parking, where it is available.
Any of the capital’s businesses that have the potential to obstruct parking or pedestrians should, over time, be relocated to industrial estates, which must be factored into the city’s future urban planning.
Used Car Sales
The Daun Penh area, extending from Psar Chas across Norodom Boulevard to Freedom Park is the site of between 300 to 400 used cars waiting for sale each day, many of which are double- or triple-parked. There is no justification for this, except for the dollar-a-day levy extracted from the vendors by Daun Penh security guards.
The used car trade should be relocated across the Chroy Changvar Bridge into sheds or open areas more suited to the purpose.
Weddings and Funerals
Even allowing for tradition, it’s difficult to understand why wedding and funeral marquees are allowed to be erected in busy city streets. Khmer residents suggest this is more about the payments made to local government officials than anything else.
The King should be consulted about the prospect of re-opening Sothearos Boulevard where it passes in front of the Royal Palace. It would ease traffic congestion on riverside and provide valuable parking spaces for motorists. There seems to be no obvious reason to keep it closed.
Some Not-So-Hard Decisions Needed
Most capital cities have traffic problems and limited parking. Phnom Penh, however, is a relatively small capital city by international standards and is blessed with many wide boulevards, a legacy of the French colonial era.
These once-gorgeous wide avenues provide a great base for restoring some public amenity. Why are we determined to let them become narrow thoroughfares through unregulated parking?
With a little thought, planning and effort we could at least try to manage some of the chaotic parking on our city’s streets.