Parking has become the biggest problem in the centre of Bratislava. More than 160,000 cars frequent the capital, an increase of 60,000 compared with 1990. But while the number of cars is growing, the centre has not changed to accomdate them, resulting in traffic congestion and complaints from pedestrians about the cars parked on sidewalks and grass plots.
Nobody is eager to build large garages, since they require significant investments and afford only low rates of return. The price for one parking space in an underground garage in the centre has reached 500,000 to 700,000 crowns. But Alexia, the only underground garage in the centre, remains half-empty due to the difference between prices for parking in the garage and on the street (where one pays only 5 crowns per hour). At present, new garages are under construction on Hviezoslavovo Square, Uršulínska Street and M. Benka Square, and the city is considering a plan to cancel an equivalent number of street parking spaces.
The problem is also one of traffic patterns. More than 14% of parking lots are permanently occupied by cars which do not move. Thousands of cars park illegally on a daily basis, but only 100 to 150 cars can be blocked or towed away by the police every day. Only 36% of cars actually carry one or more passengers when driving to the centre. Most companies ignore their emplyees' parking problems, believing instead that this problem will be solved by the city.
During the last six months, some changes to parking conditions have been prepared in the Old Town, in particular for restricted traffic zones. Old Town City Council is about to make use of the above data in its search for the best type of parking for every street and for all forms of traffic.
Firstly, the development of a new zone with regulated parking should improve downtown parking conditions. Local authorities will make every effort to lower the number of cars in the centre by preferring public transport over cars. The ratio of transport capacities, (75 to 25 in favour of public transport) is already very good in Bratislava and is admired by many western European cities. This ratio can be improved even further by 'Park and Go' parking areas on the borders of the new regulated parking zone, while access to residential areas will be restricted to residents and employees working there.
A new system of road signs should also be established to direct drivers to free parking areas and garages and lower the number of cars circulating haphazardly to find free parking spots. At present, street parking represents a crucial part of static traffic. However, up to 15% of vehicles are parked on the streets for long times, blocking access by other vehicles. The possibility of using parking places at the rear and inside blocks of flats will be investigated.
Milan Vajda is the spokesman for the Bratislava Old Town District Mayor. His column appears monthly. Send comments or questions to email@example.com.