By Tayo Ogunbiyi
Being a coastal area, surrounded by bodies of water, land remains a goldmine in Lagos State. Hence, anyone that has a space wants to maximize its benefits to the maximum. Economically, this has its good sides, especially for the landowners. However, it also has negative effects. Years ago, every modern residential building used to have either garage or ample parking space for visitors and ply area or recreation areas for the residents. Offices/ business organizations were also situated in such a way that customers/clients parking needs are catered for.
However, what do we have today? We have a situation where residents park on either sides of the road. While some property owners or developers do not have enough parking spaces on their building plan, some converted areas marked for parking to rows of shops with total disregard for town planning. Presently, new estates are springing up across the state without addressing the same issue, while developers are pulling down old houses daily at key locations in the State. In most Business Districts, skyscrapers are coming up without adequate or no car parks.
This unwholesome habit results in pedestrians struggling with vehicles to move on the narrow path remaining on those roads after residents have used a side for car park. This situation has severally resulted in accidents and untold hardship for pedestrians and commuters alike. If the traffic situation in the state is to improve, the issue of illegal parking must be fully addressed. A recent study conducted by the Lagos State Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, LAMATA, has shown that a major cause of traffic jam in the metropolis is street parking. The study further revealed that no fewer than 10 vehicles vied for parking spaces every 10 seconds at every street in the state. This has often left most streets clogged with motor vehicles, with many being parked at the roadside, or on the walkways, while others had to make do with double parking, leading to traffic jams especially at the peak hours. It is, thus, with a view to addressing the menace that the Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration established the Lagos State Parking Authority (LASPA) by an Act of the Lagos House of Assembly in 2019, with a major goal of promoting parking policies in the state in line with international standards practice. A seed sown during the administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and finally brought to life by the visionary and focused Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, LASPA has been making concrete efforts to tackle the menace of haphazard parking in the state.
As the regulatory authority on all forms of parking, the agency is laying the foundation for a system that would demand a change in the residents’ parking culture. This is in tandem with the Sanwo-Olu administration’s agenda of attaining a ‘Greater Lagos’. According to LASPA’s General Manager, Mrs. Adebisi Adelabu, the organization has developed road map to ensure that every part of the state feels its impact. She said: “It is a rare privilege and a humbling experience for me to be steering this organisation to the fulfilment of its purpose. I call on relevant stakeholders to collaborate with us to attain the Lagos that we all envision”. The major reasons for regulating parking in Lagos are to regulate and manage all forms of parking (both private and public), register all the existing private and public car parks and sensitize the public on parking.
Others include implementing policies and directives of the state for the provision, maintenance and management of parking, to charge fees on parking, issue parking permit and conduct parking enforcement. A major pre-occupation of LASPA is to provide an enabling environment for vehicle owners in a secured, functional, orderly and sustainable parking management system scheme. “Parking will take steady steps towards technology adoption. These technologies will overhaul how Lagosians view parking and ultimately change their parking culture”, the General Manager noted. In line with the Sanwo-Olu administration’s policy of transforming Lagos into a 21st century economy, the government has empowered LASPA to setup and operate a more efficient parking system. The responsibilities of the organisation include, among others, minimizing indiscriminate parking induced gridlocks across the state, mitigation of valuable business hours being wasted in traffic, eliminating touting system in the parking sector and redesigning and restructuring the current parking culture.
Others include employment generation, regulating/charging appropriate fees on all forms of parking across the state, implementation of the statewide parking policies and ultimately boosting the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). Thus far, LASPA has expanded its scope of operation to include on street parking. This is the kind of parking done on one side of a carriageway or two sides of a dual carriageway, depending on the width of the road in question. To be able to accommodate on-street parking, a road must be up to 9.5meters in width minimum.
In addition, vehicles must be parked facing the direction of traffic. In highbrow areas and CBDs, on-street parking, according to LASPA, will be limited to 2 hours areas on normal charges. Extra hours attract higher charges. LASPA is also engaged in off street parking, a kind of parking that is arranged off the carriageways. It includes ground parking lots, multilevel parking lots and setbacks (a setback is the space between the fence of a property and the walkway. Government owns setbacks. Therefore, users will have to pay for the usage to LASPA.) In the words of LASPA General Manager, “All multinationals and their distributors must register with LASPA and get a permit for their fleet to enhance regulatory compliance and ensure eradication of indiscriminate parking”. LASPA, through its enforcement team, authorized parking in all areas designated for parking, commercial and private to ensure efficient service and compliance to the stipulated guidelines as set by the Authority. The team is also engaged in collection and collation of data through mobile app in readiness for reporting. It equally submits up to date information on the level of activities at concession zones and parks to enable adjustments to the strategic 5years plan.
Overall, LASPA is making efforts to ensure the menace caused by inappropriate parking in the state is reduced. This is being done by monitoring overstay and illegal parking via real-time technology. LASPA has been optimizing parking space and making processes efficient by giving real-time car parking information such as vehicle and slot counts, available slots display, reserved parking and pay-and-park options among others. According to International Parking Institute, IPI, the U.S. parking industry generates more than $25-30 billion in gross parking revenues. Also in South Africa, the parking industry contributes more than 8%to their gross domestic product, GDP. A recent statistics by Federal Road safety commission, FRSC, also reveals that there are more than 13million active vehicles plying Nigerian roads, of which more than 2million are in Lagos. All these data point to the available of an untapped market here in Lagos concerning car/vehicle parking.
Undoubtedly, more organized parking process within the state will not only prove to be an income generator, but such could also help in reducing traffic congestion. This is what LASPA is set up to achieve. With the cooperation of all stakeholders, the organization’s current efforts at addressing indiscriminate parking will create an enabling environment for everybody to live, thereby improving the condition of living of Lagos residents.
Ogunbiyi is Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja