25 October 2007

Leave the car at home

I said this was going to happen, I knew this was going to happen, and I got it right: the Municipality is finally going to take some of those unpopular post-election measures that we need to get rid of the downtown traffic chaos. And the answer is...

... toll parking!

We've had toll parking for several years in Rosario, but only along some selected segments of certain streets in the downtown area. If I'm not mistaken (not having a car this is not something I pay attention to) the price was AR$1.20/hour, really cheap, especially compared to parking lots, which aren't enough anyway.

Mayor Lifschitz's plan, however, is much grander. He wants toll parking in the microcentro (i.e. the denser part of downtown) at 3 pesos per hour, the rest of downtown will be at 2 pesos per hour, and the first urban ring outside downtown at 1 peso; this, combined with a complete prohibition to park along several important streets that tend to get clogged by cars, taxis and buses. If the Deliberative Council approves the bill, toll parking it will be managed by a private company, which will have to put up signs, paint the curbs yellow to indicate forbidden spaces, and look for offenders.

As soon as they learned about this, the representatives of the shop owners cried out: "They're going to turn the downtown into a desert!", and the opposition councilmember Osvaldo Miatello said the plan was "savagery". They pointed out that, when the municipality banned traffic and parking in a small part of the microcentro in 2002, the shops saw their sales plummet. (It didn't occur to them, it seems, than in 2002 Argentina had over half its population below the poverty line — hardly a good time for business, no?), and when the municipality then loosened those restrictions the shop started getting record profits (hello, economic recovery?!).

According to these people, unless shoppers are allowed to get into the downtown with their cars and park them no more than ten short steps from the shop where they want to buy, they'll stay at home, refusing to take the bus or a taxi, refusing to pay three lousy pesos for the comfort of using the car, and refusing to walk even one or two blocks. The downtown will become uncompetitive and an empty shell and people will flee to the shopping malls outside the city center and for the shop owners there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth... Puh-leez!

The only problem that shops face today is the high cost of rented spaces (and even so, the gloomy forecasts I reported in May seem to have been wrong, fortunately). People are living a consumerist fever. Everything costs a lot and goes up, and we keep on buying stuff, probably because we guess that saving is useless...

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