BEIJING – For Wang Ning, one of the biggest headaches about taking his 3-year-old son to play in Xuanwuyi Park on weekends was finding somewhere to park. Not any more.
Thanks to an initiative by Xicheng district, on Sunday the 31-year-old father was able to quickly find a space along Huaibaishu Street, an area usually reserved for government employees.
Authorities have made 110 spots outside offices used by municipal agencies available to the public, with hourly, daily or monthly fees.
“It’s a win-win strategy,” said Wang, who lives close to Xuanwuyi Park but drives to protect his son from the Beijing summer heat.
“Government employers take their cars home at night and on the weekend, which means these spots were going to be wasted. Now they can be used by residents.”
The parking lot is open from 6:30 pm to 7:30 am on weekdays and all day on weekends, an employee onsite who declined to be identified told China Daily.
“About 80 percent of the spaces have already been rented out on a monthly basis, which costs 150 yuan ($23). The renters are all nearby residents,” said the employee.
Wang said he is also thinking about renting because of the reasonable fees. “I know some neighbors have already chosen to park their cars here because there aren’t enough places outside our residential buildings,” he added.
The initiative, launched in May, is one of the government’s attempts to free up more parking lots and help ease the city’s chronic parking problem.
According to officials from Xicheng district, six parking lots, including the one in Huaibaishu Street, have been opened to the public this year, with more than 500 spaces.
“We’re urging more government agencies, enterprises and institutions to open private parking to the public,” Pan Bo, director of the parking facilities office at the municipal transportation administration bureau, said in a recent online interview.
The effort could provide more space downtown for local residents to park their cars at night, Pan said.
But for some residents, the new policy is not enough.
A 63-year-old driver who gave his name as Hu said he cannot take advantage of the policy.
“It’s impossible to park my car at those sites that are far away from my home,” he said, adding that the parking fee is “too high” for retired people like him to afford.
The Beijing government raised parking charges in non-residential areas in April to reduce the use of vehicles to ease traffic congestion.
However, statistics show the city still lacks parking lots.
In Xicheng district, there are about 412,000 vehicles, and 180,000 new parking spaces should be added to accommodate the district’s vehicles, Xinhua News Agency reported.
The district plans to build 18 parking lots with 5,477 spaces this year. The government also encourages rebuilding or expanding existing parking sites.