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Parking Meters Face Opposition

By Jesús Aguado

As we went to press, new official information on the topic of parking meters came out. While Sanmiguelenses prepare for the arrival of metered parking in the city’s Historic Center on March 1, a group of citizens and former government officials has emerged, calling for the cancellation of metered parking and the dissolution of the municipal body overseeing its implementation.

In response, Mayor Ricardo Villarreal has countered that metered parking is a balanced and necessary way to improve the city’s traffic problem, as well as suggesting that the ex government officials heading the opposition may have a different agenda.

No, No, No!

On Friday, February 23, close to 200 Sanmiguelenses—some of them former public servants and city councilors who are members of political parties, met at Parque Juárez to discuss ideas to convince the city to stop metered parking in Centro before it begins. At that meeting, the group agreed to send a document to the City Council, the State Council, the Federal Council and the Human Rights office, calling upon them to abandon charging for parking in the Historic Center. “No, no, no!” has become for some the rallying cry against the metered parking. Others suggested to appealing on grounds of unconstitutionality: “We have to defend ourselves. We have the right to park in the Centro for free.” Those present also agreed to place placards outside their homes and businesses in Centro, take part in a peaceful demonstration on February 28, and collect signatures (5,000 signatures until February 26,) on a petition to the City Council to dissolve the Mobility Council, the municipal group that has been overseeing the plans for metered parking in Centro, among other initiatives. (For more information, go to www.atencionsanmiguel.com)

Metered parking is scheduled to go into effect on March 1 in the city’s Historic Center, via a mobile app administered by COPEMSA, a parking meter company. The cost will be 10 pesos per hour for residents and 20 for visitors.

Yes, Yes, Yes!

In a message directed at Sanmiguelenses on his Facebook page, Ricardo Villarreal told residents that the new parking regime is set up to make those who want the luxury of parking in the Historic Center subsidize the cost of more economical options available to residents, like shuttle buses and parking lots at entry points to the city. He said the parking project won’t be stopped and that it has been taken “politically.”

“In the Historic Center, we have just 1,300 spaces for parking. More than 1,000 are occupied by people that used them for more than 12 hours (8am-8pm),” Villarreal’s page said. “This means that Sanmiguelenses and visitors have to drive in circles and fight for one of those 300 free spaces when we want to go to Centro. And actually, more than 60 percent of the traffic is generated from those looking for a parking space and not from those moving from one place to the other. I ask those who say that San Miguel must stay the same: do you really think that if we do nothing the problem will magically be solved? The answer is evident.”

The 20 proposals (including one for metered parking) to improve traffic problems in San Miguel that the Mobility Plan was based on went to Citizens’ Consultation, Villarreal also wrote, and more than 4,000 Sanmiguelenses voted in favor of them. In his message to residents, he asked those now against it: “Where were you? Why did you wait until now to demonstrate?” He claimed that many protesters “do not care if the city collapses” and are members of political parties seeking to attract votes in the July 2 municipal elections.

“When I was campaigning, I made the commitment to try my best to solve the problem in the city, and we are making it possible with bravery. We cannot be afraid and stop this plan. It will have some changes in the process, but we will never stop doing something because we are afraid. I truly believe that, little by little, this plan will work and that with proposals, we will improve it. Together we are constructing a better city for all of us.”

Recent Changes you Need to Know

While some continue to be opposed, we talked to Miguel Alceda, director of the Mobility Council, who told us about recent changes to the original plan and about the meetings he held with Centro residents to explain the following:

A) The parking at the Visitors’ Center on Paseo de los Conspiradores will be free for San Miguel residents. From there, for ten pesos, they can take a shuttle into Centro.

B) Residents without a garage will not pay for parking their car outside their house.

C) Residents with a garage can park a car outside their parking garage, and a second one for free.

D) People will not have to pay for parking during March, which will be a month to understand how to use the new system and the mobile app, based on the following calendar:

1.- March 1–30: COPEMSA will be on the streets distributing information about the Mobility Plan.

2.- March 10–20: people will be invited to download the application in order to understand how it works. If they do not have a smartphone, they will also receive a list of the places where they can pay in cash.

3.- March 20–30: drivers will be invited to pay for using the spaces on the streets on a per-hour basis (20 pesos visitors, 10 pesos Sanmiguelenses). If there are fines, they will be waived.

4. – Shuttles with round trips between the city’s main entrances and Centro will start running on March 10. Until March 30, they will be free; after that, the cost will be 10 pesos.

5. – Concerns or complaints should be directed to the Secretariat of the City Council’s offices at Paseo de los Conspiradores 30.

Putting the Issue in Context

Parking meters are only one part of a larger plan to improve the overall traffic situation that Villarreal’s administration has been working on since he took office in October, 2015. Officials point to the construction of free parking lots at entries to the city, the creation in the Historic Center of pedestrian-only zones, and public works such as the repaving of Paseo de los Conspiradores, creation of a four-lane road from the Pípila traffic circle to Malanquín, and the creation of a four-lane road from Puente Bicentenario to the junction with Dolores. San Miguel’s Traffic Department Director Samuel Mercadillo says that metered parking in the Historic Center has been an idea on the books since 2005. The city has been slowly moving toward parking regulation in Centro, he said.

On January 10, 2016, traffic department officers began a practice of removing vehicle plates off cars parked on certain streets in Centro for more than one hour, to discourage business owners and workers from taking up all available spaces on Centro’s streets. The Traffic Department also raised the fine for illegal parking from 146 to 730 pesos.

The Traffic Department did this after parking studies were conducted in 2015. Between October 19 and 21, 2015, parking studies showed that on certain streets (Jesús, Colegio, Reloj, San Francisco, and Murillo, among others) among 269 cars were parked over a 14-hour period, and only 26 left their spaces, Mercadillo said. The study also found that 375 vehicles spent the night on those Centro streets. “They must belong to people who live nearby,” he said.

In total, there are only 1,351 parking spots in San Miguel’s World Heritage area and its buffer streets. There are 1,806 more in the 20 public parking lots. Mercadillo cited National Institute of Statistics numbers recording 38,871 vehicles residing in San Miguel in 2014.

In April, 2017, Sanmiguelenses were invited to vote on 20 proposed measures. More than 4,000 voted yes; 1,000 voted no.

On August 30, the City Council approved the new traffic regulations, including parking meters in the Historic District. It also voted to create a Mobility Council with civilians and representatives from the government. On this council are: Hotels Association representative Laura Torres, Restaurants Association representative Paolo Bizzoto, Francisco García from the Consejo Turístico, Ivar Shake, and former mayor Luz María Núñez Flores—who was behind the Mobility Plan.

The Mobility Council’s mission, according to Núñez Flores, is supervising implementation of the Mobility Plan and deciding how to spend money collected by the plan’s measures, always toward improving the city.

 

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