Taipei City introduces special zones for commercial vehicles to load and unload.
In an attempt to ease the city's chronic parking problems, the Taipei City Government has been getting out the blue paint. Popping up around the city since last July have been new blue zones for commercial vehicles, 509 such zones to be exact. The idea is to reserve these areas for vehicles that need to load or unload, thus preventing double-parking and reducing traffic congestion.
But in the past nine months, theory has not quite translated into reality. The massive fines paid out by express delivery companies such as DHL and Federal Express attest to the still-high prevalence of tow-aways. DHL estimates it paid nearly NT$3 million (over US$86,000) last year in fines in Taipei. Ironically, even more penalties were imposed in the second half of the year, when the new blue zones were being put into operation, than in the first.
Among the flaws in the plan seems to be the number and location of the blue zones. Only 224 of them (just 44 percent of the total) are located along major roads. The rest appear to be tucked away in existing parking lots where scarcity of space is less of an issue.
"We hardly use the zones because they're hard to get to," says Phil Yang, general manager of DHL Taiwan. He says that on the average each of his couriers manages to make use of a blue zone just once out of the normal 35-plus stops per day.
The problem is not just the zones' number and location, but also enforcement. According to the city government's parking management office, the goal is to have the zones "enforced" every 15 minutes to ensure that only legitimate loading vehicles use them. That clearly doesn't happen and is considered a benchmark that's almost impossible to reach anyway.
Despite the shortcomings, however, representatives of the transport industry say the blue zones are a step in the right direction and they congratulate the city government for the initiative. But they suggest that regular parking places in public lots could be better managed by parking meters than through hand-written vouchers, thus freeing inspectors to devote more time to monitoring red, yellow, and blue zones.