Kampala. Ms Stella Nabiryo, 38, resides in Gayaza and operates a shop dealing in men’s ware at Titanic Plaza on Johnstone Street. She drives a Toyota Spacio which she parks at Mabirizi Complex parking lot on Kampala Road from Monday to Saturday, and she pays Shs8,000 daily as parking fees, which translates into Shs192,000 per month. She, however, decries the high parking charges.
Ms Nabiryo says she parks at Mabirizi Complex because her current workplace has no parking space, besides, its proximity makes it convenient for her because she does not have to move a long distance.
She notes that the car owners park there at their own risk.
“I used to park on streets but I would replace headlight bulbs almost every week because thugs used to pluck them (off). There is no one to watch over the car on street. But even if I shifted to Mabirizi Complex, my heart isn’t settled because there is no assurance about the security of my car,” she says.
Ms Nabiryo’s fear is shared by many city motorists who are grappling with the parking challenge, or have had their cars stolen.
For instance, Mr Joshua Mukalazi, another businessman who operates an electronics shop at Yamaha Centre on Luwum Street is yet to find his Toyota Premio, which he says was stolen from Wilson Road, two weeks ago.
“I reported the matter to Police and they said they would do their best to track it, but they asked me to also continue with the search,” he says.
Majority of people working in Kampala have limited parking spaces at their working places hence they either park on streets or in other private parking spaces.
Mr Luke Owoyesigyire, the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, acknowledges that majority of cars are stolen from the streets.
“Most parking businesses have no security hence they become vulnerable to thieves. As police, we have managed to recover stolen cars and our search for those that are still missing is on. However, we advise car owners to instal parking devices in their cars to enable us track them,” he says.
The defunct Kampala City Council (KCC) awarded the contract to manage the city streets parking spaces to Multiplex (U) Ltd on September 1, 2017. Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) later renewed their contract until 2020 but the contract only covers Kampala Central Division.
Currently, anyone who parks at any gazetted space in Kampala Central Division is supposed to pay Shs1,000 per hour, and this only applies to the first two hours. If one spends 30 minutes parking in the same place after the first two hours, they are expected to pay an additional Shs800.
This means that if you park your car for eight hours, you will be required to pay Shs11,600; Shs2,000 for the first two hours and Shs9,600 for the extra six hours.
Until August last year, Multiplex (U) Ltd was charging Shs400 per hour but KCCA increased the fees to meet their financial targets.
However, just like many other private parking businesses, Multiplex (U) Ltd does not take responsibility of stolen cars. But even then, the available parking spaces in the Central Division are small compared to the number of cars whose owners park on streets.
While announcing the new street parking charges last year, KCCA’s director of Roads, Mr Jacob Byamukama, told journalists that there are 45,000 parking spaces in the Central Division.
He also revealed that there are about 25,000 illegal street parking spaces in the city. This, coupled with the illegal boda boda and taxi stages, makes traffic jam inevitable.
Though KCCA recently directed Multiplex (U) Ltd to start operating in other divisions such as Kawempe and Makindye, councillors rejected the directive, arguing that the council is not aware.
This means that motorists should brace for more tough time because as more people buy cars, the demand for parking spaces grows daily.
Just like street parking, city shopping malls are not spared either, which makes it difficult for tenants who own cars to find parking space. Most of the city shopping malls visited by Daily Monitor in downtown Kampala have less that 100 parking slots in their parking spaces.
Some car owners and managers of parking lots say there are times when most of the parking lots in the city centre are full, which compels them to drive out of the city to look for parking.
“The major problem is that all the parking lots you see around town have limited space and that is why most of them accommodate between 100 and 150 cars only,” Mr Patrick Nyombi, a car dealer, says.
Amanda Ngabirano, a planning expert who also teaches Urban Planning at Makerere University, blames the confusion of Kampala’s parking spaces on poor planning, which she says continues to paint a bleak picture on the city’s status, if not streamlined.
Although parking spaces are a component of the transport system, Ms Ngabirano says, KCCA lacks policies on transport and parking which would help to mitigate the current challenges.
“People should be driving in Kampala just to drop and pick but not to park for hours on streets. But where are the designated parking spaces? For instance, parking complexes have to be built on major roads such as Entebbe, Jinja Road, Bombo Road and Hoima Road, among others, where people going to town for work can park their cars and pick them in the evening,” she says.
She further notes that more parking space in the city can only be realised if traffic flow is controlled in the city, adding that parking is not supposed to be along the road but rather in complexes which must be systematically planned.
Parking, Ms Ngabirano acknowledges, remains a global challenge. But she says cities have planned for transport in line with the different developments such as housing units, schools, hospitals, shopping malls and industries, among others.
“For instance, the parking policy does not allow parking in malls because this definitely inconveniences other road users especially when cars are exiting to connect to the main road. But does KCCA have a parking policy?” she asks.
Mr Peter Kaujju, the KCCA’s director of public and corporate affairs, says plans are in offing to increase Kampala’s parking spaces.
He says KCCA signed a contract with an international company a couple of months ago to redevelop the New Taxi Park by constructing levels to work as parking space.
Our one-week survey revealed that out of about 300 people working in one shopping mall, at least 50 of them have cars.
But owners of the malls also allow non-tenants to use the parking, making the spaces competitive.
Whether one is a tenant of a particular shopping mall or not, they are supposed to pay parking fees. According to our survey, most malls charge between Shs6,000 and Shs8,000 per day.
However, most of the property owners altered original plans of their structures and ended up replacing parking spaces with shops, leaving their tenants stranded as they have to look for parking elsewhere. This, traders say, is cumbersome.
When we visited Cham Towers on Kampala Road, we were told that parking fees for the whole day is Shs6,000 while parking at the Equatorial Mall parking lot on Bombo Road for one day costs Shs8,000.
But at Pioneer Mall, which sits on Wilson Road and Burton Street, next to Mapeera House, the rates are different. For instance, they charge Shs3,000 for the first hour and Shs1,000 for the extra hours while their night parking goes for Shs4,000.