George Town parking crunch coming

The closing or restricting of several parking areas in George Town will have motorists scouring the roads for a place to park in the coming weeks.

The Ministry of Planning issued a press release this week advising the public that the temporary Elgin Avenue parking lot between the Glass House and Cricket Square will be closed in early 2008 to allow for construction to begin on the new Government Administration Building.

‘Government apologises for any inconvenience this might cause those who’ve been utilising the free parking at their temporary lot and they encourage drivers to find alternative parking for the New Year,’ the press release states.

The press release suggests no alternative parking areas for the public. However, the Ministry of Planning’s Manger Communications & Public Relations Angelique Crowther acknowledged the coming problem when asked about it.

‘There is definitely going to be a crunch for free, public parking once the temporary lot beside Glass House is shut,’ she said.

The closure of the Elgin Avenue parking lot occurs at a time when changes have occurred to several other parking areas used by the public. Most of parking spaces in the lot behind the George Town Library are now gone due to the building’s expansion. Several parking spaces around the clock tower have been removed, too.

In addition, parking at the Bayshore Mall will become regulated, possibly as soon as next week. Kirk Freeport Vice President of Operations Chris Kirkconnell said many office workers in George Town are using the mall’s parking lot for all-day parking.

‘It’s getting so bad our customers have no place to park,’ he said.

Until now, Bayshore Mall has employed security guards until 9am to try to prevent George Town office workers from parking there all day, Mr. Kirkconnell said. However, in the future, the car park will become a pay lot. It will have the same parking fee structure as Owen Roberts International Airport, which charges $2 per hour or part of an hour.

People who spend less than 15 minutes in the Bayshore car park will not be charged, and customers who buy something in one of the stores will have their tickets validated for free parking, Mr. Kirkconnell said.

‘We understand the parking situation in George Town,’ he said. ‘We’re not doing this because we’re trying to gouge anyone, but more as a way to regulate the parking.’

The Bayshore lot will be regulated Monday through Saturday, but probably not on Sundays when none of the stores are open, Mr. Kirkconnell said.

One place where some motorists could find monthly parking in January is the Piccadilly Car Park. Between 40 and 50 spaces are available at the multi-story car park at a cost of $100 per month, a spokesman for the owner said.

Other than Piccadilly, few other parking options are available for people who cannot park in company car parks.

Government employees at the Glass House and Immigration will be able to park in the new paved lot behind Immigration. They will be provided with electronic parking tokens allowing them free access to the lot.

There will also be a limited number of spaces for visitors to the Glass House and Immigration. Visitors can obtain a one-hour ticket that must be validated by Glass House or Immigration staff to avoid a $25 fine.

The Government is mulling several options to address the George Town parking problem on a long-term basis, said Minister of Infrastructure Arden McLean.

‘We do have a problem with parking as a result of the absence of planning for many, many years,’ he said. ‘Now we’ve reached crunch time and it’s one of the dilemmas this country is facing that we’ll have to deal with.’

Mr. McLean said that once the new government office accommodation project is completed the plan is to tear down the Glass House and make it a park.

‘My suggestion would be that maybe they can put some parking next to the park,’ he said.

Mr. McLean also suggested the possibility of a park-and-ride system where people would park somewhere close to George Town and then take some sort of arranged transportation into town.

‘We’d have to look to see if there are any available properties close to town,’ he said. ‘Possibly the cricket pitch could be used, but we’d have to check with civil aviation to see if that is possible.’

Bayshore might also help ease the parking problem in time, Mr. Kirkconnell said.

‘The long-term plan – like in Phase 3 – is to build a multi-storey car park encompassing some long-term parking,’ he said.

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