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July 25th, 2012:

Proposed parking scheme should be rejected

SCMP letter

Jul 25, 2012

While drivers welcome government plans to introduce new features at parking meters, such as allowing fees to be paid via mobile phone, pedestrians and residents of districts with chronic traffic congestion are appalled.

The Legislative Council paper on the trial scheme says that on-street “parking spaces are provided to cater for short-term parking needs. These parking spaces are normally metered to discourage prolonged parking.” Currently allocated times are 30 minutes to two hours, depending on conditions in the district.

Allowing drivers to use remote payment methods will encourage them to hog meters for hours on end, causing further congestion on our streets and will make life easier for valet parking operators monopolisingpublic facilities for private commercial purposes. The Transport and Housing Bureau will promise to supervise the parking meters to curtail abuse, but we have heard that before.

Not a single ticket has been issued for violation of the anti-idling engine legislation in more than six months. Street-side parking is the most popular option because of convenience and low fees, HK$2 for 15 minutes, undercutting higher rates at off-street car parks. Instead of encouraging drivers to park street side, officials should be taking measures to reduce on-street parking to generate new lanes and introduce multifold increases in meter charges that reflect the high cost of land. Forcing drivers into off-street parking facilities would reduce both air and noise pollution and make our streets more spacious and pleasant.

The focus of the bureau is as usual all on the convenience of motorists: “We will examine how the new generation of parking meters could allow greater flexibility in the charging mechanism and parking time arrangements to better serve the needs of the motorists.” No mention of benefits for the long-suffering pedestrian.

The streets belong to everyone and it is high time that what is best for the majority be the priority when implementing new measures. Instead of spending significant amounts on upgrading meters, that will never be recouped because of the low fees, our transport officials should concentrate on introducing congestion pricing to inner city districts to encourage goods deliveries to be executed outside peak hours and to discourage unnecessary incursions.

Hopefully, the members of the next Legco Transport Advisory Committee will get their priorities right and reject proposals inconsistent with the general public interest.

Mary Melville, Tsim Sha Tsui

Kids wheezing Down Under – what about those in HK?


Jul 25, 2012

There is less than cheery news from Australia on the subject of air pollution and child health.

A national study of 2,860 primary school children found nitrogen dioxide (NO2), found in motor vehicle exhaust, was present in the lungs of two-thirds of the children from the 55 schools tested, according to Melbourne’s The Age newspaper. Researchers found that vehicle pollution is giving otherwise healthy children asthma-like symptoms, potentially affecting their lung growth and function.

In cases where NO2 was found, children experienced ”asthma-like” symptoms, including wheezing. Their lung volume was reduced and their airways inflamed.

The study found that NO2 exposure was not producing typical asthma but a non-specific lung effect that did not improve with asthma medication.

The National Environment Protection Council commissioned the Australian Child Health and Air Pollution Study and noted that air pollution has a greater impact on children than adults.

Interestingly, that kind of report could not be produced in Hong Kong under the present structure of the Environmental Protection Department. So far as air pollution is concerned it just measures emissions and has no remit to concern itself with public health.

That is the concern of the Department of Health, which likewise does not concern itself with emissions. This is all part of the emasculation of the EPD that has occurred over the past decade. Critics argue that the EPD should have a clear public health remit.

It would be an interesting test of the government’s complacency over air pollution to conduct a similar survey on the health of children in Hong Kong.

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Government complacency over air quality and its effect on the population is matched by absurdity elsewhere.

We have seen extracts of a meeting that reported on the progress of street cleaning along Wan Po Road, which runs past Lohas Park to the landfill. This road has the distinction of being washed six times a day – eight times a day at Lohas Park. This is presumably because the residents don’t like refuse trucks running along the road. This is the problem with living in a residential development built in the middle of an industrial estate. But there is more.

Taxpayers will be delighted to hear that the trees along the road are washed regularly. This occurs under the watchful eye of none other than officers from the Environmental Protection Department