In what might become a regular feature of the blog, I start today with a suggestion that truly can only be described as doomed. Not because it’s a bad idea, mind you, I don’t think it is, and I’ve had some support. Simply put, it is doomed because no one will ever, ever take the initiative to put it into action, for a variety of reasons I’m sure you’ll be able to surmise yourselves, once I tell you what it is.
Some background: No one can be unaware of the parking dilemma in Syria. With the lowering of taxes and tariffs on imported cars, as well as the banking sector offering car loans to finance car purchases, the market and streets both flooded with automotive vehicles. Despite the high price of gas, everyone and their cousin got one, two, three cars in appreciation for the prices dropping so dramatically.
The one problem no one seemed to have anticipated was the fact that all these cars would need to go somewhere when no one was driving them. Since underground parking garages were outlawed until relatively recently as they posed a security risk, only a percentage of buildings offer their tenants indoor parking, leaving the streets the only available parking spaces.
As the previously famed wide streets of the new areas in Damascus got tighter and tighter due to all the parked cars, it was clear that regulation was in order. The government stepped up, making certain areas into paid parking only areas, and instructing police officers to ticket people who parked their cars on the sidewalks in some areas, and who even stopped their cars while they were still in it in others. This was all well and good, except for one extreme flaw: The government has offered us no alternative.
A definite air of outrage is in the city: if the sidewalks are off limits, streets are only going to get tighter, since we will all have to parallel park on the street itself. This may look more civilized (definitely so: I used to be mortified when I was in Canada and I would see newly arrived immigrants from the developing world try to park right on the green sod side walks of certain suburbs), but it is less space efficient, and does not take into account that now people need to park further and further away just to park at all.
As for ticketing people simply stopping in certain areas, the police have taken this to extremes, I believe. I have had to apologize to friends who dropped me off on the few occasions I go to the Forward distribution offices in Marjeh Square, as simply stopping to let me get out of the vehicle is all the provocation certain police officers need to swagger over and start registering the vehicle’s information.
So, this is my doomed suggestion, which I came up with while sitting in Costa Abu Rumaneh one day. There are certain government owned buildings that either serve no purpose, or are redundant within the same area. To me, I feel that since the Dar as-Salam and Adelah Bayham girl’s highschools are so close to the Sati’ al-Hassari school, that Sati’ can effectively be vacated and transformed into multi-level parking for the entire area. The government would make money off the project, selling hourly, daily, and monthly subscriptions. Resident’s of the area would finally have a place to put their car overnight, and since Abu Rumaneh is a bit of a restaurant district, people looking for a place to park their car will suddenly not have to walk millions and millions of miles to find a spot (I exaggerate only slightly: It really has become more efficient to simply walk or take a taxi to these restaurants).
The few objections I have been able to come up with for this scheme are: schools are already overcrowded, and the government may not have the funding for these kinds of projects. For the first, I only suggested Sati’ in this one case because it seems redundant in the area. It can be any old government building that is not being used to capacity or full efficiency. I also think that, if a lot of schools get torn down for this purpose, public schooling could be part of the decentralization happening in Damascus anyway. Perhaps the money gained from these parking garages could supplement the building of schools away from the downtown area, and children could be bussed there. The new building projects could be designed as schools to begin with, rather than converted residential buildings as they are now, and those about to complain that the bussing is inefficient probably don’t realize, or conveniently forget, that the students are already being bussed in to these schools. They’re already riding the bus, let them ride it away from the center of town.
As for the second, since the government already owns the buildings, and since they are already making money off the other Syria Park projects already in effect, I don’t see how that’s a valid argument. For the sake of not dismissing it completely, though, here is my solution: Bring in the private sector. The government can license these private companies for the projects, therefore maintaining control, and it could be a new avenue for investment for private businessmen, one that would serve an already established need.
Well that is it for the first installment of the Suggestion Box of Doomed Ideas. Let us know what you think of this one, and perhaps email your other doomed suggestions to the blog, and we’ll write up another installment.
Filed under: Opinion, Reform in Syria, Social life in Syria, Thoughts | Tagged: Adelah Bayhem, bussing, Damascus, Dar es-Salam, deserted, desperate, Forward Magazine, government, government building, high school, parking, parking violations, police, police men, private sector, Sati' al-Hasseri, schools, stopping, students, Syria, Syria Park projects, tickets |