After struggling to find her way to a marked parking space, Thuy eventually found one right in front of a flower shop.
“That was the only space left for parking my car,” Thuy, who comes from the northern town of Ha Long, said. Allegedly, she was only trying to visit a local bank for some paperwork and had not violated any parking laws, Thuy decided to ignore the shop employee’s harsh words.
But then an employee from the flower shop physically assaulted her, arguing that her car taking up space was deterring potential customers away from the store. “She hit me and threw my phone away,” she said.
The incident ended with an official legal complaint issued by Thuy to the local police department, accusing the store of assault and destruction of property.
Thuy is not alone as many motorists are finding it harder to find available parking these days thanks to the glut of personal cars now being used.
“If a building has 70 people inside, then 67 or 68 of them already use cars. With that many cars, all two sides of the road are filled with paring and there’s no extra room,” she said.
Owning a car in a densely populated residential area is often considered a burden. It’s even become the source of many conflicts. Duong, a barber in Vinh Phuc, said he was physically assaulted by a neighbor because they were having trouble moving past his car – parked on the street, during a medical emergency.
Recently, an ex-traffic police officer in Da Nang was sentenced to 6 years in prison for firing a gun during a conflict about parking spots. The car owner was confronted by two PVCombank security guards when his car was parked in front of the bank, blocking the way into the building’s basement.
The argument eventually gave way to something more serious, as the ex-traffic police pulled out a gun and shot the two guards. Other methods of harm such as vandalizing cares with paint and shrimp paste, as well as breaking windshields and stealing side mirrors are all common occurrences these days.
Not even parking inside doesn’t not guarantee safety, especially for people living in apartments, such as Trang. “I thought that I would get a parking space to go with my apartment, but after a while, I realized there was none. It’s because some families have 3-4 cars that they need to park.”
Trang’s apartment is in a 27-floor building, with about 1,600 currently living as tenants. Despite this, the apartment barely has enough space for 1,000 cars, forcing many to park their cars outside.
Finding parking spaces in apartments is an ongoing problem in the major cities of Hanoi and HCMC. In high-end apartments, a family might own 1-2 cars, but most of these buildings have limited parking spaces due to the high cost of building a basement.
For Trang, whenever she had no space to park at home, she takes a risk and parks her car at a nearby school, where local guards cannot guarantee that her car will be safe. At times, Trang even parks her car on the street despite it being illegal to do so.
“Sometimes I feel like I want to move out of this situation,” she said. “These days, only newly built apartments have spare parking spaces. For the ones that have been active for several years, the chance of finding any available spot is very low”.
According to the Hanoi Department of Transport, the city’s parking facilities can only serve 10% of the total needs for parking spaces inside the city.
That means 90% of residents have to park their cars in apartment buildings, residential areas, office buildings, streets, sidewalks, schoolyards, hospitals, and empty lots, etc. The list goes on.
In HCMC, 100 new cars and 600 new motorbikes are added to the streets each day. And yet, a survey made by Associate Professor Dr. Vu Anh Tuan, Director of the Vietnamese-German Transporation Research Center, showed that parking lots in downtown areas only meet 30% of the local’s needs.
Hanoi has plans to build more than 100 car park projects, yet only 57 of them are completed. In HCMC, there are plans to build four underground car parks in the city center – said to be capable of holding about 6,000 cars and 4,000 bikes. But after 15 years, none of the projects have even begun due to red tape and financial problems.
According to Tuan, poor planning and management have are most to blame for this problem. The fast development of city life has prompted an increase in population and income, in turn increasing the number of vehicles in the city.
Besides planning for parking spaces, authorities should analyze whether to establish new parking lots that will be either free or paid, experts said.
When it comes to parking spaces inside apartment buildings, they said that investors should be clear about the selling price of parking space in their sales contracts.
While waiting for the right answer to the car parking paradox, car owners continue to struggle. “Every time I am forced to park my car in front of someone’s house, I get scolded and have to ask the owner for permission. It’s very tiring,” said Thuy.
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