Nairobi Grapples with Low Parking Revenues
Authorities in Africa’s 10th largest city and Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, propose to increase by 5 percent the revenue from on-street and off-street parking by the end of 2019. They plan to accomplish this goal through restructuring of the current pricing, developing vacant lands to create additional parking slots, increasing the fee for private businesses that charge customers parking fee, and re-possessing grabbed parking bays within the city.
The Nairobi City County government targets increasing parking revenues from the $35 million earned during 2017/2018 to $37 million by the end of this year, which is far below the city’s estimated parking revenue potential of $50 million annually.
The city lost more than $3 million in the 2016/2017 fiscal year because of weak enforcement procedures.
One of the measures the County government has proposed to ramp up parking revenue in this city of more than 4 million people is to increase the parking spaces available for both on-street and off-street parking in the next one year in partnership with the private sector.
“The Nairobi City County government will start giving incentives to people (or companies) that are interested in creating parking lots outside of the Central Business District (CBD),” said Charles Kerich, the County’s Acting Finance Executive Member. The county has yet to publish the proposed incentives, which could include rebates in business permits and moratoriums on commencement dates of payment of monthly levies to the County government.
He has also proposed to impose an additional fee on private businesses with parking bays that charge customers frequenting their premises.
“Many Nairobi residents are being subjected to charges in premises such as shopping malls, supermarkets and hospitals, and I will propose a fee for all private parking spaces that charge their customers hourly,” he said. This proposal is yet to be effective, although it was contained in the County’s Finance Bill for 2018.
Reclaiming Public Parking
In addition, the County government has given notice to private property developers who encroached on City County’s land for repossession of the land for development of additional slots as the Parking Department eyes scaling up parking slots within the CBD from the current 14,864 to 20,000 in the medium term.
“We have launched a campaign in the entire city to reclaim grabbed parking bays which have been re-designed by private property developers and converted into private parking slots,” said Tom Tinega, Nairobi City County director of parking.
“We have commenced the campaign in the CBD where a number of public parking bays have been grabbed by private property developers and re-designed the grabbed land for parking slots for personal benefit,” he said.
“So far in one month (November 2018), we have reclaimed three parking bays in the CBD with more than 200 parking slots and are targeting 50 such bays for re-possession as we ensure we increase parking slots in the city,” he said.
Currently, Nairobi has 14,864 parking slots within the CBD made up of 3,939 on-street (26.5 percent), 3,834 off-street and 7,089 building parking. At least 10,399 of these parking slots have been allocated to private motorists and public service vehicles that hold seasonal parking tickets.
At Nairobi City’s Upper Hill area, with heavy commercial building presence, the County government has identified 238 locations for conversion into public parking areas, although the sites are yet to be marked, and designate them for the purpose.
As the Nairobi City County government battled a parking crisis that has been blamed for heavy congestion, especially within the CBD, the County Governor Mike Mbuvi, proposed in mid-2018 to increase the daily parking charges from $3/day to $4/day “as a pricing strategy to suppress demand for on-street parking.”
The increase in parking levy was to be implemented alongside the proposed construction of multi-deck parking infrastructure in selected locations within the city to ensure availability of secure parking spaces targeting private motorists.
The number of vehicles in Nairobi has been increasing with minimal progress in expanding the city’s road network from the 2970km, and a delayed implementation of a mass public transport system to create a safe, comfortable and convenient option for private car owners willing to opt out of the congested CBD.
Kenya’s National Transport and Safety Authority, a government agency that plans, manages and regulates the country’s road transport sector, says it registers, on average, 7,000 additional vehicles every month in Nairobi, and an estimated 90,000 every year. The city is expected to have 1.35 million cars by 2030.
Addressing Fines and Public Transport
The rapid increase in the number of vehicles in Nairobi has worsened already bad vehicular congestion that is characterized by lack of mass public transport system, poor enforcement of traffic regulations and low levels of road use discipline by pedestrians, as well as motorists who double or triple park, especially in the CBD.
The earlier proposal by the Nairobi County government in its Finance Bill, 2018, to raise the on-street parking fee by 33 percent to $4/day from the current $3/day to increase parking revenue, and also dissuade some private motorists from parking their cars in the CBD, was discarded later in the year with Governor Mbuvi terming it “punishment for Nairobi motorists”.
“After consultations with various stakeholders, including members of the Nairobi County Assembly, we have agreed to slash the parking fees to avoid overburdening motorists,” Governor Mbuvi said at the end of November.
“Reduction of parking fees will increase congestion in the city center, but again we cannot punish Nairobi residents because the projects such as bus rapid transport and construction of bus termini outside the CBD are ongoing,” he added.
Despite the efforts by Nairobi City County government to increase its parking revenues, a government auditor has in a recent public report said the City lost more than $3 million in the 2016/2017 fiscal year because of weak enforcement procedures.
Kenya’s Auditor-General Edward Ouko said an estimated 903,039 vehicles of the 1,305,440 that utilized more than 12,000 parking slots in the City did not pay the $3/day parking fee. Only 31 percent of the vehicles or 402,401 paid the required fee.
“This resulted in a probable revenue loss of Ksh270,911,700 (about $2.7 million) of on-street parking fees, Ksh300 ($3/day) per a vehicle per day,” said Ouko.
He further said of the 25,700 vehicles that were clamped within Nairobi CBD for failing to pay parking fees, 15,388 “were unclamped without valid reason”. Motorists whose vehicles have been clamped pay $20 before the cars are released.
“Control over issuance and accountability over the clamps are weak and prone to manipulation,” said Ouko, adding “for instance, there is no system for monitoring the activities of field officers on clamped vehicles to ensure that those unclamped have paid.”
Going forward, Nairobi City County government is at the moment working on initiatives to reduce congestion within the CBD by working with the national government to invest in public transport to create seamless connection between road and commuter rail transportation that would attract users of private cars.
“The most important key to solve the car parking problems such as illegal double/triple on-street parking is to prepare a safe, comfortable and convenient public transport system and convenient operational system such as luxury bus and express bus, and new coaches for commuter train that can stimulate the shift from private cars to public transport,” says a final Master Plan for Urban Transport in the Nairobi Metropolitan Area.
“The modal shift can be advanced further by the development of park-and-ride parking at terminals/large-scale bus stops or commuter train station plazas at urban fringe,” it says.
Shem Oirere is Parking Today’s on the ground reporter in Africa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.