It is a common sight to see commuters’ standing by the side of the road and stopping numerous taxis before hopping into one to fulfill their hopes of arriving at work on time. These are the same struggles non-motorists are faced with on a daily basis when getting a taxi home during peak hours.
On the other hand, vehicles are stuck in long queues as they try to get home before it gets dark. Also, many employees have been issued with endless verbal warnings for arriving at work late.
Despite the rapid growth of the number of cars on our roads over the years, some public transporters (taxis) choose not to drive to certain areas in the morning, because of traffic congestion. Congestion during peak hours is also worsened by the fact that most offices and businesses are centred in one area of the central business district and everyone drives in that direction.
The number of vehicles on Windhoek’s roads has grown by more than double over the last 16 years, up from 70 381 to 163 131, as per the latest statistics provided by the Roads Authority.
The statistics also indicate that Windhoek, followed by Oshakati, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund in that order have the highest number of vehicles in the country.
As of April 2016, vehicles on the national roads numbered 360 803, with 163 131 vehicles in Windhoek, while Oshakati has 28 488, followed by Walvis Bay (21 261) and Swakopmund (20 124).
NaTIS manager for the central region Andrew Shafombabi told New Era Weekend the number of vehicles on the country’s roads is growing at a rate of 5 percent annually. He attributed the high number of cars in Windhoek to the fact that it is the capital city.
He also stated that in Windhoek there is a certain section of the population (high income earners) who own two or three vehicles.
Shafombabi also pointed out that imported vehicles from Asia contribute significantly to the number of vehicles on the road, because they are significantly cheaper. “Employed people are able to buy more cars than before,” Shafombabi notes.
According to a recent Nampa report, due to a lack of parking bays some motorists have resorted to parking on pavements or prohibited zones and are fined for this, notwithstanding the fact that the City of Windhoek appears not able to deliver more parking lots to meet demand.
The report identified some of the prominent areas where parking shortage is evident, including the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Windhoek Magistrate’s Court, the Windhoek Municipality and the Hilton Hotel, where construction is also currently taking place.
City of Windhoek spokesperson Lydia Amutenya says it should be noted that relief from the congestion being experienced by motorists currently may only occur over time, with continued investment in the proposed stages of the Sustainable Urban Public Transport Master Plan.
“For now improved traffic flow by way of enhanced road design capacity will remain negatively impacted by the lack of funds and may continue to be the scenario for the next five years. The City’s master plan is expected improve the transport needs of people living in Windhoek, Rehoboth, Okahandja and out towards Hosea Kutako.
This means developing modern and efficient bus service and implementing non-motorised transport networks, such as pedestrian and cycling lanes, amongst others.
Amutenya said parking bays in the CBD do not correspond to the number of vehicles in the city centre. She said the municipality’s Parking Master Plan for the CBD that was developed in 1997, predicted at the time that there would be a parking shortage of approximately 3 000 spaces in the CBD.
According to Amutenya, such prediction is greatly dependent on the actual growth rate and developments taking place in the CBD, also taking into account any public transport improvements, implying that the more people use public transport, the less parking is required.
“It is now 19 years ago since that prediction. Obviously the parking shortage is worse than before and the population of cars is increasing by the day,” Amutenya remarked.
Short term plans to ease the situation
Amutenya said their overall observations show that the parking meter system within the CBD is outdated and is no longer producing the desired results, suggesting the need to promote short-term parking and desired turnaround for parking times.
“The City is presently busy reviewing the parking meter legislation with the intention of revisiting the parking meter system within the CBD. Once motorists are referred from long to permanent parking within the road reserve, this might create additional short-term parking opportunities for the public and provide some alleviation.”
She further said the parkade in Werner List close to Cymot can accommodate another few levels in the long-term, but it requires funds.
Available parking bays
Amutenya said the City owns the parking area at Town Square Mall, as well as a parking lot on the corner of Werner List and John Meinert streets, parking at the corner of Bahnhof and Independence Avenue and numerous other small parking areas throughout the CBD.
“The majority of the on-street parking areas have parking meters,” she said. Presently about 1 050 street parking spaces in the CBD have meters. A further 250 municipal-owned street parking bays offer free parking. A few parking lots in the CBD are, however, privately owned.