PHUKET: Friends often whine to me about the traffic issues in Phuket Town, usually about how difficult it can be to get in and out of town during morning and evening rush hours. But I had no idea just how implausibly gridlocked the center of town can become, until I scheduled a lunch meet there.
We were booked to meet at one of those fun little eateries in the town’s ‘banking zone’. Arriving in the area, I discovered that parking was so limited that people were leaving their cars in the middle of road, and relying upon their hazard warning lights to inform traffic that they had no intention of moving for a while – result: instant car park.
Why people now seem to think that hazard warning lights give them permission to park in the middle of the road is a column for another day, but I believe it comes from following the bad example set by minivan drivers, who are well-known for using their hazards just to nip into 7-Eleven for a Red Bull.
In the end I had to give up trying to park in the ‘banking zone’, or I would have starved to death, instead nipping around to Montri Road – just around the corner from the eatery – and parking in a back-street car park where there was space to spare.
This got me wondering, why on earth hasn’t someone jumped on the big business of multi-story car parks for the old town? Oh, I know: they’re ugly, often smell of urine and can become dens of iniquity if not properly patrolled – but they are ever-so effective at taking parked cars off the streets.
Parking in the old town is never going to improve. The authorities are already mulling plans to change some of the roads into permanent walking streets and, although a good few years off, the light rail system will see a significant reduction in available parking spaces.
The usual answer is to moan about the problem and wait for the authorities to do something about it.
But why wait? Privately run car parks make huge profits around the world. In the UK, one company runs over 500 multi-story car parks, with a turnover of more than 10 billion baht a year and very healthy profit margins.
It may not be very sexy business-wise, but there’s a bundle of baht to be made with a multi-story parking service in Phuket Town.
— Alexander Maycock