The problems with parking spaces in Athens

Athens, as in other parts of Europe, many households own two or more cars and live in apartment blocks. Private parking spaces are a rare luxury in these areas and lack of available space means that the city council have not been able to provide public car parking in most places hence, much of suburban Athens and Piraeus resembles a parking lot.

Due to lack of facilities, drivers will double or triple park or park on the pavements. It is not unusual to find yourself blocked in when someone has parked too close to your own car making it impossible to maneuver your way out.

Central Athens, too, has a big problem with illegal parking. Key locations such as street corners, pavements, bus stops and disabled parking spaces are used by motorists and cyclists alike. Pedestrians need to negotiate their way between parked vehicles on the pavements. Consequently, there has been a lot of attention given to this problem with many measures taken to try and control it.

Existing measures are to ban cars from entering the centre of Athens on specific dates of the month according to whether the date and the last digit on their number plate is odd or even. If the date is even and so is your number plate you can drive in the centre.

Similarly, if the date is odd and so is your number plate you have permission. Foreign number plates are excluded from this rule. Current plans to reduce the amount of cars driving into the centre of the city is to introduce congestion charges, with a long-term plan to gradually extend further out from the centre.

Also, from November 20th 2007 new parking regulations will come into effect. The centre of the city, between Syntagma Square, Omonia and Monastiraki, and the areas of Rigilis, Psyrri and Plaka will be divided into zones for residents and visitors parking. Parking bays will be colour coded, blue for permanent residents and white for visitors. Permanent residents will need to apply for permits at a cost of only 10 euros per year to park in their designated blue bays.

Visitors permits are obtained either by buying scratchcards from kiosks or by mobile phone. The operating hours will be between 9am to 9pm, Monday to Friday and from 9am. to 4pm on Saturdays. The cost will range from 0.05 euros for 30 minutes to a maximum of 3 hours for 6 euros. Permits must then be displayed on car windscreens and violation of these regulations, whether exceeding the paid amount of time, or parking in the wrong coloured bays will result in an immediate fine of 23 euros. It is estimated that the number of visitors permits will be less than 2000.

The idea behind the scheme is not to fill the coffers of the municipality but to address the serious illegal parking problems that the commercial triangle of Athens suffers from. It intends therefore to discourage commuter driving and encourage people to use the much improved public transport system to get into central Athens. Motorcyclists and disabled drivers will be able to park free of charge and there will be no charge at all on Sundays and Public Holidays in Greece.

The project will be enforced by the municipal police and the revenue generated by the charges, and presumably the fines, will be put towards creating new parking facilities, road signs, maintenance of the road network and improving public transport