• The parking conundrum

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    Two years ago, when politician Sherwin Gatchalian started making noise with his proposed “Proof of Parking Space Act”—which would require car buyers to first have parking space before being allowed to purchase a new vehicle—I was a little indifferent. I knew it made a lot of sense, but its full meaning didn’t really sink in.

    That’s because parking was never a problem for me. At the time, I lived a stone’s throw away from my office (200 paces, if I’m not mistaken), which really worked to my advantage because I also happened to have a free parking slot in my office building. That meant I just left my car there; I just walked to and from work, after all.

    This proved to be very convenient for me. A parking slot in my condominium cost some P5,000 a month, and that was if you could find an available one to begin with. Because the area was overpopulated by office employees and call center agents, you’d be lucky to stumble upon an unrented space.

    I remember my car-owning officemates running out of options with regard to parking (our office building’s basement parking was reserved only for managers, publishers and editors-in-chief). And then a nearby mall decided to jack up its parking fees—P30 per hour after the first three hours (or thereabouts). It was definitely a hassle having to walk to the mall’s parking area just to take out one’s car before the third hour, and then park it again. A few opted to park in some cheap but distant place, and just walk or ride a tricycle to the office.

    See, I was impervious to all of this. Until I quit my job a couple of months ago, which, of course, forfeited my parking privileges in my previous workplace.

    These days, I park my car in the next building, and I pay P155 for my vehicle’s overnight (read: 12-hour) stay. Last week, I didn’t take out my car on its coding day and had to pay some P600 for about two days. I keep thinking: If I worked in Makati and brought my car to the office, I’d have to pay another P150 or so for parking. That’s a lot of money, if you do the math.

    So even if I telecommute and just visit my new office once a week, the money I save from traveling less is easily wiped out by the cost of parking my car the whole day.

    In fact, I almost sold my car to a very eager buyer the other day. I wanted to finally let go of it just so I could dodge the ridiculous parking fees. But I couldn’t hand my car over to another person, so I chickened out.

    Meanwhile, my predicament is compounded by the prospect of having to accept demo vehicles for test reviews. One Japanese carmaker has even offered to provide free parking space for my personal car just so I can accommodate the small crossover it is offering for a week. Yeah, motoring journalist problems.

    Parking is now very expensive and scarce. Unless, of course, you just leave your vehicle outside your house, on the road. But this could then lead to other issues, theft and damage to property among them (to say nothing about the inconvenience you’re causing other people).

    When you shop for a new car and assess the cost of ownership, please don’t forget to factor in parking. When you compute operating expenses, you tend to think only of fuel and repairs and registration and insurance. But parking can and will hurt you financially today, big time. Be sure you can afford it.

    If you can’t? Take the bus. It’s not the end of the world.

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