First, we park

Font Size

Don’t Drink And Write

My former art director and my one-time publisher at the automotive publication I used to work for, have put up a car-themed shirt brand called First/We/Drive. I like the name. It means driving above all else — that the target buyers are individuals who are so passionate about automobiles that they will drop everything just to get behind the wheel and go for a spin.

I feel like it’s the principal mantra of car buyers in the Philippines, especially in Metro Manila. Purchase a car now, drive all we want later. It’s as if the act of driving is the only thing tied to car ownership. Never mind all the other important concerns of acquiring a vehicle — insurance, preventive maintenance, repairs, fuel and, of course, parking.

It’s the last item that is particularly tricky, because we hardly think of it when we’re inside the showroom listening intently as the salesperson tries to foist a large SUV on us when our house can barely accommodate a pedicab. In our minds, we simply picture ourselves driving and how cool we would look doing so.

The problem starts when we get home and realize our neighborhood isn’t really a safe place for cars parked on the street. But what choice have we got? We’d construct a garage if we could, but that would mean demolishing the adjacent apartment. So we just leave the new car in front of our house, and maybe cover it to protect it from playful kids and cats. If you’re okay with the risk of your vehicle being stolen or vandalized, that’s free parking right there. At the expense of traffic flow on your street, that is.

But until when will we be able to park our cars on the road without paying anything and without running afoul of government regulations? As you may already know, there’s a pending bill called “Proof of Parking Space Act,” which would require car buyers to present evidence of own parking before being sold a new vehicle. In other words: no parking, no car. Put another way: no parking, no driving.

I completely support such a law. It’s about time. Drive to side streets these days and see if you won’t encounter double-parked vehicles that take up half the road width. Not only is this a hassle for other motorists, this is absolutely a safety hazard. I grew up in Baclaran, where streets are narrow and vehicles are garage-less. My family survived a handful of fires that got out of control because fire trucks couldn’t squeeze past the cars that lined up the path leading to the blaze.

And street parking will only get worse in the coming years, as unscrupulous city engineers allow high-rise condominiums to be erected without sufficient parking for residents. I should know. I live in a condo and I park my car in another building, because my condo has long run out of parking slots.

When I bought my car 11 years ago, parking wasn’t a problem. We had a garage in Baclaran, and I had my own parking slot in my previous office. When I moved to my current place eight years ago, parking still wasn’t an issue, as I just left my car in the office (my condo is right next door). My predicament surfaced when I left the company that provided the free parking space.

Today, I spend about P300 for a day of parking if I’m home (I have free parking at my new workplace). I’ve refused a lot of test units of some of the nicest cars in our market just because I have nowhere to park them. I recently accommodated an SUV test unit and left it for a couple of days in a parking facility in Bonifacio Global City. I paid a couple of thousand bucks — more than the price of a full tank of gasoline for my personal car.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m in favor of expensive parking fees to discourage motorists from using their vehicles irresponsibly. Let’s tax car usage — make it costlier for anyone to drive a motor vehicle. And that includes parking. This would be good for traffic volume management.

Most Filipinos still view cars as status symbols. Own one not to efficiently get around but to let society know they can afford it, as though being carless is a disgrace. Let me give you a tip: There is nothing shameful about commuting if owning a vehicle defies practicality. What is actually ignominious is getting a car you can’t properly maintain. And parking is technically part of car maintenance.

Before you shop for a new car, please prioritize parking space. Believe me, you will save yourself a world of trouble if you do.