Tackling illegal parking holistically

Illegal parking at its worst is a public bane, especially when it impedes traffic flow intolerably and creates significant safety hazards. However, lesser forms of infringement might be no more than an irritant when such acts are, say, fleeting and isolated, and risks are minimal.

Thus, it would rankle if minor infractions are treated as "aggravated" in applying a tiered system of penalties based on strikes rather than the nature of offences. In the circumstances, implementation of significant changes to traffic regulations should not be rushed - with just a few days of notice, as is the case of the stepped penalties introduced by the Land Transport Authority. It will slap fines up to 60 per cent heavier when one parks illegally more than once within a year.

Public angst can result when moves are made to simply ratchet up fines rather than to take preliminary steps like public education and consultation. The urgency of implementing punitive measures from New Year's Day was presumably to help motorists track minor traffic violations. This is a disagreeable year-round chore to impose on them, particularly when the use of a vehicle is shared for work or domestic purposes.

Defining the municipal ill to be tackled is essential for a proper public discussion of the issue. If the key goal is to reduce the number of infringements in particular zones, one should probe why some areas are more prone to illegal parking than others.

However, if deterring recalcitrant offenders is a greater concern - accounting for about half of all parking offences committed between 2011 and 2014 - one might ask if a tiered system of fines imposed on all and sundry is an appropriate way to alter that pathology of behaviour.

Localised and individualised approaches to illegal parking can yield better results for a number of reasons. This problem is often the result of inadequate parking, delivery and loading facilities in particular built-up areas. This can put pressure on certain streets - for example, a narrow road that is the sole means of access to unloading bays within a cluster of separate buildings.

Acting stringently against violators at one spot might simply shift the problem to another area. Instead, agencies and building operators should work collaboratively to find ways to ease productivity-sapping bottlenecks. Guided by the vision of a smart city, one should explore various other options, like more parking information systems. Short-term bays could also be made available at certain times of the day and converted to pedestrian areas for the most part. Constructive solutions should be the preferred choice in mobility management rather than punitive quick fixes.