It is a phenomenon that happens around the world.
Latin America has them. Mexico City's informal parking attendants have been featured in various media. Last year I saw an informal car guard operating on a Sunday along a restaurant/market street in the beautiful Buenos Aires district of Palermo Viejo.
They are widespread around Asia too. They were familiar when I lived in Malaysia for several years. My father-in-law, a police officer in Singapore in the 1960s, tells me that 'jaga kereta' (Malay for car guard) were also common in Singapore at that time.
Informal parking attendants provoke polarized opinions. Car guards are often feared and loathed. But their existence also reflects serious unemployment and poverty problems, so that a draconian enforcement approach seems harsh and unfair.
My report on Parking Policy in Asian Cities for the ADB makes the point that this phenomenon seems to emerge to fill a vacuum:
If parking in a vicinity is not managed efficiently by governments, informal fee collectors may step in, as seen in Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, and some Indian cities. In Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Manila such activities occur whenever and wherever the official fee collection system is absent but where demand remains high.
So the car guard phenomenon is best understood as a sign of our failure to manage on-street parking properly.
These guys are telling us something important. Where parking is saturated for long periods of the day, then motorists will be willing to pay for parking. If cities don't do the pricing, then informal attendants often will.
Harsh action against them is futile (others take their place) and just hurts people who are already poor and marginalised. But the actions of illegal parking guards ARE often problematic. Wouldn't it be better to provide legitimate employment to legal parking attendants by improving and expanding legal parking fee collection systems? This would enhance the level of security and trust on both sides of the transaction.
Indian cities are an interesting case. Most have legal parking attendants, providing employment and managing parking (after a fashion). That is a start. But with weak contractual arrangements and very low prices, the contractors are often tempted to overcharge. The City of Makati in Metro Manila does a better job, with uniformed attendants wielding digital devices.
Arresting illegal parking attendants is not going to solve the problem. Filling the vacuum with legitimate parking management may.
|A Makati parking attendant with digital device.|
Do you have any insights or anecdotes on informal parking attendants or car guards?