Municipality looks for ways to improve parking, traffic situation in city center, debates underground lots

The years of continual road works in Krakow are making the city?s streets less and less drivable. The successful development of Krakow?s infrastructure made the situation inevitable, but nevertheless remains troublesome for the city?s residents. The Krakow Municipality wants to improve the situation by building underground parking in the center.
This initiative can bring one of two possible results: it will either increase the amount of traffic in the center or help to relieve it. Considering local habits, the second option seems more probable. The shopping malls? parking lots are already overcrowded and this isn?t because of the mall?s shoppers.
Wieslaw Starowicz, the vice president of the Krakow Municipality, thinks that this is a much needed initiative, saying: ?For the time being, the city center is jammed because of the cars of local residents who, according to the binding law, have a right to park their vehicles there.? 
The lack of parking in the center seems to constitute a problem of much greater complexity, however. It could only be solved by conducting a series of well-coordinated actions, aimed at relieving the flow of the city?s traffic. Starowicz notices problems resulting from: ?? not taking into consideration ? in the course of city?s historic development ? the possibilities for building parking under large-size structures built in the city center. Such parking have never been designed or were started to be designed only a couple of years ago. 
?In my opinion this is a matter of a certain way of thinking about the whole problem. I remember that soon after Polish Fiats 125p and 126p first appeared, it turned out that one of their inseparable attributes was a dirty oil stain that they left behind wherever they were parked. Unfortunately, the older generation of people still keep that memory in their minds and that is why the first associations they usually have after hearing the words ?underground car park? are oil and stench and such. Even though this problem does not exist any more, people are still reluctant to it. We could also hear some objections from people conducting their own business activities in the city center ? they fear of earning less money once the center is kept clear of all traffic.?
Instead of building new parking in the center, it would be more sensible for the authorities to introduce stricter restrictions on the city traffic. This could be carried out according to the guidelines of the Civitas Caravel II project, which aims at popularizing the use of the public transport and which is already realized in cooperation with the Krakow Municipality. The example of Krakow?s partner cities — Burgos, Stuttgart and Genoa, shows clearly that propagating cycling transport and building new bicycle lanes is also a very good idea.
Another important issue is a strict enforcement of the regulations on the limited access to the first and second city zone and, as Starowicz puts it, ?educating and changing habits of the residents of Krakow. The weakness of the Krakow Municipality?s actions consists in the fact that the authorities do not lead any publicity campaign. We all know, however, that nobody likes to be instructed.?
The authorities of Krakow are planning to build as many as 14 underground parking lots in the center and near Ring-Road II. The idea itself is not very popular among tradesmen working at the marketplace on ul. Grzegorzecka. A petition against rebuilding the marketplace into a gigantic parking lot shows clearly that the Municipality will have to prepare itself for some serious problems if it really wants to carry out its plans.
According to Gazeta Wyborcza, local residents have been protesting against the idea of building a parking lot under Rynek Podgorski and Rynek Szczepanski. At the moment, the only approved location is pl. na Groblach. Two other parking lots ? under a covered market and the National Museum ? are still waiting for planning permission.
One thing seems certain ? if the councilmen wish to have a better bargaining card in their negotiations related to the organization of Euro 2012 and to improve the situation of jammed streets in Krakow, they will undoubtedly keep forcing their idea. As Starowiczput it: ?The problem with many solutions consists in the fact that most usually they are not put under debate before their realization begins. As a result of it, they but become a butt of fierce criticism once they are already implemented and functioning.?

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