Illegal parking has spiked in Hong Kong, according to police statistics.

724,419 penalty tickets for illegal parking—one every 26 seconds—were issued in the first seven months of 2015, up from 645,101 the previous year.

When Sit Kwok-heung, a retired town planner with the Intellects Consultancy, suggested cancelling the Central stretch of Hong Kong’s tramway, he did so on the premise that eliminating trams would reduce traffic congestion. Taking trams off of Des Voeux Road, he reasoned, would open more road space to cars and improve traffic flow.

However, pictures obtained by HKFP show that some road users are are indeed holding up traffic in Central—but not trams.

Photo: HKFP.

Private chauffeur-driven cars and vans sit idle and motionless on Hong Kong’s busiest streets as they wait for their well-heeled passengers.

Photo: HKFP.

Police superintendent Mark Steeple from traffic branch headquarters said on Monday that law enforcement were “issuing well over a million tickets a year,” but the HK$320 fixed penalty for illegal parking, which has not risen in over two decades, has proven to have little deterrent power in preventing these violations.

While the penalty for illegal parking has not changed since 1994, the city’s level of private car ownership has doubled in the same time.

Photo: HKFP.

If adjusted for inflation, the HK$320 fine should now sit at HK$448. Even this, however, is insufficient in the minds of some of Hong Kong’s top police officers and Transport Advisory Committee (TAC) members.

Photo: HKFP.

In the opinion of Police Chief Superintendent Paul Stripp, fines of at least HK$820 would be needed to deter traffic violations; but in other international cities such as Sydney and New York, drivers face fines of up to HK$4,000 for major parking infractions.

Photo: HKFP.

A set of TAC recommendations submitted to the Legislative Council in May acknowledges that “although the number of fixed penalty tickets issued has increased by over 98 per cent over the past decade, illegal parking is still rampant, which suggests that the current penalty level may not be adequate.”

Photo: HKFP.

Police have backed the TAC’s call to increase the fixed penalty for traffic violations and the Transport and Housing Bureau has said that the government will take forward the committee’s recommendations.

Photo: HKFP.

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Ryan Kilpatrick

Ryan Kilpatrick is a local writer, journalist and editor. Formerly National Online Editor for the That's magazine group in China, his work on the history and politics of the region has earned him the CEFC Award in Modern China Studies and has also appeared in China Economic Review, Asian Studies Review, China Green News, e-International Relations, Shanghaiist and various publications at his alma mater, the University of Hong Kong, where he is currently enrolled in the Master of Journalism programme.