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December 19, 2009

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Prospects are slow to rise for lift parking lots

LIFT parking systems save space, but the city has been slow to build them despite mounting complaints about the lack of parking spots downtown.

The relatively high investment, hourly parking fees, high maintenance costs, and a lack of government support are blamed for the system not being more widely adopted, industry insiders said.

"We get no subsidies and no discounts and pay lots of taxes," said Li Zhengwu, chairman of the Shanghai Parking Service Association.

By the end of 2002, Shanghai had about 600,000 automobiles.

The number soared to more than 1.5 million this year and will reach 2 million in 2010.

However, spots in lift parking lots in the city only increased to 50,000 from 9,100 in the past seven years.

The city has about 500,000 parking spaces.

"The gap between parking spaces and cars will increase as more people buy automobiles," Li said.

Li proposed the wider use of lift parking systems to transport officials last year.

Such systems use hydraulics so that cars can be stacked, thus saving land and providing more parking spaces.

Li said parking service providers pay at least three extra taxes or fees apart from regular ones.

Some parking operators barely make ends meet while others look ahead, expecting brighter prospects in the coming years.

Jing'an Modern Parking Lot, the city's oldest lift parking garage, has not done well, considering the increase in cars on the road.

"Drivers would rather park on the side of the road," said Wang Xinshi, a parking lot worker. "It's free and cars rarely get ticketed."

Built in 1997, the parking lot has a capacity of 160 and an hourly fee of 10 yuan (US$1.46).

Although 70 to 80 percent of spots are occupied daily, the operator, Jing'an Stereoscopic Co Ltd, still reports about over 100,000 yuan in annual losses.

The operator once lowered the hourly fee to 5 yuan but business did not improve, said a manager with the company.

However, Fan Yun, a manager of another lift parking operator, said he expected to recover his 5 million yuan investment in five years, although the hourly fee is 5 yuan, more than the parking spaces on the side of the road that charge as little as 10 yuan a day.

"Perhaps with government subsidies, we can charge less," Fan said.


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