BELIZE CITY, Tues. Apr. 5, 2022– The Belize City Council’s Parking Meter Pilot Project, which has been in the works for some time and is a part of the council’s efforts to regulate commercial parking throughout the city, has been receiving mixed reviews since its implementation this past Monday. This project, meant to target areas of high congestion where repeat parking infractions occur and to provide equitable parking opportunities for all, has seen new parking meters installed on Newtown Barracks from The Ramada Princess Hotel to Midtown Restaurant and on Albert Street from its intersection with Orange Street to its intersection with Dean Street.
While there were seemingly no public objections during the installation of the meters, in a matter of days following the project’s commencement, park vendors, entrepreneurs, and residents quickly began to voice their discontent. A number of vendors and entrepreneurs have told the media that they were never consulted about the execution of the project. The collective qualm is that businesses have seen an immediate and drastic decrease in customer inflow because it now costs a fee to park in front of their establishments. Some of the business owners also lamented the fact that even they must pay the fees associated with parking in front of their own storefronts, which is an unwelcomed expense, especially following the financial blows caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
During an interview this week, Mayor Bernard Wagner told local media that while each vendor was not consulted personally, there were briefing sessions held with the president of an association of park vendors as well as the area representatives of the constituencies where the meters are now placed, Hon Tracy Panton and Hon. Kareem Musa. The mayor also added that while the project is in its early stages and residents need time to adjust, it has been successful for its intended purposes thus far:
“Our objective is really to regulate the spaces. To have it be shared in an equitable fashion with all residents having the opportunity to use that space. Anything new obviously will have glitches and pushback, but we’re in day two. I would recommend that you give the council three months, and thereafter we see how it’s working. But it’s day two. And I drove in the city Monday morning, I drove along Albert Street, and I see this project working. People are having access to park in front of Brodies, in front of Downtown Plaza, in front of Smart. And they’re using it, and it’s just how we adapt to change.”
The Belize City Council has also scheduled a public consultaion meeting for Thursday, April 7 at the House of Culture, during which residents will be able to voice their concerns. While some residents have expressed resounding dissatisfaction with the pilot project, though, there are those who have stated that it was just what the city needed, citing the huge reduction of traffic congestion on both Albert Street and Newtown Barracks.
“It’s nice to drive in front of BTL Park and not have to be stopping as vehicles park on both sides where you have to pull [over] to let another vehicle pass, the traffic flows smoothly…now we can get some parking without having to circle trying to find a space,” wrote one person on social media.
“I agree with pay parking. Truth be known, most all roadside parking spots [are] used as long- term parking for workers in the area. Businesses suffer from those people. Pay parking is good for businesses and shoppers,” wrote another.
At the moment, the mayor says the council is open to conversation and may make adjustments to the project, but that the public should give the project at least a few months to see how successful it truly is. Parking meter prepaid cards can be loaded with different values that are purchased from authorized dealers. Currently, meter rates stand at $1.50 per half hour and $3.00 per hour between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. from Monday to Thursday and between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with Sundays and holidays being non-operational days.