Picture this. You’re running late to a meeting at a cafe in Petaling Jaya. You’ve gone around the block five times in search of a parking spot, but they’re all taken. Finally, you see a car backing up, and it’s almost like heaven has opened. You’re only 10 minutes late- still acceptable! You go to the nearest parking meter, only to realise that it’s broken. No worries, you’ll just go to another one… but it’s also broken. You decide to just go makan anyway- so late edi!
But when you’re done eating and walk back to your car, a friendly note from the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) is waiting for you.
Um… saman us when we can’t even pay for parking? How can?? Our (very Malaysian) solution has been to put a ‘mesin rosak’ slip on our dashboard, but then sure will have one machine that we didn’t see was working and then we’ll kena saman.
Fixing the machines Reintroducing parking coupons, aka going back to the system that we used 20 years ago! The scratch-to-pay parking coupons that took its exit in 1999 in replacement of parking machines have now returned to PJ once again.
Since the move was announced in September, people have had mixed reviews about it, to say the least. To find out why MBPJ went back to circa-1990 tech, we spoke to MBPJ councillor, Sean Oon, about lawsuits and MBPJ’s futuristic plans… and of course the burning question on everyone’s mind…
For what need to change in the first place??
Here’s a bit of parking meter sejarah for you. Waaaaay back in August 1999, a company called Godell Parking Sdn. Bhd. signed a 20 year contract with MBPJ. The deal is… a bit weird tho.
Godell would supply MBPJ with the parking machines and PAY MBPJ a monthly rental of RM37.45 per machine. Godell, on the other hand, would profit from the parking fees from the parking bays. But wait… shouldn’t MBPJ be the one paying Godell the rental?
“[MBPJ] gave Godell the space to bring in their parking machines- that’s why we collect rental for them. The profit that we make from parking is split with them, so we get 60% and they get 40%.” – Sean
Fast forward to 2017, and not only are more than half of the 700 parking machines in PJ broken, but Sean also told us that Godell hasn’t been keeping up their end of the deal of paying their monthly rental. Godell’s reason? That MBPJ didn’t enforce the law (aka didn’t give out saman), and that not all parking lots were surrendered to Godell.
MBPJ couldn’t tahan all this so in the end, they decided to end their contract with Godell early – in Sept 2017, when it was supposed to end in August 2019. Sean told us that this decision was a long time coming, considering the amount of time given to Godell to change their ways.
“Terminating [Godell] was a logical decision. There was a poor upkeep of the machines and people had to walk a long distance to look for a machine that worked- and when they failed to find one, they were getting saman. And it wasn’t even because they didn’t want to pay. Had [Godell] maintained [the machines], we wouldn’t have gone back to using coupons.” – Sean
There’s actually a legal case going on between the two parties, where Godell is suing for unfair dismissal, but Sean says MBPJ has already given them due notice, all the way from the start of the year. We tried to contact Godell, but they didn’t get back to us, and have been doing so for different media outlets as well. Hmm…
But why couldn’t MBPJ have just fixed the machines themselves?
“We did try it for a while, but more than half the machines were faulty. They’re also different kinds of faulty– some would take your money and not give you your ticket, some wouldn’t even take your money. This caused a lot of anguish for the motorists, because sometimes the machine would take their money. We’ve given [Godell] time to fix it, but it just didn’t happen.” – Sean
Despite coupons being the most straightforward second option (I mean, Klang and Subang have been using it for years), using them again after close to 20 years of using a parking machine looks like a step backwards. Krystle Wong, a student who frequents PJ often, picks parking machines any day because she finds the coupon system confusing.
“Believe it or not, I don’t even know where to get the coupons. Even if I did, I’d still be lazy to get them. Plus, it’s also confusing to me cuz I heard some coupons only work in some areas? Like the Selangor ones cannot be used in KL.” – Krystle
But it’s not just the younger ones that disagree, even senior folks who have used the coupon system in the past feel the same, citing environmental concerns as well:
“Sometimes I go to 7-11 to buy and they say they are sold out. Then I go to the kedai runcit and they say they don’t have it and ask me to go back to 7-11. It is such a hassle, not to mention it is a waste of paper.” – Kok Leong, 61, retiree
But it’s 2017. Why not do an app?
Before we go into this, we gotta say that a lot of people are digging the coupon system. Yuen Yim, a communications executive in PJ, is on Team Coupons (yes, we’re making it a thing) because it’s a lot more convenient.
“I prefer to use coupons cos alot of the machines are not working, and it’s safer to use the scratch cards comfortably in our own cars as well!” – Yuen
Sara-Jane Har, a content curator, is also all for coupons.
“I prefer coupons- buy, put in car. When needed, take it out and scratch je. No need to queue or risk not finding a machine nearby. But of course, ultimately, no pay is the best la!” – Sara-Jane
But the rationale behind many people’s responses -and the decision to swap back to coupons itself- was the fact that the machines were faulty, and not because people didn’t want to use the machines. However, given a more convenient option, many would probably choose the machine over coupons anytime.
However, instead of pining over what we have lost as a society, many netizens were quick to suggest different ways to better our parking system when The Star broke the news about the move back to coupons.
Jeffrey Phang, the chairman of MyPJ, a coalition of residents in the PJ area, talked to us about his suggestion for PJ to move towards using digital apps for parking- a move that has been suggested by many and is already being used in countries like Singapore, Canada and India.
“Selangor is going for #SmartSelangor. MBPJ has allocated a big budget for IT development in 2018. Technology has already improved a lot. I would expect MBPJ to introduce the coupon system as a stop gap measure. It should move on to a mobile apps application where parking tickets can automatically be paid in real time. The coupon system can be maintained till the point where usage is very low before it is stopped completely. The changeover is an opportunity for MBPJ to move towards a smart city.” – Jeffrey
But Sean told us that the move back to coupons were actually a tough call to make, not only because implementing coupons required the state’s approval, but also because people now needed an additional coupon book to add to their pile- because different districts have different councils, and these different councils profit from each coupon book.
“When people park in Subang, they need to buy coupons for Subang. Now when people want to park in PJ, they need to buy coupons for PJ. The people who pay parking are happy because at least they can actually pay, but I understand why people would say that we’re going backwards.” – Sean
And when it comes to using a digital app instead, Sean told us that parts of Kuala Lumpur, enforced by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (or DBKL), already has an app for people to pay parking with (Sepang and Shah Alam also got!) alongside parking machines which accept Touch & Go as payment. However, Sean doesn’t agree with using that system in PJ.
“DBKL’s system to me is very archaic. If you download the app, you can only use it in KL. It’s the same problem with coupons, where you spend a lot of money on coupons but end up only using one. In the same way, you would have extra money in your app, right? So your money still burn.” – Sean
So are we just doomed to bad parking systems? Should Selangor gomen just take a leaf out of Penang and Malacca and just use one standard coupon for the whole state? Or should MBPJ just give us free parking forever??
MBPJ actually has some pretty cool plans for the future of parking
Among the few ideas that MBPJ has up their sleeve, Sean told us about how MBPJ was planning to make use of third-party online payment solutions for us to pay parking with, like what is being done in China.
“We don’t want to have our own app. Instead, we want to make use of apps like WeChat and Alipay for people to pay their parking. At least that with the remaining money they have in their account, they can pay for other things also.” – Sean
For those who are a bit more forgetful, MBPJ is looking into a payment gateway with GPS features, so that your phone can tell you if your time to park in your parking spot has run out!
“We want people to be able to track their cars via GPS. After people pay for, let’s say two hours of parking, the GPS will start monitoring where your car is. Let’s say when there are like, 15 minutes left, you’ll get a text message saying ‘you need to move your car soon’, or something like that.” – Sean
So at least now we know that we’re not moving back to the days where the parking uncle would come and harass us for 60 sen (cos now when someone harass you it’s usually at least RM5), but neither do we get to (virtually) run to the App Store anytime soon. But for now, time to load up on parking coupons (which you can buy from these locations), and hopefully not kena saman along the way.