Car mart headache

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — There is growing concern that the long-standing problem of traffic congestion in this south-central town is being made worse by car mart operators who use the roads to park cars awaiting sale.

Two People’s National Party councillors in the Manchester Municipal Corporation McArthur Collins (New Green Division) and Jones Oliphant (Mandeville Division) are calling for greater enforcement of regulations as well as creative solutions to deal with the nagging problem.

“It is so sad to know that the car marts are taking over the town and taking over two sides of the roads. On North Race Course road, they park on both sides. People sell and wash cars right there and leave no way for the motorists. It is as if you can’t talk to them and nothing has been done,” said Collins.

He is suggesting that the Manchester Municipal Corporation consider various measures, including impounding vehicles.

“The council has to go through, walk the streets… put in some no-parking signs … let us arrange to have a wrecker service. We can put a system in place to impound the vehicles,” Collins told the Jamaica Observer last Wednesday.

There are approximately 50 car marts in Mandeville and its environs.

Collins said Mandeville’s daily traffic jam is compounded by the fact that government offices and business outlets have outgrown the spaces they now occupy.

He said efforts were being made to gazette the busy South Race Course road as a no-parking zone.

“It is one of the most congested places in Mandeville, because you have so many places there now. There is the tax office, post office, business places and there is nowhere for customers to park, so [people] park on both sides of the road,” said Collins.

“It cannot continue that way,” he added as he called for a robust review of the town’s expansion.

“The town needs to stretch. There is no parking space. Government needs to use compulsory acquisition to purchase lands in the town to get some of the taxis out of the centre of the town and create more parking. The various agencies need to sit together, because if things continue the way they are now, in the next three years it’s going to be worse,” said Collins.

In recent times commercial activities have been increasing on the outskirts of Mandeville with business booming along Winston Jones Highway.

“If you notice some people are putting their businesses on the Winston Jones Highway, and that is good. You see car marts and other business places [there], so they have had to get permission,” Collins said, even as he admitted that the municipal corporation is just now checking to determine if car marts are registered and tax compliant.

“We are doing some now from Mandeville to Spur Tree. We are looking at getting the car marts to be registered. They need to pay their tax. Before they put up a container, they have to get permission from the council, but some of them don’t do that. We have officers going out there now to put a stop order on them, so they will have to come to the council to get permission to put up their car park,” Collins said.

The veteran councillor also claimed that the National Works Agency (NWA) has not been collaborating with the municipal corporation to address the issue of cars being parked along thoroughfares.

“Even on Caledonia Road and New Green Road you see the problem. We are not getting the support from the NWA, because if you notice, some of those guys who have car marts, they still put the cars on the road for sale,” he said.

However, NWA’s Communications Manager Stephen Shaw stated, when contacted, that the issue was the municipal corporation’s responsibility.

“It is the parish council, because they (marts) are doing a business and it is an illegal [parking] activity. It is a combination of things,” he said.

Meanwhile, head of the Manchester police, Superintendent Gary Francis, said he was not aware of the illegal parking being done by car marts.

On the issue of traffic congestion, Councillor Oliphant suggested that the town should pilot an odd-even licence plate policy to regulate traffic in and around Mandeville.

“We could have even numbers on Manchester Road into the town, while the odd numbers would take Cedar Grove via Waltham onto Perth Road. On the north-eastern end we could have odd numbers going onto Caledonia Road into the town, while even numbers would go onto deCarteret Road,” Oliphant suggested.

When asked whether the measure would create inconvenience for motorists, Oliphant suggested that people plan their commute.

“What we would be doing is spreading the traffic… It is just that you have to plan your route. People need to use the off-roads more,” he said.

Oliphant has, on multiple occasions, lobbied for more sidewalks in and around Mandeville and for existing pedestrian crosswalks to be repaired to better help regulate traffic.

Another solution is to have more of a one-way system in the town on a section of Caledonia Road.

“Too many of our streets are two-way and that is where the traffic problem is, but if we have alternate streets going the opposite direction, it would [help],” he said.

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