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Parking in Sofia, Bulgaria, and Some Ways of Optimizing It

Krasimir Krastanov

Bulgaria is in the southeast of Europe, on the Balkans peninsula. The capital, Sofia, numbers about 1 200 000 inhabitants.
In most cities of Bulgaria, including the capital, there is a shortage of parking areas in the downtown, in airport and railway station areas, and in trade centers, resort complexes, etc. The parking problem exists in many European cities.
Because of the lack of enough area, irresponsible drivers use the streets, the sidewalks or the lawns for parking. Thus, municipal administration and the corresponding control authorities run into difficulties in organizing the traffic streams and in cleaning up.
Open-air guarded parking lots are built in the town center of Sofia and also in the outskirts. The subscription of $15 per month allows drivers to park their automobiles there every day. However, that can not solve the problem of parking because the capacity of parking lots is limited. As a result, a lot of automobiles are parked outside the guarded parking lots.
There are eight covered parking lots in Sofia. The charges range from $40 to $60 for a parking place per month. They are higher in the underground parking lots -- $2 per hour. The first private, covered, many-story parking lot in Sofia is the "snail" type, on five levels (see Figure 1).
Description of the "Blue Zone" in Sofia
After a thorough study of the experience of some countries such as Germany, France and Austria, parking of short duration has been established in the "Blue Zone" since October 1989. This results in increased effectiveness in stopping employees who work nearby all day long from using the parking places.
The "Blue Zone" has about 3,900 parking places (425 of them are official subscription) located in about 25 streets and a few squares.
The parking lot load and its effective use are high, but there are a lot of infringements due to the reluctance of some drivers to keep the regulations of paid parking. On the other side, sanctions against the infringers are not effective enough.
The main places for intensive parking service in the "Blue Zone" are the central boulevards and the squares around the buildings of the Parliament, Presidency and Council of Ministers.
The municipal Parking Lots and Garages Department runs the "Blue Zone" parking lots. Its activities include marking and signaling, selling parking talons, control of correct parking in the special zone, sanctions against the infringers, advertising and marketing.
The short-duration paid parking is allowed for cars and light-freight trucks (up to 2.5 tons) and minibuses up to 12 seats. The parking payment is settled in advance by a talon that has to be put at the windscreen. The driver marks the month, the date and the hour of parking by crossing out a square. Parking talons are offered in more than 100 places in the town center, at the news agents, at petrol stations, and also by inspectors.
The inspector of the parking lot checks whether the talons are filled in correctly and watches for infringers. The latter receive messages for pay that are to be paid off within seven days. At expiration of the term, the infringer is sanctioned by a higher fine according to the Administrative Infringements and Penalties Law.
After the "Blue Zone" service was set up, the duration of parking was shortened from 6.5 hours to 3 hours. In this way, the number of citizens who manage to attend some places in the downtown by their own transport has increased. The functioning of the special zone makes it easy to find parking places and to avoid traffic jams caused by drivers who park incorrectly.
Official subscription
There are 750 parking places used as official subscription and 300 subscribers. Most of the places -- 425 -- are in the "Blue Zone"; 277 are in the "Center Zone"; and 48 are in the rest of the city. The official subscription costs $225 in the "Center Zone" and $260 in the "Blue Zone" per month.
All juridical persons and tradespeople have the right to use places for parking for official needs. As the streets, squares and parking lots are municipal property, the applicant has to get a form from the corresponding office at the municipality. The location and the number of parking places are pointed out on this form.
Officials of the municipality consider the application, view the location and places proposed for parking, and make a decision within five days. Based on this decision, a contract is signed between the municipal Parking Lots and Garages Department and the applicant about renting the indicated parking places. These are signaled by road signals and marked, which are removed when the contract is terminated.
Traffic police and municipal offices control use of the parking places for official needs. Although there is a strong organization for parking in Sofia and there are covered and open-air parking lots available, the problem of parking hasn't been solved yet.
To improve the organization and safety of the intensive traffic and to ensure secure and safe parking, it is absolutely necessary to build parking lot garages that occupy minimal built-up areas and meet the ecological requirements.
Automated many-story parking lot garages are a good decision for the capital city, because they offer the opportunity for a large number of automobiles to be parked and garaged on a small area. Different combinations of entrance-exit of these parking lot garages can be designed in order to ensure a convenient connection between the garages and the road network.
In many countries, underground and overground automated parking lot garages are served by different hoisting and hauling systems.
Warehouse machines such as stacker cranes for bulky freight can be used for parking automobiles in automated many-story parking lot garages. The system (see Figure 2) includes the following operations: The automobile is left by the driver on a pallet at the reception point of the parking lot garages. This pallet is on a mobile platform and is transported to one of the garage cages by stacker crane. It then takes an empty pallet from another cage and puts it on the mobile platform ready for parking of another automobile.
The need to build systems that can solve the parking problem mentioned above is considerable. In my opinion, the best decision for Sofia is the overground automated parking lot garages. They can be built much faster and cheaper than the underground ones. The reason is that the subterranean water is quite high and excavation of a garage of more than three stories is expensive and complicated. Also, underground parking lot garages do not allow a large number of automobiles to be parked.
The future belongs to the automated parking lot garages. The advantages are that the automobiles are fully protected from theft and encroachment; the organization of city traffic improves; sweeping up and transport of garbage eases; and the environment is protected because the quantity of burnt escape gases decreases.

Krasimir Krastanov, Master Engineer, is working on his degree for Professor Vikenti Spassov, Ph.D., at the Higher School of Transport, Department of Material Handling and Logistics in Sofia, Bulgaria. He can be reached at krasi_krastanov@yahoo.com.


Article Abstract from October, 2003




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