LAHORE: The new Park and Ride Plaza at Liberty has resulted in fewer customers and job losses for the nearby shops, said business owners on Saturday.
The parking plaza was opened at the end of last year and was meant to reduce congestion in the market, which includes some of Lahore’s biggest stores like Al Fatah. But the business owners say it has made the market less accessible to people in cars.
“There are some 75 shops in the market with about 2,500 employees in sales and related positions. Three hundred salesmen have been fired since the plaza opened,” said Arif Mehmood, one of the business owners, at a press conference on Saturday. “If the government continues with their parking policy we will be forced to fire another thousand. The ‘credit’ will go to the Punjab government.”
Mehmood said that the businessmen had made repeated requests to Khawaja Imran Raza, principal staff officer of the chief minister, to arrange a meeting between them, but he had always refused.
Other members of the Action Committee of Park and Ride Plaza Affectees said their businesses were down 80 per cent since the plaza opened.
Mian Haroon Akbar said that the business owners were worried that the government intended to turn the Al Fatah store street into a food street. He accused the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) of “planning to destroy our remaining businesses”.
He said the LDA was trying to bring food carts to the spaces in front of the stores where cars used to be parked. “Some brilliant brains in our amazing bureaucracy have advised our visionary chief minister to convert it into a food street,” he said. “They will get cheap vendors selling gol gappay and dahee bhallay, which in turn will attract a young crowd. The existing restaurants in the street will be dead if such a food street is imposed on us.”
Other members of the action committee said that they had suggested that the business owners park their 150-odd vehicles in the Park and Ride Plaza at the rate of Rs1,000 per car per month, provided their customers be allowed to park in front of their shops. The offer was not taken up.
They said that the Park and Ride Plaza only accommodates 305 cars, space which would be quickly used up, particularly as more shops open within the plaza. He said previously, there had been enough parking space in and around the market for 1,200 vehicles.
The action committee warned the chief minister that their protest would swell if he went ahead with his plan to build more parking plazas, as the committee would be joined by more business owners affected by the parking plan.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2011.