Parking Curacao

Parking in Downtown Willemstad

As long as we can remember parking in downtown Willemstad (most notably the neighborhoods of Punda and Otrobanda) has been a challenge. Hopefully this will soon come to an end now that the tender for managing downtown parking has been awarded to a new party. As of this year, for a period of five years, paid parking will be managed by DMO/SKO, a cooperation between the management companies of the areas of Punda and Otrobanda. 

Three companies responded to the tender: Parking Authority Curaçao (PAC, the previous operator), Securitas Antias (a local firm with a security company, a road-side assistance company, and a taxi app), and DMO/SKO. We know of at least one other party who would've been very interested in this tender. They heard about it too late though since there's no central online spot where RFP's like these get posted.

The full details of the three proposals aren't known to the general public, but apparently PAC wanted to stick with what they were doing -just with better parking meters- and the other two parties offered more innovative solutions related to Smart City models for parking. The most notable apparent distinction between DMO/SKO and Securitas Antias was that the former included a plan to re-invest the proceeds into maintenance and improvement of the downtown area's public spaces while the latter would reserve a larger cut of their dues for the government. 

DMO/SKO will have their work cut out for them. Before paid parking was introduced in 2010 it was almost impossible to get a decent parking spot close to the shopping areas because most spots got claimed early in the morning by the people who work in the area and weren't released until they left work at the end of the day. This meant that shoppers and tourists had to park far away and walk long distances in the heat before being able to spend their money.

The introduction of paid parking solved this problem for the most part because personnel of the shops and offices would park further away to park for free, leaving the prime spots for tourists and shoppers. Paid parking did introduce a new hurdle though; faulty cash-only machines and an aggressive clamping policy caused many annoyances. The current situation is that, because there's no operator, parking is free again since early last year and parking in the area is in the same terrible state as before 2010.

Now that the tender has been won, DMO/SKO can get to work implementing their vision. Previously they communicated that they want to make it possible for people to pay for parking with an app but we haven't seen any details about this app yet. Online payments have always been a challenge in Curaçao but we have substantially more options now than we had in 2010. Local payment service providers like CXPay, PagaDirectSentoo, etcetera are probably eager to lend a hand here.

DMO/SKO also mentioned that they plan to buy the current operator's equipment and that they plan to sell parking credit at affiliated stores, presumably to accommodate people who can't (or won't) use the app or online payments. An added benefit of using the app, besides being able to pay online, will be that you can top up your credit on the go so you don't have to rush to your car to top up just to spend some more time shopping. It would be nice if the app would also include a live overview of available spots and/or a way to reserve a spot ahead of time, but that would probably be a bit too much for the first version of the app.

In the past DMO has rallied against the use of clamps to enforce the payment of parking tickets. They said back then that a new law has been in the works for some time which would allow giving people a fine based on just their license plate. This practice is very common in the rest of the world, but it's not legally possible yet in Curaçao. This prevents the police from sending out tickets based on video images and, for parking, it means that you can't just record a parking violation and send the car's owner a ticket in the mail. The person (not just the car) needs to be 'caught in the act' before you can issue a fine. That is why PAC had to use clamps.

Besides using the proceeds from parking on general maintenance of the area, DMO/SKO's plan also includes setting up a free wifi network from the second mega pier all the way to Pietermaai together with Digicel, placing and maintaining(!) public toilets, organizing more events, and improving public spaces with more green areas. If everything goes according to plan the new system will go live in May 2022.