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Smart Cities Need Smart Parking

No private car should be registered until its owner can demonstrate proof of suitable parking-slot availability within his premises.

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With increased urbanization and rapid explosion in car-density, resolution of car-parking problems assumes a magnified criticality. Parking has to be more than a remedial measure. It has to be part of urban planning. There is acute shortage of designated parking slots. Delhi, for instance, has designated space for about a hundred thousand vehicles, but the city has more than 7.5 million registered and active vehicles. This is the state in all cities.

Globally, all cities have tackled car parking problems by designating and designing adequate number of suitable car-parks at appropriate places. In India our city planning has never factored-in the need for parking, perhaps because it has been viewed as a mundane concern, when, in fact, parking involves managing several complex parameters: land procurement/delineation, master-planning, construction design and choice of materials, physical construction management, lighting, safety and security solutions, efficient payment solutions and not the least—facility management. They are therefore as important for a city as ports are to shipping and airports for aviation.

Based on a University of California Transportation Center study, Los Angeles County has about 20 million parking spaces. These include about 5.5 million residential off-street, 10 million non-residential off-street, and about 4 million on-street spaces. This amounts to more than 250 square kilometers of cumulative parking space, equivalent to 15 percent of that County’s incorporated land area. What is significant, to the point of being shocking, is that this area is 40% more than the total area occupied by the roads in that County!

No private car should be registered until its owner can demonstrate proof of suitable parking-slot availability within his premises. Remember, to beat the odd-even stipulation, people bought new cars. If the owner does not have space within his premises, he should have to produce from the RWA suitable proof that they can provide parking place in their common areas. For this to happen parking space permits will have to be made tradeable.

Further, since residential colonies have no space for delineated common-parking areas, RWAs should be allowed to convert a few common spaces reserved for parks for the purpose of collective-parking. Such plans should, however, be subject to the approval of the majority of residents through an e-vote. Also, special fiscal incentives should be given by the Municipal bodies to RWAs to build underground parking and RWAs should be enabled to charge for their construction and O&M on commercial terms from the residents who subscribe to these facilities. 

The biggest issue in the Indian context is on-street parking. Today parking is either free, or in the control of licensed unprofessional toll-collectors who have flat rates, because there is no clear policy for regulating and charging for the use of street parking space. The area of Khan Market in New Delhi with the adjoining buildings like Lok Nayak Bhawan and the Railway stations are a classic example of poor parking management and its adverse effects on transaction time. On the contrary, Habitat Center and the Delhi airport are examples of effective parking facility and management.

At a micro-level, parking meters with flexible hourly-rates should be installed along street roads at all designated car-parking areas. So in peak hours the rates should be substantially higher than in lean hours. Stiff penal provisions have to be in force to discourage illegal on-street parking. Further, on-street parking should definitively be more expensive than off-street parking to discourage on-street parking and to incentivize off-street parking. 

Although policies are being framed, in the interest of citizen-comfort, car parking management will have to be undertaken on a war-footing.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Raghav Chandra

Former Secretary Government of India

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