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HindustanTimes Fri,18 Apr 2014

Will and innovation needed to fight parking chaos

Darpan Singh, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 24, 2013
First Published: 01:38 IST(24/8/2013) | Last Updated: 03:07 IST(24/8/2013)

The problem of parking space in the national capital and the solutions have both been put up on the notice board. The need of the hour is to make these solutions work.  

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Delhi built multi-level parkings in the hope that they will de-congest streets. That has not happened because enabling provisions have not been put in place. As long as surface parking is available for free or for a pittance, multi-level lots will remain under-utilised.

A Centre for Science and Environment research shows the Eros parking at Delhi’s Nehru Place remained grossly under-utilised for a long time till enforcement on surface parking in the area improved.\

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Committees set up by courts and expert groups have been demanding increase in parking rates to cut down car usage. The multi-level lots will become even more redundant if rates go up.

What’s the way out then? Rates must go up. But if multi-level lots have to exist, they must be integrated with the surface lots. Chaos will not end till both kinds of parking in an area are treated like one, two-dimensional facility.

Simply put, people will not be able to avoid multi-level lots when surface parking at the same location is full or likely to be full at any given point in time. This will keep the chaos from spilling on to roads.

Pricing will have a greater benefit. According to another CSE study, in Delhi, pricing can help reduce car usage by 10-30%, making people choose public transport.
 
But pricing should fund and go along with scaling up of public transport. It’s a productive cycle — parking demand in Connaught Place went down by 10% ever since it was connected by Metro.

Kumar Bibhu, a Mayur Vihar resident, said, “New taxes and raising parking fees alone will not help. Car is not a luxury nowadays; it is a necessity. Everyone knows how auto-rickshaw drivers behave and charge, how much a taxi costs and how inconvenient Metro becomes at times.”

Transport expert Christopher Kost agrees, “Delhi should invest in high quality public transport and better facilities for non-motorised modes. People should see reason in shifting from cars to sustainable modes-walking, cycling, and public transport.” Parking revenue can go into street improvements such as footpath maintenance, tree planting, benches, and trash collection.

Mark Gorton, another US-based expert, said, “But the bottom line is people of Delhi need to understand that their city will not recover from the brutal impact of traffic until it takes strong steps to radically limit private cars.”

Parking rates should be area-specific and based on real-time market demands. There could be several innovations — higher rates for bigger vehicles, charge convenient parking spaces higher than the inconvenient places to reduce congestion and influence commuting choices. Authorities also need to increase parking violation fines — especially for parking on footpaths and cycle tracks.

Effective parking management will help car users get reliable information about parking, reduce cruising time and fuel costs. Efficient billing will make payment more transparent. Chances of finding a space will improve and waiting time will go down. This will also protect footpaths and allow barrier-free walking.

HT readers have also been writing in to make suggestions. Shakil Ahmed says: “Multi-level lots can be built close to Metro stations so that the usage of cars is limited.” Sanjay says: “Each building should have stilts for parking. On-street parking should be ticketed. During rush hours, cars must have a minimum of two occupants to use a designated lane.”

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