In their first budget presentation last week after the trifurcation in April this year, Delhi's three civic agencies proposed to increase parking charges and introduce variable rates. But with the state assembly elections due next year, it seems unlikely that our politicos would want to ruin their poll prospects by pushing unpopular reforms.
Thanks to the city's unmanageable and ever-growing fleet of private vehicles, parking, according a study by the Centre for Science and Environment, devours close to 10 per cent of the urban land in Delhi. In certain localities, as much as 45 per cent of the circulation area is under parking encroachment and valuable urban space is offered for parking either free or for a pittance, the study says.
Except for a few pockets in New Delhi, in most parts of the city parking a car for up to 10 hours costs just Rs. 10. If you do not mind the risk involved, you can park under flyovers, in parks and bylanes or simply on pavements where parking is free unless the space has been taken over by the parking mafia that runs more than 100 illegal parking lots in the city.
In comparison, Delhi's 300-odd legal parking lots can accommodate only 30,000 cars, clearly not enough for a city that adds 700 cars every day.
Residential areas are the worst hit. A single or double storey house that owned one car has now become multi-storey apartments housing six to eight families who own as many cars, often more.
And, while the prices for the housing space have skyrocketed, the parking space on public land has remained virtually free. Civic agencies charge no tax other than a one-time payment of a few thousand rupees at the time of registration of the vehicle.
Delhi has no law to stop those without legal parking space from buying cars. Experts say parking fees should be able to recover the cost of the land used to park the car. Builders are already doing it in the National Capital Region where an additional parking space in a gated community costs as much as Rs. 3 lakh.
The unified MCD made it mandatory for all new constructions to have stilt parking. But there is no enforcement to check if cars are actually parked in the slit parking. The result is the spillover on roads.
The government agencies have also failed to rein in the parking mafia who overcharge users and encroach on public land. Only a handful of parking lots issue electronic receipts or have their boundaries demarcated. Most proposals to build automated multi-level parking lots have remained buried in files. The two that did come up remain grossly under-utilised.
Civic agencies have failed to integrate these facilities with surface car parks, which are way cheaper and a lesser hassle because they are closer to the markets. To recover land cost, a multi-level car parking should charge at least Rs. 40 per hour, CSE has estimated. But our civic agencies do not want to go beyond Rs. 20 even in the new proposed rates.
Rational parking fees and congestion taxes work better when availability of public transport to congested areas discourage cars.
But little has been done to improve the last-mile connectivity in Delhi. For residential areas, the Supreme Court-appointed environment panel wants residents to pay a monthly fee for parking space and proposes a penalty of Rs. 600 per day for the violators.
The roadmap is in place. But given the political drive, it seems a long way to a decongested Delhi.