The last couple of months, we heard multiple solutions for India’s parking mess. In December, Union urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu recommended that no car or two-wheeler be registered till the owner furnished a certificate of adequate parking space available to him.
Then, surface transport minister Nitin Gadkari proposed to hike the current penalty of Rs 200 for illegally parking to Rs 1,000 and to build a mechanism so that people can click pictures of illegal parking, send those to regulatory authorities and be rewarded.
Last week, Delhi’s lieutenant governor Anil Baijal sought a “doable” parking policy for the national capital. With the Supreme Court-approved graded response system mandating Delhi to enforce higher parking rates when pollution levels peak to “very poor” levels, the national capital can’t procrastinate on this issue for long.
But given the mess created over the years, Delhi’s problem is where to start. According to the Centre for Science and Environment, parking already devours 10% of urban land in Delhi, which is 1.7 times higher than the total area of Dwarka. In some neighbourhoods as much as 45% of the circulation area is under parking encroachment. And the number of vehicles in Delhi will soon touch the 10-million mark.
Those who park in legal parking slots pay a fee, which was raised from a flat Rs 10 to Rs 20-100 three years back. But the limits of many authorised parking spaces are not demarcated. Also, there is no stopping the mafia from encroaching on public land to run illegal parking.
If one doesn’t mind the risk involved, one can park under flyovers, in parks and alleys or simply on pavements where parking is free unless the space has already been taken over by the parking mafia.
In residential neighbourhoods, single or double storey houses that parked a car or two, have now become multi-storey apartments housing six to eight families who own as many cars or more. While housing prices have skyrocketed, the parking space on public land has remained virtually free. Civic agencies charge only a modest single payment at the time of registering a vehicle.
Experts say parking fees should be able to recover the cost of the land used. In the National Capital Region, an additional parking space in a gated community costs as much as Rs 3 lakh. In 2011, the unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi made it mandatory for all new constructions in the city to have stilt parking. But there is no enforcement to check spillover on roads.
The world over, cities are trying to cut down on their parking spaces. Abundant parking is anyway a misnomer. As the theory of induced demand goes, the more space you provide on road or for parking, the sooner it gets filled.
To assess how much parking space a city can keep or do away with, the planners first need to create an inventory. In 2010, San Francisco did that by counting every publicly accessible parking space, including lots, garages, and free and metered street parking. They found that the city had 441,541 slots, more than half of which were free, on-street spaces.
With real-time data on availability and dynamic pricing for spaces, the authorities found that the time people spent looking for parking fell by 43%. Although there is no data available on whether this discouraged drives to San Francisco, various other researches showed that a 10% increase in parking cost could reduce demand between 3-10%, The Guardian reported in September 2016.
Mexico City, which suffers from similar levels of congestion and air pollution as Delhi, started charging for parking in residential neighbourhoods by installing meters called EcoParq in 2012. Until then, on-street parking was either free or informally controlled by franeleros, unregulated valet attendants who, like the Delhi’s parking mafia, often resorted to extortion. Now, 30% of EcoParq revenue is reinvested in the same neighbourhoods. Some have used it to build sidewalks, others have installed streetlights.
For a long time now, experts have been asking the government to charge residents a monthly parking fee in Delhi. That is a good thought to put in the “doable” parking policy. It is only fair that we pay for the public space our cars occupy. And perhaps pay incrementally more for our second and third cars parked outside. Anyone?