Where will I park my car? Is the first thought that comes to a Delhiite’s mind while stepping out to shop.
Malls have designated parking areas but people in the city have been made to believe that the facility should be provided to them for a pittance. So, you may witness a number of cars parked alongside the road at an illegal lot, despite a safe underground parking available at the nearby mall.
Open markets such as Lajpat Nagar and Chandni Chowk are nothing short of horror if you take your car. Finding a parking spot usually takes up most of the time. But, the situation is more or less the same across the Capital.
So what are we doing wrong and what can be done? Paul Barter, a global transport expert, says on-street parking management is the key.
“There are many cities that have taken effective measures. We can take a lesson from them. The Polanco district of Mexico City has recently seen dramatic improvement with the help of a project to manage and price on-street parking efficiently. The results have been impressive in the city, where most areas have chaotic on-street parking,” said Barter.
“Seoul in North Korea has plenty of areas with chaotic parking but in some of its busiest business districts, it has also witnessed rapid improvement. The reason: parking prices in these districts are the highest among Seoul’s five parking pricing zones,” he said, citing another global example.
Parking fees, according to most experts, is one of the most important tools in the effective on-street parking management. However, in India use of valuable urban space is offered for parking either free or for a pittance.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director for research and advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment, said: “Promote public transport and price parking rationally. Variable rates, which are optimally high to influence travel choices of people, should be introduced. We must have area-specific or zone-wise strategies, not just a site-specific one. Plus, the civic bodies should demarcate legal parking areas with stress on strict enforcement of rules,” she said.
All over the city parking contractors fleece people since there is no parity in the rates and parkings remain unregulated. Automated parking meters can be the answer.
“This overcharging needs to be dealt with. We need to make effective use of technology. Why not use parking meters where no one can overcharge and you pay the exact rates?” said Rajiv Kakria, RWA member, Greater Kailash-I. He also said that hand-held machines should be made a must for all parking attendants so that receipts are not tampered with.
In the larger context, effective public transport is the answer to congestion.
Experts say Delhi urgently needs 11,000 buses and also improve upon speed, efficiency, frequency, reliability and quality of the services. The transport demand forecast of RITES in 2011 says that 73% public transport ridership by 2020 is achievable with buses especially dedicated bus lanes. This will need supportive scaling up of walking and cycling infrastructure, para transit and feeder to Metro and increased capacity of Metro.
Busy Metro stations to be built in phase 3 may have dedicated ‘halt-and-go’ parking facilities for auto-rickshaws on the station premises. Plus all new Metro stations will have separate slots for four-wheelers, autos and buses on their premises.
“All markets should be turned into a vehicle-free zone. Traders who park their cars in front of their shops should not be allowed to do so. They think it is their birthright to park in front of their shops but if they continue to do so they should be penalised,” said Bhure Lal, chairman of the Supreme Court-appointed Monitoring Committee to manage parking policies in the NCR.
Delhi’s success stories
Amid the chaos that is parking in Delhi, two prime parking spots in the Capital are doing exactly what experts have prescribed — raise the rates to discourage use of cars and encourage public transport.
For parking at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, which has the capacity to park 4,300 vehicles, car owners have to pay R80 for half an hour, R160 for up to two hours and R80 for each subsequent hour after that up to eight hours. For parking your car for up to 24 hours at the airport, the charges are R1,050.
Private cars are allowed to wait at the pick-up lane outside the domestic terminal 1C for just five minutes, after which an “overstaying charge” of R100 has to be paid for the next five minutes. For every subsequent five minutes, car owners have to shell out an additional R50.
“This system has been put in place to reduce congestion and not as a revenue stream,” said an airport official.
The other parking is the premium lot on the AIIMS campus where one has to pay R100 for 0-4 hours and R15 for every subsequent hour after that. So, even if you park for 10 minutes, be ready to shell out a hundred bucks.
“This helps in avoiding congestion to a large extent as many people are discouraged from bringing in their vehicles,” said an AIIMS official.