Chandigarh | Parking policy stuck in first gear
A top-heavy Chandigarh administration has time and again shown that it struggles with policy formulation. In this multi-part series, Hindustan Times examines key policies that await implementation despite being notified and those that remain on the drawing board stage even after several years have passed.
After putting in years of work, Chandigarh administration finally came up with a parking policy in 2020. But two years on, the policy still remains on paper with no actual impact on solving the city’s acute and worsening parking problem.
Recently, UT adviser Dharam Pal, after a review of the parking policy, found it to be “non-implementable” and directed officials to rework it so that it could be made workable.
The urban planning department had formulated the policy, though, initially it was locked in a dispute with the transport department, with both sides nudging each other to shoulder responsibility for its formulation.
There is no set time-frame for the new policy to be finalised and implemented, though, officials contend they would be ready with a revamped policy in a month.
Choking on cars
The union territory was designed for a population of five lakh but now, it has grown to over 12 lakh.
Adding to its urbanisation woes is the fact that Chandigarh has the highest density of car ownership in the country -- 731 per 1,000 persons.
This is double the figure of Punjab and three times as compared to Haryana.
The city faces acute parking problems within residential areas as well as commercial and institutional areas.
Taking a dim view of Chandigarh’s existing parking system, Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES) has recommended multiple improvements in it.
In the note on “Parking Management in Chandigarh”, submitted with the UT administration, RITES, a multi-disciplinary consultancy corporation of the Indian Railways, lists several problems plaguing the city’s parking lots.
There is no real-time tracking or data/report for analysis of the parking lots. Commuters waste considerable time searching for a vacant parking spot, which causes traffic congestion, further leading to stress on users and pollution. Highlighting sub-optimal utilisation of space, RITES has also pointed out lack of flexibility in parking charges.
Parking policy or vision document?
The parking policy, at the time of its notification, was positioned as more of a vision document, with broad guidelines for what can be done to mitigate parking problems.
The policy doesn’t have any mandatory clauses, with the onus of its implementation being on various government agencies – particularly, the municipal corporation and UT transport department.
But the departments have contended that there is no framework set for its implementation and it doesn’t fix responsibility for implementation of its different recommendations. “There is no clear road-map as to how to achieve the recommendations made in the policy document,” said a UT official.
The policy recommends imposition of congestion charges and linking availability of parking space with vehicle registration. The policy’s key focus is on maximising utilisation of existing parking spaces through community parking.
It also advocates community parking in each sector by using neighbourhood commercial and institutional parking lots on rental basis. It also proposes using the parking of educational institutions post their operational hours.
For creating more parking space in houses, it allows for two main gates in the front boundary. It also permits stilt parking on the ground floor of the house. In the group housing societies, commercial and institutional buildings, it allows for three-level basement parking.
UT adviser Dharam Pal, said, “They (urban planning department) had announced the policy without any implementation plan. Now we have to update it purely from the implementation point of view. We have to incorporate sector-wise plan and bring on board the local residents’ welfare associations, it can’t be superimposed. Next week, they will present the revamped policy.”
Surinder Bahga, principal architect, Saakaar Foundation, said, “Professional expertise was not tapped into. There is also paucity of right data relating to parking. So, the exercise remains purely on paper.”
City’s parking infrastructure
Chandigarh currently has 89 parking lots on around 5.22 lakh square metre area, which can house 22,725 equivalent car spaces (ECS).
As per data collected in 2015 by the administration, more than 10 lakh vehicles are present in the city, out of which 35% are cars and remaining are two-wheelers.
What ails the parking system
Real-time tracking of vacant spots missing
Time wasted in searching for parking spot, leading to traffic congestion, stress to users and pollution
Sub-optimal space utilisation
No flexibility in parking charges
Most neighborhood shopping centers have now turned into specialised markets, attracting city-level traffic
In residential areas, particularly for marla row housing and LIG/EWS housing, many people are parking their vehicles on the street
Cars are encroaching upon people’s right of way