Delhi’s parking policy needs public support
Right now, the biggest share of Delhi’s road space is hogged by more than 10 million cars and two-wheelers.Updated: Sep 30, 2019, 10:16 IST
Last week, the national capital took a step forward to address one of its most pressing civic, social and environmental concerns – the parking of vehicles.
The Delhi government notified the long-awaited parking rules that promise to cut the clutter created by illegally parked vehicles by streamlining existing slots for optimal use and making space for other road users, creating new lots wherever possible, and introducing dynamic pricing mechanism for demand-side management.
If enforced effectively, the parking rules can help Delhi reclaim mobility and fight air pollution. Right now, the biggest share of Delhi’s road space is hogged by more than 10 million cars and two-wheelers. A large part of this massive fleet does not even need to ply to occupy road space. They are parked just anywhere on the street.
Vacant slots are still hard to find, forcing drivers to cruise. As American parking expert Donald Shoup says in his book “The high cost of free parking”, this makes vehicles travel without any real travel. The result is loss of time and fuel, traffic congestion and air pollution.
Under the new rules, on-street parking fee for the first hour will be at least twice as much as off-street parking. Also, on-street parking fee will be increased exponentially every hour to discourage long duration use. The rules also push for heavier towing away charges for illegally parked vehicles.
The real test though, lies in enforcement. In the past few years, the municipalities hiked the parking fees without any significant impact, mainly because nobody made any consistent effort to penalise illegally parked vehicles.
Even if there is space in authorised parking lots, especially the multi-level units, they are not fully utilised because there are many who don’t want to pay up. In residential neighbourhoods, public space is claimed for parking as a matter of right.
The new rules could have more teeth if the government had not dropped the clause on charging parking fees in residential areas. A municipal official says a fee could have been effective way to manage demand and regulate haphazard parking in residential neighbourhoods.
For residential areas, the new rules say that parking will be allowed only in demarcated space, vehicles parked on footpaths be towed away, and a lane be marked for unhindered movement of emergency vehicles. Since round-the-clock enforcement is not easy, levying fees on residential parking could have reduced the number of vehicles parked in a neighbourhood, says the official.
Right now, under the parking management area plan, which has to be mandatorily created by municipalities, residents can apply for stickers or passes for use of public parking space, and these may be monitored through residents’ welfare association. Officials are hoping this would eventually create scope for paid parking.
It is only fair that we pay for the public space our cars occupy. Under the new rules, minimum parking rates across Delhi will be fixed by an apex committee.
A dynamic pricing mechanism such as peak and non-peak fees and exponential increase per hour will also be enforced. The fee, the rules state, should be optimal and not be so high as to reduce occupancy drastically or too low that it induces more demand.
A higher fee can only be justified if it brings benefits to the citizens, especially people who walk and cycle but are forced to give their share of road space to motor vehicle users. To restore this parity, the new rules ask municipalities to utilise the parking revenue to improve footpaths, non-motor vehicle lanes, public amenities and parking facilities. If enforced, such reinvestments can make demand-based parking pricing politically popular, says Shoup in his book.
The rules also call for augmenting supply by building multi-level and stack parking, using open spaces and shared parking after making a demand assessment through local area plans. But for a city that registers an average of 400 cars every day, one has to ultimately ask just how much parking will ever be enough?
Under the new rules, permit for transport vehicles like taxis will be given on the basis of parking proof.
The same rules should apply for private vehicles as well. Between expanding parking space and reducing the number of vehicles, the choice should be obvious for the car capital of India.