Why Delhi isn’t taking to parking off-street
The North Delhi Municipal Corporation’s state-of-the-art seven-storeyed, automated underground parking at Kamla Nagar, which was constructed in 2013, lies almost empty during peak business hours and festival seasons.
On Diwali eve, the parking facility with 828 slots has just 106 occupied, while the festive market was chock-a-block with haphazardly parked vehicles on the roads.
“We have been suffering losses in operating this multilevel parking since day 1,” rued Pranav Kumar, Executive Director, Mall Spark, who runs the parking facility on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis with the North corporation. “It’s been my dream to put up a board outside that reads ‘Full’, but it hasn’t happened in the past six years and I don’t foresee it anytime soon.”
This is the problem at most multilevel parking (or off-street) facilities, which have been constructed in and around major commercial centres and markets, run by the four civic bodies—three municipal corporations and the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC). Put together, the four civic agencies have 446 authorised surface parking and 18 multilevel parking facilities in the city.
Like Kamla Nagar, the multilevel parking facility in Model Town, Hauz Khas, Subhash Nagar etc are utilised just 20-60%, even during peak hours.
According to one South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) official, people would rather park on the roads for “free” rather than use the multi-level parking system. The lack of enforcement doesn’t push people into using the facilities either.
Civic officials are pinning their hopes on the Delhi Maintenance and Management of Parking Places Rules, 2019, notified on September 23, to address this problem.
As per the new rules, an area within 500m radius of the multilevel parking facility should be designated as no parking zone and on-street parking in this area should be priced at least “three times more than off-street parking”.
Prem Shankar Jha, Deputy Commissioner and in-charge of Remunerative Projects (RP) Cell, SDMC, said, “The provisions in the new rules like charging higher on-street parking rates in areas around multilevel facility is going to change things. The rules focus on discouraging on-street parking.”
The North Delhi Municipal Corporation (North corporation) has prepared a plan for Kamla Nagar, where the pilot project has to be implemented before December end.
Anuj Malhotra, transport expert and knowledge partner with the ministry of home affairs and who is assisting the North body, said, “In Kamla Nagar, arterial roads around it will be declared as ‘no parking zone’; earmarking a dedicated lane in the roundabout in the market (where the multilevel facility is located) as queue lane and setup e-richshaw and auto stands in and around the markets to provide facility to shoppers.”
It also needs better enforcement.
The north body commissioner, Varsha Joshi, said, “We are preparing PMAPs (Parking Management Area Plans) after studying the parking requirements of all stakeholders (traders, residents and visiting shoppers) in each area. It will support our aim to get people to park in multilevel parkings.”
“We routinely take action. But probably we need to completely rid of the on-street parking or reduce it considerably to encourage the motorists to use underground parking (Kamla Nagar market) facility,” said Ira Singhal, Deputy Commissioner, North Delhi Municipal Corporation.
The provision to charge more for on-street parking in the rules, Mukti Advani, a senior scientist with the Central Road Research Institute (CSIR-CRRI), will address the problem. Advani said, “In fact, parking in commercial areas should be priced high in order to discourage people to park for long hours and encourage the use of public transport. The provision to charge three-times the on-street parking rates will address the problem to a large extent.”
The NDMC has constructed three multilevel parking facilities—Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Palika Bazaar and Shivaji Stadium—within 500m around Connaught Place (CP). The three facilities have space for 3000-odd cars but the occupancy rate of not more than 15-30%.
Instead, people park cars on on-street parking zones.
Atul Bhargava, president of New Delhi Traders Association at CP, said, “This is a premium market and the clientele here mostly comes by car. They don’t want to park their car at a parking facility and then take an autorickshaw to reach here”
To encourage the use of multilevels parkings, the rules state that civic agencies should provide for shuttle service if the off-street facility is more than 200m away. It also states that long duration parking users such as shopkeepers, office-goers, can use off-street parking.
NDMC secretary Rashmi Singh said, “We will talk to motorists and traders’ associations, for example in Connaught Place, and convince them to use the multilevel parking facilities. We will put up signages for people to follow, and wherever needed, provide e-rickshaws and golf carts for the distance between the parking and the market.”
Another reason is safety, especially for women. “At couple of places, I have noticed that the lighting and security is not good. I would not venture into an underground parking in such circumstances, especially post sunset,” Preeti Raheja, a banker , said.
Rwitee Mandal, Senior Programme Manager with NGO Safetipin, said, “The authorities could consider reserving slots for women motorists in multilevel parkings near the core, which is the area near lifts and staircases and most accessible in the complex. Seoul city in South Korea has done this by law and the reserved slots are marked with pink stickers.”
“Besides, more CCTV cameras and security guards can be provided,” she said.
Transport experts say that poor parking management at markets/commercial centres has led to congestion on roads and in neighbouring residential areas.
The rules have provision for construction of new off-street parking facilities, but with a condition. “New multi-level parking facilities should be so designed that it can be put to any other use considering the future requirement. Commercial space should be permitted in multilevel facilities,” as per the rules.
Malhotra, “New parking facilities should be provided only after detailed assessment of demand. To ensure it is utilized properly, the multilevel parking facilities, especially in malls, commercial buildings etc, should be shared. For instance, in a market, it could be used by traders in the morning and local residents from neighbouring colonies in the evening.”
He added, “The model where the operator of the multilevel facility is also given charge of the on-street parking has also worked well in some places. This is because the main source of revenue for the operator remains the multilevel facility.”