Traffic congestion, jams on Shimla roads due to shortage of parking space
Already grappling with parking woes, Shimla residents are facing a tough time after a government order prohibiting parking on road side, especially the office-goers.
Police surveys say that nearly 10,000 vehicles in Shimla are parked on both lateral and main roads, leading to traffic congestion and jams. Almost every bit of the open space on roads has been taken over by vehicles. Roadside parking has emerged as the biggest hazard for travellers in the Shimla town. The number of vehicles in Shimla town have increased from 32,228 in 2005 to 77,945 in 2018.
There are nearly 1.65 lakh vehicles registered in Shimla urban and rural areas. More than 10,000 vehicles were registered in Shimla urban in the last decade. The town faces acute shortage of parking spaces, while the successive governments have failed to address the problem. "Parking problem is acute. There is need to rise above the politics and think seriously about the problem. I suggest that chief minister holds an all-party meeting and seek views from the stakeholders," says senior Left leader Kuldeep Singh Tanwar.
There are 10 parking lots in Shimla — at Lift, near Hotel Holiday Home, Chotta Shimla, Vikasnagar, Snow View , Dhalli, IGMC, Tuttikandi, SDA Complex, Sanjauli and Pantha Ghatti — that can accommodate only, 30,000 vehicles. the parking lot at Tuttikandi was inaugurated in March this year and is not fully operational yet.
Bereft of parking spaces, residents, travellers and office-goers park vehicles on roadside, including the main Circular Road that has 17km stretch. Vehicle owners helplessly bear the brunt as police issue challans for idle parking. Shimla police has challaned more than 60,000 vehicles till June this year. "Where should the vehicle owner go? Vehicles are challaned frequently. Buses are often overcrowded. Government should rather promote collective transport and encourage vehicle pooling," says Baldev Sharma, a resident of Chotta Shimla.
Nearly 1 lakh vehicles are on road in Shimla town daily and the number increases subsequently during the weekends due to tourist rush. Apart from the registered vehicles, nearly 505 buses (Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) and private) ply in Shimla town and its periphery.
Majority of the private buses, including tourist vehicles, are parked on road side . "There is need to interlink the parking lots with computers for having a clear picture in different lots. There should be online booking of parking space and hotel owners should ensure parking space for customers at the time of booking," says Shimla superintendent of police Omapati Jamwal. Nearly, 8,000 to 10,000 additional tourist vehicles enter Shimla town in the weekends.
City mobility plan fails to take off
What has worsened the problem is failure of the successive governments in implementing the city mobility plan drafted in 2012 that underlined the need for more parking lots in the town . Yellow line parking can only be created where the road width is more than 7.5 metres, while over 65% roads in Shimla are only 6-metre wide. The city mobility plan also envisaged construction of five tunnels to cut the distance and facilitate smooth traffic on the Circular Road.
However, the government instead of constructing more parking lots, earmarked parking spaces along the road. "Promoting yellow line parking along the road is just a piece-meal measure. Shimla requires permanent solution to the problem. As many as 85 parking lots in different residential areas had been identified during our regime, " said former mayor Sanjay Chauhan.
Parking problem is also adding to the woes of hoteliers in Shimla. There are nearly 491 registered hotels in Shimla and peripheral areas. Only a few hotels have parking spaces. Visitors find it tough to get parking spaces in town. "Multi-story parking can be constructed on land between the railway station and bus stand. Similarly, another parking lot can come up near Rivoli bus stop," says Sanjay Sood, president of Shimla Hotelier and Restaurateurs Association.
Parking problem often leads to traffic jams on lateral roads that intersect the Circular Road at 66 locations, which decelerate the vehicle movement. "At times they spend hours inside vehicles looking for parking. Consequently, tourists prefer other destinations close to Shimla instead of staying in the main town," says Suresh Dogra, owner of travel agency.
Steps after mishap
After the school bus accident that killed three persons, including two girl students, chief minister Jai Ram Thakur ordered the district administration to put up signages of ‘Authorsed Parking Zone’ as well as ‘No Parking Zone’. Bus veered off the road on July 1 when the driver tried to avoid vehicles parked on the road side on the narrow road connecting Jhanjeri with Khalini. Thakur ordered the municipal corporation to expedite work on three parking lots and called for identifying new parking in the town. The government has prohibited parking within 50 metres of schools where children board and deboard buses. The government also directed the departments to create parking spaces on its premises.