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HT Round Table: Parking Policy must go hand-in-hand with better public transport in Pune

With nearly 3 lakh new vehicles descending on the city roads every year, Pune has emerged as the only city in the country where vehicular population has surpassed the human population.Not surprisingly, the Maharashtra government and Pune Municipal Corporation are keen to introduce a Parking Policy for Pune with stiff parking fees to discourage personalised transport. But is this feasible in a city where the people have no option but to use personal transport? The fourth Hindustan Times Round Table was held last week to look at this issue closely. Following are excerpts from the discussion moderated by resident editor Abhay Vaidya

pune Updated: Apr 13, 2018 14:48 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Maharashtra,better public transport
Participants at HT Roundtable on parking policy share a light moment after the focussed session. (Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo)

Abhay Vaidya (HT): When a new policy is introduced or implemented, there needs to be a way forward. For example, the plastic ban has alternatives of paper bags and cloth bags, and, people are voluntarily adapting to the change. If in a city like Pune, we have buses every 30 minutes, citizens will be very happy and will readily take to using the public transport. It will not only save their money but also reduce road accidents. The parking policy is a good initiative, but along with it we feel that a very strong alternative should also be presented.

Kunal Kumar: Parking is not only about vehicles. From the beginning, the fact is that Pune’s biggest concern is transportation. Everybody rates it as the number one problem. Pune’s top three concerns are transport, water and sanitation, in that order. And, roads are not only for the movement of vehicles but also for the movement of people. This conceptual difference needs to be understood. We assume that since number of vehicles have increased roads are widened, vehicles have increased so roads must widen. But we don’t think that in one vehicle just one person is travelling. Every home today has four vehicles. So, imagine the consequences- you will never have so much road space. Does London have more road space than Pune? No, it is almost equivalent; in fact some of their roads are narrower, yet they have two way lanes and cars move easily. So, it is not about the concept of movement of vehicles. It is about movement of people. Road space needs to be optimised for people.

PRASHANT JAGTAP,
Former mayor and NCP leader
We must first create adequate parking facilities. If after that citizens continue to violate the norms, then levying fines would be valid and we will support that.
SIDDHARTH DHENDE,
Deputy mayor, Pune city
There are serious limitations to road widening in Pune. Flyovers are not going to solve the problem. Therefore, Parking Policy will help restrict the number of private vehicles on the roads.
SUJIT PATWARDHAN,
Founder and trustee, Parisar
One aspect which has been trivialised is that every year nearly 2.5 lakh vehicles are registered in Pune. This means that around 460 acres of space needs to be created for parking every year.
SANJAY BHOSALE,
Shiv Sena leader in PMC
The PMC budget is almost Rs 6,000 crore. Why then is there a delay in purchasing, 1,500 buses? First bring these buses and see for yourself whether number of two-wheeler on the roads reduces or not.
KUNAL KUMAR,
Former municipal commissioner
PMC has budgeted for another Rs 100 crore for buses. There is a tender process underway for another 800 PMPML buses. If the order is given in a month’s time, those 800 buses will come in another 6-8 months.
PRANJALI DESHPANDE- AGASHE,
Institute for Transportation and Development Policy
Step one is that the space on the road is being used and it has to be charged. Step two is creating public transport system and public infrastructure, which definitely has to be done.
MUKTA TILAK,
Mayor
We are in the planning process and I appeal to all the stake holders in the city to come on board and I assure that everyone’s opinion will be considered.
ARVIND SHINDE,
Congress leader in PMC
I have suggested that road tax for every additional vehicle should be hiked substantially. If you lower parking fees, it will not be prohibitory and the purpose will be defeated.
SRINIVAS BONALA,
Additional city engineer and traffic planner
Even if 3,000 buses are added to the existing fleet, political parties will have to accept that last mile connectivity is not possible.

Now, transport has two sides, supply and demand. For supply side, government provides public transport, various modes of accessible transport. BEST (in Mumbai) is definitely a better system than PMPML. But take the parallel example of Delhi. In the past 10 years, they have spent Rs. One lakh crore to get their public transport straight. However, an IIT report states that in these 10 years the speed of a private vehicles has moved up by 0.6 km/her. That is all that they have achieved. In Pune, we can’t have that budget nor will we be able to achieve that.

We have to look beyond and the answer doesn’t only lie in public transport. With respect to the demand side, we have not been able to create the demand for public transport. People want to use their own vehicles for point-to-point convenience. They don’t even want to walk 100 metres to the nearest public transport depot. I believe this demand can be created if there is some regulation of private vehicles.

Some kind of regulation or control, on how many can be bought and so on.

HT: So, what is the solution?

Kunal Kumar: There is a triangle of solutions in transport. One is Policy, second is Infrastructure and third is Governance. One of the policies on demand side is parking. How do you regulate the demand for private transport and promote the demand for public transport? You do this through congestion charging and parking policy. Then there are concepts like transit-oriented development which has been included in the DC (Development Control) rule and indoor corridor. All these policies need to be brought in immediately. Second is infrastructure, the need to increase the number of buses, depots, stations. Third is governance.

Today the governance of transport system is in havoc here. There are eight companies running the transport system. How do you streamline the governance and introduce technologies like mobile apps and digital platforms for people to access transport better?

Till we solve these issues and set them right, the vehicle problem won’t be solved. We will have to focus on all of this simultaneously.

HT: So, what exactly is the parking policy?

Kunal Kumar: Today, people are parking across the city for free. We are not going to stop them from parking. We are just going to get them to park more rationally. Get them to walk or use alternate mode of transport instead of private vehicles. When you buy a car you have to show that you own a parking space. But people tend to show any space and buy a vehicle In reality, they park it on the road. The PMC is the biggest real estate developer of the city and, we are using all of this real estate for free.

Chris Anderson wrote a book ‘Free- The Future of a Radical Price’. In that he says whatever is free, ultimately ends in a problem. Imagine, when the first light meter was proposed, everyone must have opposed. But today we all have surplus electricity because of the regulations brought in. Similarly, we want to bring in regulations for parking or else there will be no space for anyone.

HT: We are completely with you on this. However as a citizen, if I decide not to bring out my vehicle, I would like to know what is the alternative that is being offered to me as a citizen?

Kunal Kumar: I accept that we need to have alternates. We are working on all three- policy, infrastructure and government- at the same time. There is a gap we have to address. We need to look at buying of new buses faster, improving the condition of the buses, introducing more cycle tracks; metro needs to happen faster. All of this needs to happen and you may be right in saying that we may be lagging in one and pushing on the other. But it has to happen simultaneously.

Pranjali Deshpande: Let’s look at it in two parts. Step One is that the space on the road is being used and it has to be charged. Step Two is creating public transport, public infrastructure, which definitely has to be done. Step One is not about parking fees alone but about street management. No one likes to see double-parked cars on the streets. In India, Ranchi, Bangalore and Nagpur are cities that have street management and parking policies. Since we don’t run public transport for free similarly, there should be a minimum levy of parking fees for use of public parking spaces. I don’t see why people should have an issue on this.

HT: Punekars have the principle of paying for parking. Now, fees have been increased. Why should the common man bear the brunt?

Srinivas Bonala: Today Punekars are shelling out a huge sums at malls. We have proposed a nominal fee of Rs50 per hour for four wheelers and 10 for two wheelers. We will increase or decrease as per suggestions and feedback. The idea is not about collecting money; it is about street management. We will bring streamlining of private vehicles. We are looking at alternate methods too. Today on a total road length of 2,500 km in the city, 13 percent two wheelers are parked on the roads. We aim at bringing that down to 5 percent by 2031.

HT: How much revenue has the parking policy generated so far and how much are you aiming at generating?

Kunal Kumar: The objective is not to generate revenue, it is to bring about a parking revolution. The paying pattern and rates will depend on the changes observed on different roads. Also, whatever will be generated will be used to strengthen public transport.

Sujit Patwardhan: We, on behalf of NGOs and others have been voicing our opinion about improvement of public transport for 20 years. Now, with this parking policy, the middle class and the upper middle class will feel the pinch. When people with a voice are affected then there ought to be a change. I am hoping that the authorities will take things seriously and soon we will have a solution.

Pranali: Exactly, there will be pressure from above once the pinch is felt among the upper middle class.

Srinivas Bonala: If the parking policy is not implemented then imagine what this city will turn into. In 1984, it would take a cycle 15 minutes to each from Shivajinagar to Swargate, today in 2018 it takes 30 minutes on a motorised vehicle. So we haven’t made any progress as such.

HT: Let us now see what political parties have to say; where they agree or disagree. What modifications would they like to suggest ?

Sanjay Bhosale (Shiv Sena): As discussed before, we need at least 3,000 more PMPML buses. The PMC budget is of almost Rs. 6,000 crore. Why then is there a delay in purchasing say 1,500 buses? What are we waiting for? First bring these buses on the road and see for yourself whether number of two-wheeler on the roads reduces. There will be a lot of learning. After that, bring the policy. We are not against the Parking Policy, but first make alternates and facilities.

. Siddarth Dhende (BJP): There are serious limitations to road widening in Pune. Flyovers are not going to solve the problem. Therefore, Parking Policy will help restrict the number of private vehicles on the roads. Secondly, 42% of Pune’s populatlion lives in slums. They are bound to park on the roads, they have no choice. Then there are autorickshaws, small transport vehicles, school buses. These are owned by poor and middle class people and they should be exempted from parking fees at night. We have specified that there should no parking fees at night throughout Pune.We have suggested that the all night parking policy should be dropped. We have reduced the exorbitant parking fees, too. We will also identity parking slots and spaces. We want BRT and public transport to be improved.

Arvind Shinde (Congress): When we were in power, we purchased 1,500 buses. In the last four years, we haven’t seen the purchase of buses, be it with central or state funding. You first strengthen the bus fleet with 2,000 buses and then introduce this policy. I have suggested that road tax for every additional vehicle should be hiked substantially. Let’s start from there. If you lower parking fees, it will not be prohibitory and the purpose will be defeated. Another issue is that of the parking contractors and parking mafia that will come into existence. We are all from political parties. We need to face the citizen with viable alternatives.

Prashant Jagtap (POLITICAL PARTY?): We have opposed the parking policy. The pilot project proposed on five roads along with attempt to reduce parking fees, clearly shows that the BJP has surrendered and has taken a step back, fearing citizens’ reaction. The fact that the BJP has rolled back the implementation shows that they are running away from it. Our stand is clear: As long as the basic infrastructure is not created, we will continue to oppose the parking policy.

HT: Buying a vehicle has become a necessity for every Punekar. What is the solution?

Prashant Jagtap: Firstly, the available spaces in the city which can be used as parking lots should be immediately acquired by the PMC and should be developed. Also, PMC must quickly take a decision to purchase 3000 new buses for the city.

We must first create adequate parking facilities. If after creating the alternatives the citizens continue to violate the norms, then levying fines would be valid and we will support the decision.

In the mean time, parking fees can be introduced on the busy road of the city where maximum people come for shopping and park their vehicles. We will support it.

However, introducing parking charges in residential areas is wrong and we won’t support that.

HT: All political parties seem to agree that levying parking fees on JM Road or FC road and in other business and shopping areas is justified. They also want an announcement on induction of more buses in the existing PMPML fleet along with the development of the parking spaces wherever available.

Sujit Patwardhan: Everyone has suggested that first make the parking spaces available and then get the policy. However, one aspect which has been trivialised is that every year nearly 2.5 lakh vehicles are registered in Pune. This means around 460 acres of space needs to be created for parking. So, the question is, where from will you bring 460 acre of space every year?

Prashant Jagtap: Strengthening public infrastructure is absolutely necessary. If the ruling party so decides, by November 3,000 buses can be acquired.

Bonala: Even if 3,000 buses are added to the existing fleet, political parties will have to accept that last mile connectivity is not possible.

Arvind Shinde: Frequency of PMPML buses must be increased. The commuter should not be made to wait for a long on the bus stand.

Kunal Kumar: Two scenarios have come forth. First is the development of parking amenities and second is the development of the public infrastructure. There are many open grounds which can be used as parking spaces. However, the question is do we want a city where it is under cars and there is no place for your children to play?

One thing is clear that increasing the number of parking spaces is a direct invitation for more vehicles in the city.

The second thing is the concern about boosting the public transport system. By now it has been established well beyond doubt that, there is no alternative but to improve the current condition of public transport. But the risk on focusing on one just thing is that you don’t achieve the other without taking a decision on the other. Simply buying more buses is not going to solve the problem. Parking Policy has to be there.

HT: Why can’t this be done simultaneously?

Kunal Kumar: PMC has budgeted for another 100 cr for buses. There is a tender process underway for another 800 PMPML buses.If the order is given in a month’s time, those 800 buses will come in another 6-8 months. The purchase of 200 buses has already has been approved. We need to think of purchasing another 500 buses. The Metro work is two months ahead of schedule. The Pune Cycle policy is progressing well with a good response. Things are happening in parallel. I do agree the momentum for all of these works needs to be expedited.

Mukta Tilak (Mayor): The ruling party in the PMC is fully aware of the citizens’ view on the parking policy. It was in 1996 that the need for the parking policy was first discussed. However, nothing was done so far. Today, the people of Pune have finally realised and accepted the need for a parking policy. It will certainly create a sense of discipline.

Also, the sizeable amount of revenue which will be generated by implementing the parking policy will be used to develop the public transport infrastructure. We are in the planning process and I appeal to all the stake holders in the city to come on board and I assure that everyone’s opinion will be considered.

With regards to public transport, we have had a very good start with the induction of 200 midi buses in the existing fleet. Also, buying 3,000 buses in one stroke is not possible. This will happen in phases.

Improving public transport infrastructure does not mean just adding the number of buses; we also need to establish enough depots for the buses as well. Creating new routes is equally important.

HT: Thank you to all for participating in this discussion.

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First Published: Apr 13, 2018 14:45 IST