Your Space: Pune’s Parking Policy alone is not enough to solve traffic snarls
A galaxy of top civic officials, corporators from different political parties and citizen-activists recently gathered for the fourth Hindustan Times Round Table to discuss various aspects of the Parking Policy proposed for the city. But is this feasible in a situation where residents have no option but to use personal transport? Here’s what our readers have to saypune Updated: Apr 15, 2018 18:42 IST
Increase frequency of buses
First of all, may I thank HT for covering traffic-related issues in Pune very actively. The recent debate on the Parking Policy in Pune has effectively highlighted the need for such a policy. But it is important that a thorough analysis of the implementation is carried out before actual execution. If the policy is implemented blindly, it will prove to be a hasty decision. Firstly, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) should carry out an awareness campaign about the initiative and review the public response. Any policy implementation involves a huge cost and if a policy fails, it will lead to wastage of money. The policy can be introduced on a step-by-step basis as it will enable the management to review it appropriately. Also, the frequency of public transport should be increased. This is vital, especially during rush hours to avoid inconvenience to commuters.
Introduce Parking Policy on a pilot basis
Firstly, Pune is a city which has attracted many people from around the globe. Any ideal city should have a public transport system and pedestrian-friendly roads.
Availability of parking space is one of the biggest challenges faced by Punekars. The city needs both an immediate and long term solution to this problem. The government has tried to introduce bicycles at various points in the city and I am glad to see that many people are opting for this. Unfortunately, these people constitute a small percentage of the city’s total population. With growing population and scarcity of parking space, the government needs to look for more parking space with an appropriate parking charge, depending on the size of the vehicle. It is seen in most places, people park their vehicles on the roadside. We need to make more stringent rules so that people opt for parking areas over roads. The PMC recently introduced the parking policy to discourage private vehicles on the roads, but it will not work. They have to execute the policy on a pilot basis and only after getting feedback from residents can it be carried forward.
PMC must plan properly before taking any major step
More vehicles, infrastructure, parking spaces and public transport are all intricately related to each other. It’s a vicious circle. The public transport system in Pune is not good and therefore, usage of private transport is on the rise. Primarily, providing good infrastructure, which includes adequate parking spaces, is the responsibility of the local government. But in the present situation, the civic body is planning to charge the public for parking vehicles on the streets even as they have completely failed to provide good public transport and the required infrastructure. Most of the time, city planning is done with short-sightedness rather than looking at any policy’s long-term viability and sustainability. PMC should plan properly before taking any serious decision because ultimately, it will affect the daily routine of millions of residents in the city.
Reduce tenement density
The only way to reduce traffic congestion is to reduce tenement density (number of people that can live in a given area). As long as we increase densities several fold through Floor Service Index (FSI) and Transferable Development Rights (TDR) ‘magic’, vehicle densities will only increase exponentially. Parking policies indicate lack of understanding of the traffic congestion and incompetence. It’s like telling an obese person to cut down the blood cells rather than to go on a diet and exercise, because of congestion.
We need more, better buses in the city
Stiff parking fee is to discourage people from using individual vehicles and to encourage usage of public transport. The public buses that ply are already overloaded. Many a time, we don’t get autorickshaws or cabs even in the heart of the city. During peak hours, cabs spike their rates. Unless these problems are solved, just hiking the parking fee will only create more confusion.
There is no doubt that we need good, fast and frequent buses for the public. Metro is on the horizon and that will act as a major supplement to this system. To decongest Pune’s roads, the government should mandate all companies to run good buses for employees. Companies which have lesser employees can pool buses together for their employees. Companies which allow the ‘work-from-home’ option should be given some benefits.
Roadside parking should be prohibited. If it is not possible to stop roadside parking, then make it very expensive. Construct enough vertical parking units and make them inexpensive.
Ensure that roads are encroachment-free. An easy banking loan policy should be drafted for cab drivers who pass a stringent driving test and landowners to construct vertical parkings.
All IT parks should have a small transport system like Metro Zip. People should have easy and comfortable options to commute to office and other places. It should be easy to do the right thing and difficult to do the wrong things.
Commercial vehicles should not be allowed parking on streets
PMC’s Standing Committee, on March 20, slashed parking fees by up to 80% of the proposal. This minuscule fee, in all likelihood, will not deter parking of any kind, under any circumstance, on public roads.
Almost two years ago, suggestions and objections were invited by the PMC from the public when the Parking Policy was in a draft stage. These have been removed by the PMC and fresh suggestions /objections have not been invited, although two years have elapsed between the draft and the final draft.
Why does the Parking Policy treat private and commercial parking at par? No city allows commercial parking on any public road even after paying charges / fees. Today, in Pune, parking by commercial vehicles, ie, heavy vehicles, tempos, radio taxicabs, luxury coaches and jeeps plying illegally, are all allowed parking along roads / streets/ lanes. These are all enterprises making profit from their businesses.
They effectively narrow down the road width by at least 30-35%, creating artificial congestion as the Policy validates parking by commercial vehicles. This artificial congestion and exponential rise in traffic issues leads to public demand for new flyovers, bridges and grade separators, all at an additional public cost.
It is a given that when any ban or imposition of fee is put into place, the alternate has to be made readily available. Yet, the civic body has, till today, not reserved amenity space for parking in conjunction with the Parking Policy. Also, the quality and service of the local transport body is quite pathetic and has not been made dependable and cost effective.
Paid parking is needed irrespective of public transport
Pune, which has a huge number of vehicles, needs a comprehensive city-wide parking management system. It is critical that parking on streets, which is chaotic and unregulated, has to be properly managed. Parking violations, which inconvenience everyone, create traffic jams and can cause accidents, have to be dealt with effectively. Incidents of violence over parking disputes are also increasing. To prevent all these problems, streets need to come under parking contracts which will ensure all parking spots are clearly marked, parking boards are installed, and enforcement happens. The city also needs to have good data on parking demand in each area. Paid parking will ensure that we get all these facilities. So irrespective of the availability of public transport, this is needed.
Across the world, it has been seen that even if public transport improves, when income levels increase, vehicle ownership and usage also increases. Unless there is some economic disincentive that encourages people to consider other options such as walking, cycling, car-pooling, trip avoidance or public transport, we will not see any decrease in the number of private vehicles. High parking charges will increase the demand for better public transport, which, so far, has been ignored by politicians. Parking funds can be used to improve public transport as well as footpaths.
Government should focus on improving public transport
Over the years, Pune has grown exponentially and it is indeed the failure of the administrative system of the PMC which has lead us to the current scenario of vehicular population. If the politicians of the city had not favoured the two-wheeler industries over improving public transport, this situation would not have come in the first place.
Instead of creating a parking policy, the government should rather invest its complete attention on improving the public transport system in Pune. If Mumbai and Chandigarh can facilitate citizens with very well-organised public transport systems, Pune has to look into its failure with immediate effect. Also, charging people through the Parking Policy is unjustified as while purchasing a vehicle, the buyer has already paid the road tax. Instead, the civic administration should use free spaces in a judicial manner.
There are many colleges and schools in the heart of the city which have huge grounds. These spaces can be transformed into parking spaces in a judicious manner. Also, another important issue is encroachments, which can be cleared and used as parking spaces. However, political motives prevent the administration from doing so.
First Published: Apr 15, 2018 18:38 IST