How is a parking lot designed? Pai explained that “Conventionally, physical measurements are taken at the site to understand whether a car can fit there or not, how much width can be provided. Nowadays, we use AutoCAD software to optimise the space by creating 3D models instead of 2D models. A parking layout can be auto-generated by a computer.”
Coming to public parking – Mumbai has close to 150 municipal pay-and-park car parks. However, they are not being put to good use because they require parking appurtenances, day numbering, and spring posts. Basic safety measures are missing.
According to Pai, traditional ground/podium/basement parking is now making way for a multilevel stack parking tower with CCTV-based parking sensors that employs technology like RFID sensors, vehicle recognition and machine learning. He concluded by saying that “Parking may be a necessary or unnecessary evil, but it also a way to earn a huge amount of revenue. Most Indian cities are not really optimising this revenue.”
Ashok Datar added, “Parking is a serious subject that has not been taken seriously at all so far. Our attitude towards parking is lackadaisical or completely anarchic; with the number of vehicles growing, we can no longer afford to be like that.”
All forms of transport require three things: vehicles, fuel and the most important thing – space. “When we buy flats or commercial spaces, we take into account the cost of land, but when we drive or park, we seem to forget that the land this requires costs money too”. To measure how the amount of land that parking requires at the city level has increased over the last twenty years, MESN converted the entire area occupied by roads, and by registered vehicles, into square metres. It found that the area occupied by private cars has gone up from 58% to 77%, while that occupied by taxis reduced from 16% to 12%. Commercial vehicles – which many people find obstructive – lost from 18% to 7%. The biggest loser is buses, which fell from 6% to just 2%.
The number of people transported by a single car per day is also reduced. So is occupancy of the average BEST bus – from 400 to 283 people per trip. “What it means”, Datar said “is that in Mumbai, roughly 30 % of road space is occupied by cars, which is completely unpaid for.”
“Roads are full of parking space”, he continued, “but it is like what you call the wallpaper effect: we see it, yet we don’t see it. Even the municipality has never found the time to do a traffic count or parking surveys”.
Parking is a cancer feeding to cities and solutions that we are thinking are like aspirin instead of chemotherapy. You don’t give free space for slums, you don’t give free space for housing then why should you give free space for cars.
– Ashok Datar
Talking about the cost of land allocated to private parking, Datar gave the example of 400 square feet allocated to a 2 BHK for parking. “The market price for this area is fifty lakhs, but it is given away for free. I don’t see why it should be free; when there is no free space for slums or low-cost housing, why should there be free space to house cars?”
According to Datar, the authorities are afraid of beginning parking reforms because they feel that everybody is too used to the present scenario of free parking for all, anytime, anywhere. “But if we usher in parking reforms, we don’t need to spend 2,000 crore rupees on a coastal road because the existing road space will be quite adequate for all the buses which are currently deprived of space. With parking removed or controlled, buses can definitely speed up by 25%. If buses and other vehicles also have 25% higher speed, 25% lesser vehicles are required to carry the same number of people.”
It is strange that while there are eight offences listed in the manual of the traffic police, all of them have the same fine. He said that we must change the present parking-fee structure that charges a certain amount per hour, in which the minimum time-slab is one hour, to a structure that divides the hour into 15 or 30 minutes blocks and divides the charge accordingly. This will discourage long-term parking. Cars should also be classified into those more than or less than 1.95 metre length; only 25 of 140 existing models are longer, and are luxury vehicles. They can be easily identified and a 10-rupee surcharge or premium can be levied on them for parking.
The way Chennai Smart City is promoting private participation for implementing parking management in the city. Chennai is hopeful to become a first city in India to implement technology based on-street parking management.
– Raj Cherubal