Indian population is growing, standard of living is improving and so are the number of people on wheels increasing day by day. Some may call it signs of prosperity but there are also some who point out impending perils which the growing vehicle population will bring with it. Instead of branding that segment of experts and activists who are in minority as perpetual skeptics we need to take their arguments seriously if we want to see our future generation leading a comfortable life. Apart from adding to air pollution, rapid increase in vehicle population especially in bigger cities, will also create havoc with limited parking spaces.
Vehicular population in India is going up but the government and authorities don’t seem to be convinced yet by the gravity of the situation. For example, the new DCR 2034 for Mumbai provides for one parking space for every 4 tenements having carpet area up to 45 sq. m each. For hotels and eating houses, it is one parking space for every 30-sq.m of restaurant including hall, dining room, pantry & bar. For assembly and assembly halls or auditorium (including those for educational uses and hostels) minimum of one parking space for 12 seats / persons is required. In other words, for a new movie hall of 300 seats 25 parking slots are enough.
Crux of the problem is not the steep rise in vehicle population in the country and that too in big cities nor the lack of parking space in cities. But the problem lies in lack of coordination between various government departments and agencies like housing, urban development, transportation department and local bodies. For example, when a permission to build a mall or an auditorium is sought rarely a study is done on its impact on surrounding road traffic by the authorities but they go with the set norms which are standard ones applicable to all localities.
Vehicle population in cities also throws some light on the quality of public transport system. Vehicle population in cities are more where public transportation system is poor. If Bengaluru has poor vehicle population than in Mumbai, that also speaks about the quality of public transport system in two cities. So, tackling the problem of parking is not the sole responsibility of any one government department but the government needs to chalk out multi-pronged strategy to avoid this menace. A norm in city development plan cannot solve this problem but will only lessen the responsibility and accountability of the sanctioning authority.
Apathy of the government towards problem may be also due to the fact that it is clueless as to how to approach the problem. For example, in the Development Control Regulation (DCR) of the Development Plan 2034 of Mumbai speaks at length about the parking – providing parking lots, fixing parking charges and penalties for illegal parking as per the demand of the area and the ready reckoner rates, etc. The proposed DCR (which is likely to get a go ahead by the government soon) has mandated independent Parking Authority which will regulate on street parking and public parking in the city. According to the proposed Regulation the Parking Authority will plan, regulate and manage all on street parking and public parking places under the physical jurisdiction of Greater Mumbai. With this, Mumbai may get the tag of first city in the country to have ‘Parking Authority’ and beyond that it may create nuisance than solve any parking related problems as the step will create an additional layer of authority in the organisation.
In major cities of the country there are multiple authorities like development authority, local bodies and various government agencies who create and manage parking spaces of the city. Lack of co-ordination among them, however, is the greatest hurdle in ensuring efficient use of parking spaces in the city. Bringing all the available parking lots under one authority (by creating Parking Authority) in the city is a move which can succeed only in theory and ground realities heavily loaded against it.
Since space is constraint it is difficult or even impossible even to create additional parking space on ground. Either underground or multi-layered parking space may be the only option. Pubs, malls, restaurants and used car sellers already occupy most of the vacant spots often with connivance of the traffic police. Part of the road is occupied by the hawkers and remaining portion is used for development work and movement of vehicles. So, availability of black space for parking is almost non-existent. And this problem will mount in the coming days as new people become vehicle owners, two-wheeler owners graduate themselves into four-wheeler owners and single vehicle owners start thinking of owning multiple vehicles.
Therefore, government should have a long-term vision for solving its parking problems. Creating additional parking spaces and efficient use of existing parking space may be solutions in the short term. In the long-term government should aim at controlled growth of vehicle population without using coercive measures. Improvement in public transport system will encourage more and more people to switch over from personal vehicles to public transport for daily movement. The government should also encourage those who use public transport through proper incentives. If companies can earn ‘carbon credits’ why not individuals? In-fact, such people are the warriors against pollution and they need to be recognised and honoured. This will create all around win-win situation. Additional pressure on parking space will naturally come down.