CSE survey shows car users will shift to other modes of transport only if they are forced to pay three times more parking charges ? Effective parking policy needed - Delhi uses up 10 per cent of its land just for parking; will need land the size of over 300 football fields to accommodate future parking demand
There is something very wrong with the way Delhi is managing its car parking, says a new assessment done by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). The city has recently spent a humungous Rs 80 crore to build a state-of-the-art parking facility which is used sub-optimally; instead of this high-tech structure, car drivers prefer to park their vehicles on already choke-a-block roads, adding to the parking chaos.
According to CSE’s assessment, the newly established, fully automated and highly expensive parking structure in South Delhi’s Sarojini Nagar market operates – shockingly -- at a mere 20 to 40 per cent of its capacity! This, when the surrounding area remains gridlocked with cars. The Rs 80-crore structure has effectively been reduced to being a shopping mall on free land, thus perpetrating huge subsidy to car owners.
As the city debates a hike in parking charges, CSE has focused on Delhi ’s dismal parking rates – among the lowest in the world -- that incite more car driving. According to Anumita Roychowdhury, head of CSE’s urban mobility programme, “The Sarojini Nagar case mirrors the concern, especially at a time when all municipal bodies and development agencies in Delhi are committed to building numerous multi-level car parks. Before more urban spaces are surrendered to this mindless and expensive construction for cars, it is important to draw lessons from the structures that have already been built and get the terms right.”
What has the CSE assessment found?
· Inbuilt subsidy: The cost of the new parking facility works out to Rs 10 lakh per car. To keep the system operational, it will require an additional Rs 3 crore a year. If it tries to recover the full cost from parking charges, the parking rate will have to be an astounding Rs 120 per hour! Car users are enjoying an enormous subsidy, as they pay a miniscule proportion of this rate.
· Parking charges can recover little: Currently, the structure is able to recover only 1.6 per cent of the operational costs from parking. Even in a best case utilization scenario, the full revenue from the current parking rates can at best recover only one-fifth of the operational costs.
· Real estate dominates, parking secondary: 98 per cent of the earnings for the developer will come from shops in the ground and first floors of the building. As earnings from parking are very small, the developer has little interest in ensuring full utilization of the parking space. Developers are also resisting common management of the surface parking area.
· People are will consider shifting to other modes of transport only if minimum parking rates are three times the rate in multilevel parking: The CSE survey of visitors in Sarojini Nagar has shown that people are willing to consider a shift to public transport only if the minimum rates for parking cross Rs 30 per hour. This is three times the rate of Rs 10 in multi-level parking and double the proposed rate of Rs 15 per hour in the surface parking. The municipal agency will have to fix parking charges at a rate that will influence commuters’ choice of commuting and duration of parking.
· Getting the parking price right immediately and city-wide is important: Aggressive decisions are needed now to have effective, high parking rates on a city-wide basis – in both commercial as well as residential areas. Small incremental changes will only fuel the growing dependence on cars.
· Parking revenue needs larger objective: Cities are mandated under JNNURM to create a dedicated urban transport fund. Parking revenue is earmarked as one of the potential sources. The fees and revenues from parking can be used for public transport enhancement and local area development. But such plans have not been drawn up yet.
· Improve connectivity of the area to give people more choices for travel: No strategic planning has been done to enhance bus service and metro feeders to the area. Such planning is needed in all key commercial areas to curtail parking demand.
· No strategic planning to use the new structure for ‘pedestrianising’ the market for improved shopping experience and business: Though plans are afoot to curtail surface area parking and improve usage of multilevel parking, the huge spill-over and illegal parking on the surface undermine such measures. Cars are still allowed very close to the shops – this impedes walkability in the area. While cars have the freedom to come into the market, three-wheelers -- the local para-transit -- are not allowed in. The design of the parking has encouraged only car access to the market.
· Cars of local shopkeepers use up a substantial part of the legal parking area and lower the revenue potential. Shopowners take away most of the legal parking space and nearly for free. Parking contractors, therefore, rely more on illegal parking to make money. There is no provision of remote parking and feeder connection.
Poor and narrow access to the structure and automated technology discouraging parkers: The time taken to park or retrieve a vehicle increases the waiting time for parkers; sometimes, cars may have to wait for as long as 20-25 minutes. This discourages parkers and builds up congestion on the approach road. Also, there is no manual ramp back-up in the design in the eventuality of a technical snag in the system. Cars have to queue up to get inside. Location and appropriate technologies will require attention.
At a time when cars are aggressively encroaching upon the scarce urban space that have more valuable and competing uses, a parking policy has to restrain and not bait cars. Already, parking devours close to 10 per cent of the urban land in Delhi ; the daily addition of cars creates additional demand for land bigger than 300 football fields. Asks Roychowdhury: “Can we afford this? It is unacceptable that while cars are taking over urban spaces, bus fleet expansion is on hold as there is no space to park buses! The mindless business of multilevel parking has taken off in a policy vacuum.”
Says Vivek Chattopadhyay, deputy programme manager of CSE’s urban mobility team: “Before embarking on massive investments in parking facilities, cities need to adopt policy goals for parking. The National Urban Transport Policy, as also the Supreme Court of India, have made it clear that a parking policy -- while meeting some parking needs -- will also have to lower personal vehicle travel and urban-peak traffic with the aim of reducing congestion, accidents and pollution.”
CSE researchers have called for an end to parking subsidies, immediate parking pricing reforms, effectively high parking charges, stringent enforcement and high penalties for violations. “When combined with priced parking, limits on parking space and improved access through other modes of transport, parking strategies can help a switch to alternative modes of travel and restrain car usage,” says Roychowdhury.