Last Friday, my visit to a friend’s place was reminiscent of a typical journey that most of us are so accustomed to in Namma Bengaluru. Meandering through the famed Brigade Road in order to connect to Bannerghatta side of the city, it took a good 15 minutes just to cross the stretch of 200m. As we crossed the signal, we couldn’t see an apparent reason for the delay in moving across the street.
There are no feeder streets coming onto this road to cause any conflict in the flow. On further introspection it can be realised that the real culprit is the mindless parking and constant merging of vehicles from the curb side into the main vehicle flow all through the road that leads to congestion. I am sure many of us have faced similar delays on busy streets purely because of vehicles parked at odd spots in already narrow lanes. It won’t be surprising to see such sights in areas with flea markets and vegetable vendors. Chikpet Market Area, Majestic, J.C. Nagar Market Road, Immadihalli Market Road are a few names that one can think of.
Roadside parking is a necessity in any city’s traffic ecosystem. Unfortunately, it is so underrated when compared to bigger problems that it gets sidelined. Given the high percentage of four-wheelers among the total vehicular population in Bengaluru, it becomes paramount to be able to manage the availability and proper utilisation of parking spaces on the main arterial roads of the city.
Bengaluru has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest vehicles per capita in the entire country. To put it in layman’s terms, there are more vehicles per every 1,000 people compared to many of its peers. For every 1000 people in the city, Hyderabad has 440 vehicles, Chennai has 435 vehicles, Delhi 448 vehicles. Bengaluru ends up struggling with about 488 vehicles for every 1000 people living in the city. Adding to these numbers a very high percentage of almost 20% of traffic consists of four-wheelers which demands a much larger space for parking these long vehicles. Management of parking space hence is a crucial element in solving traffic problems.
Traffic delays have multiple reasons: high vehicular volume, potholes slowing down traffic flow, inefficient traffic signal coordination, unhealthy driving practices, infrastructure shortcomings etc. Bottleneck on roads is another such reason, which can happen when the road by design is narrow compared to the preceding stretch. Presence of a building like a religious institution, or a natural impediment through trees, are common examples of bottlenecks. Vehicles parked along the road can create a similar bottleneck and sometimes accentuate a pre-existing bottleneck because of the conflict and blockages they create for flowing traffic.
Curbside parking: Curbside parking can be streamlined by bringing in simple changes in the way we look at parking overall. Earmarking specific sections of a busy road to be open for parking will bring in a much needed structure to the parking availability. Making a single side of the road open for parking and alternating the two sides every few meters can split the congestion evenly. This is not a popular solution seen in Bengaluru. However this would not yield benefits in small stretches like Brigade Road. On such roads having a clear demarcation on one side open for parking is a welcome respite.
Parking on the wrong side: The road is a one-way thoroughfare with lot of commercial establishments that attracts cabs dropping the shoppers on the road along with the goods pick up vans feeding the shops business. In spite of best intentions, most of the vehicle owners are forced to make a temporary halt on this road in a random fashion adding to the disarray on the road. Placing temporary traffic cones on one side is a simple and effective way to dissuade people from parking on the wrong side. Similarly, curb side parking within a certain vicinity of traffic signal should be completely disallowed as it causes unwanted blockages right before a green signal at the nearby intersection. I have seen this happen every day on my commute on the HAL road at the Marathahalli intersection driving towards HAL.
Parking near busstops: the parking before and after bus stops should be kept out. A case in point is the infamous Kundanahalli signal. Heading towards HAL there is a bus stop right at the junction. Being a busy intersection with hoards of busses from ITPL crossing this point, the bus drivers often end up scrambling to find a proper stopping point. It leads to multiple lines of busses juxtaposed to each other causing a nightmare to the passengers looking to board. Part of the problem here is the autos and trucks that stop right in front or prior to the bus stop that block the busses to stop at the designated spot.
No parking boards: Enforcement of the parking restrictions is another aspect of achieving the required level of adherence. “No-parking” boards currently in use at various points in the city do not clearly demarcate till which point on the curb the parking is allowed. Painting the curbs in specific colours to make it easy for public to identify the valid spots for parking will go a long way in smooth execution. Color coded curbs will go a long way in facilitating easy spotting of parking spaces. On busy thoroughfares with commercial establishments, the unloading and loading can be regulated on specific sections of the roads during non-peak hours.
This will go a long way in avoiding random stoppage of big pickup trucks at critical times. Painting the designated spots for vehicular parking is another option with high Return on Interest in terms of adherence and enforcement. We don’t have to look far for many such ideas as many of the developed countries are already executing these concepts. We will have to customise this for the local setting with tweaks unique to each stretch after taking into consultation the commuters as well as commercial vendors in the region. Streamlining the parking infrastructure will lead to better traffic flow and potentially incremental revenue for the traffic authorities in lieu of parking violations. By designating parking spots the surveillance can be more focused.
Parking space management is crucial
While we try to address the parking problems of the city, it is important to note that at the crux of this problem is the paradox of balancing the means and the ends of achieving a systematic, well-enforced roadside parking. The ultimate objective is not to smoothen the parking experience to encourage people to bring out their cars and vehicles more often, but to achieve convenience for those opting to bring their vehicles, and to remove the bottlenecks being caused due to haphazard parking. Solutions for the parking issues should be designed keeping the end results in mind. Making the traffic and parking experience smoother should be the agenda.
Ultimately a well-managed parking space scenario in the city will not just provide a comfortable option for drivers to make a swift parking and save time, it will also lead to a clear enlistment of available parking spots and more informed rider decisions to choose the appropriate mode of transport. Given the call for removing parking spaces altogether from some of the busy roads in the city, a better parking environment will enforce discipline and informed commuting decisions on a daily basis. Let’s hope parking space management is given its due importance in the long battle for a improved and safe mobility in Bengaluru.