For a city of over 12 million people, Bengaluru has eight million vehicles and this number is growing by 10% each year. There simply isn’t enough room for all these vehicles, and if we carry on with business as usual, the city will soon come to a standstill.
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High up in the list of mobility-related issues is parking. The state government seems to have recognised this. This March, the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) published a Draft Parking Policy for Bengaluru, seeking suggestions from the public.
The document is candid about admitting past failures. It admits that at present, parking is unregulated, and where regulations exist, enforcement is lax and violations rampant. It finds that excessive demand for parking in commercial areas is because of poor public transport, especially poor last-mile connectivity, as well as the absence of “demand management” for parking.
In short, the draft policy says that too many cars want to park in commercial areas because parking is provided free of charge. It also admits that residential plots have been converted to commercial uses without enforcing minimum parking regulations.
So, how does the policy propose to remedy this rather grim state of affairs?
- First, moving from chaotic to organised parking, so that the mobility of vehicles and pedestrians is not hindered and there’s street space to create a walkable, liveable city.
- Second, moving from free parking to paid parking so that vehicle owners pay for the use of public space for private convenience.
Policy has many well-crafted measures
The document proposes the following measures to achieve these two aims:
- Encourage off-street parking in garages
The policy aims to encourage off-street parking in garages rather than on-street parking. In a city with narrow roads, this policy makes a lot of sense as more space will be freed up for pedestrians and moving vehicles.
The city will be divided into zones, and parking fees in each zone will be set based on average land value. The policy envisages off-street parking provision by the private sector. The government will create a regulatory framework to enable the private sector to build garages and charge user fees.
- Charge parking by time in commercial areas
In commercial areas, short-term parking will be encouraged by charging users based on time. To discourage long-term parking, cars parked for over three days will be towed and regarded as abandoned.
- Ban parking in certain areas
Parking will be banned near intersections, Metro stations, bus stations and railway stations. In addition, parking will also not be permitted on streets narrower than 9 m, specially-designated mobility corridors, pedestrian corridors and roads carrying high-frequency bus routes (average intervals of under five minutes).
- Parking permit needed in residential areas
In residential areas, for existing vehicles, users will have to buy a parking permit if they wish to park on the street. Prospective buyers of new vehicles will have to show proof of parking space within their property before they are allowed to buy a vehicle.
The policy envisages progressively reducing on-street parking in residential areas to zero in the long run. The space thus freed up will be used to plant trees and make streets more walkable.
The policy also contains measures directed at vehicles other than private cars and motorcycles.
- On-street parking of freight vehicles banned during the day
Freight vehicles will be banned from parking on the street for loading and unloading during the day. Lorry terminals and warehousing facilities will be set up at peripheral locations of the city. To further reduce the load, wholesale markets will be moved from the city centre to peripheral areas.
- Avoid inter-city and inter-state buses within city
The policy also proposes to set up satellite bus stations for inter-city and inter-state private and public buses in peripheral areas of the city. And also to ensure these bus stations are well-connected to the city centre by public transport. This would eliminate the need for inter-city and inter-state buses to circulate within the city.
- Suspension of vehicle registration, blacklisting for repeat offenders
The policy observes that enforcement is often difficult due to the lack of policemen and equipment. As a remedy, in addition to CCTV cameras and citizen reporting of violations, it proposes certain punitive measures. Repeated violations will lead to suspension of vehicle registration and blacklisting, resulting in a doubling of future parking charges for that vehicle.
To counter accusations that this is yet another tax, the policy proposes to ring-fence the funds raised from parking charges. The funds raised will only be used to cover parking-related expenses, public transport, pedestrian infrastructure and road safety.
Focus is on changing human behaviour
Hitherto, most government transport plans have focussed on technology fixes, be it elevated corridors, white topping, black topping or IT fixes like flashy apps, GPS tracking etc. But finally, here is a policy looking at facts on the ground and ways to change public behaviour. That is not to say technology has no role. It does come in as an enabler, but not as a deus ex machina.
|The Parking Policy observes that “construction of flyovers have not resulted in perceivable changes in alleviating congestion”. It is vital that the government puts its money where its mouth is and cancels the elevated corridors project. Moreover, it must also look carefully at costs and benefits before building anymore flyovers or underpasses.|
However, a word of caution is in order before uncorking the champagne. A year ago, I had written about the then-state government approving a set of rules that contained many of the measures laid out in the current draft Parking Policy. But as you know only too well, nothing came of it, for reasons that remain unclear. I sincerely hope this draft policy does not meet the same fate.
In short, Bengaluru’s new Parking Policy is just what the doctor ordered. It remains to be seen whether the patient swallows it or finds it too bitter to stomach.