Call for a parking strategy for better management that can control traffic chaos as well as dampen parking demand and car usage
A diverse group of city regulators, civil society representatives and experts from cities across the world gathered in the capital today for a dialogue on Parking Reforms for a Liveable City, organised by Centre for Science and Environment
Parking crisis is the result of growing dependence on cars and availability of free parking. Solutions do not lie in capturing more valuable urban land for car parks, but in shifting to other modes and releasing the space for other important uses
Parking devours close to 8-10 per cent of urban land in Delhi; daily addition of new cars creates additional demand for land bigger than 300 football fields. But cars pay nothing or a pittance for using the valuable land
Car parking is choking roads, walkways, green spaces, when cars carry only 14 per cent of travel trips in the city. Is this sustainable?
A car needs about 23 sq m to be comfortably parked. But a very poor family in Delhi gets a plot of just 18-25 sq.m. Is this acceptable?
The conference recommended – manage parking well, pay for parking, limit parking where good public transport is available, and give people more attractive options for travel
New Delhi, August 17, 2011: Cities must formulate parking strategies to reduce traffic chaos. At the same time, they need to use parking controls and pricing to reduce parking demand and car usage. This is needed to free valuable urban space for other important uses and clean up our air.
This was the conclusion drawn by a select group of regulators, experts, and civil society representatives from different Indian cities and abroad, who had gathered in the capital today for a conference on Parking Reforms for a Liveable City, organised by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). The Centre has been at the forefront of a campaign to encourage and push Delhi towards adopting a parking strategy.
Speaking at the conference, Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE’s executive director-research and advocacy and head of its air pollution team, said: “Our cities are on a suicidal path. The policy of increasing parking spaces and offering them free to meet the insatiable demand for parking is absolutely wrong.”
Keeping in mind the ever-increasing number of cars on our roads, parking entails enormous costs – pollution, congestion, traffic delays and wastage of fuel. Uncontrolled and free parking encourages more car dependency. Says Roychowdhury: “Parking already devours close to 10 per cent of the urban land in Delhi; the daily addition of cars here creates an additional demand for land bigger than 300 football fields. The same space could have been used for more important things, such as building schools, affordable housing, commercial centres or public green spaces.”
Reiterates Vivek Chattopadhyaya, deputy programme manager of the air pollution team at CSE: “A city can never have enough land for parking. But parking will block the options of using the same land for other uses.”
Car parks use up high value urban land, but pay nothing or a pittance for using the land. This also leads to very iniquitous use of urban land. A car gets about 23 sq m to be comfortably parked in a structured parking lot. But a very poor family in Delhi gets a plot area of just 18-25 sq m. This, says CSE, is completely unacceptable.
As it is, car users enjoy a hidden subsidy. This subsidy works out to be even higher if the rental or the land cost of the parking space in prime areas is considered. Increased investments in expensive multistoried structured car parks will further increase the subsidy burden as the parking rates are not expected to recover the costs.
Globally, cities are combining good public transport with direct restraints on cars to reduce pollution and congestion. They are making car parking prohibitively expensive, adding high premium to car ownership, exacting dues for entering prime busy areas, only allowing a fraction of them on roads at a time, or just not allowing them in the city centre. They are also giving people more options to cars. But Indian cities continue to encourage private car usage by charging a pittance for road usage and for parking.
Hong Kong and Tokyo have restricted car infrastructure in terms of wide roads and parking facilities. In Hong Kong, office buildings in the central area can have zero to minimal parking as they are very well connected with other modes of transport. Despite high car ownership, Tokyo provides less parking slots – only 0.5 slots per 100 sq m in commercial buildings. But Delhi, with 115 cars per 1,000 people, provides two-three parking slots per 100 sq m.
Winds of change
Policies in India have now begun to examine this issue seriously. The National Urban Transport Policy states land is valuable in all urban areas and parking occupies a large part of it; it asks regulators to recognise this, and levy high parking fee linked to the value of the land to make public transport more attractive.
The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has recommended to the Supreme Court that land is limited and there is a limit to the additional parking space that can be created in the city. The provision of parking for personal motorised vehicles cannot be considered as a matter of public good. Individual users should pay for the use of the space for parking and ‘user pays principle’ should be applied. The Supreme Court has taken these principles on board.
Well managed priced parking and parking restraints will benefit all
Car user will benefit: Car users can have more reliable and predictable advance information about parking that can reduce cruising time. Efficient billing makes payment more transparent and accurate. If short-term parking is managed well, the chances of finding a space for quick errands improves and reduces waiting and cruising time as well as fuel cost spent on cruising. This decreases traffic chaos due to indiscriminate on-street parking.
Non-car users will benefit: Well managed parking will help to protect footpaths and allow barrier free walking, frees up public spaces for cycle tracks, rickshaw parking, autoriskshaw-parking, play grounds and also improves access to bus-stops. Improve safety of children, women and elderly people. Removal of cars from the shopping frontage improves visibility and access to shops for more customers, improves shopping experience, and increases throughput of customers. Walkable neighbourhood fosters mixed use, free up public space for play grounds, improve overall environment, green areas and public recreational spaces. Well managed common parking can make it easier for emergency vehicles like ambulances, fire trucks, police, etc. to reach all homes/ offices/ buildings.
Public health will benefit: Paid and restricted but well managed parking can reduce car use/ dependency which can reduce air pollution and congestion in the city. Air pollution is already taking heavy toll as large number of people is suffering from respiratory diseases like asthma, cardiac problems. Long term exposure to such levels will cause increased occurrence of cancers and other diseases in most individuals. Noise level can also be controlled. Global experience shows that when parking policy is designed as a travel demand management it reduces car usage and therefore congestion, air emissions as well as fuel use.
The way ahead
Many Indian cities are now investing on parking structures. Without a pricing and a management strategy, capital-intensive parking structures can remain grossly underutilised. It is recognised the world over that the demand for parking is infinite and any amount of supply cannot fulfill it -- if additional measures are not implemented to control car growth and usage. It is important to rethink strategy on multilevel parking in India. Major cities have been mandated under the JNNURM to reform parking policy. The guidelines from the urban development ministry have said clearly: “Introduce paid parking as a method to dissuade car use and/or raise revenue.”
The workshop set the following terms for action on parking in cities:
Parking policy should aim to reduce vehicle traffic (particularly urban-peak traffic) to reduce congestion, accidents, pollution, etc
Eliminate parking subsidies. The right price tag on cars and its usage makes a difference. People are more sensitive to the direct cost of driving and this forces them to take decision to reduce car usage and move to alternatives. When combined with priced parking, limit on parking space and improved public transport, parking strategies promote alternative modes and restrain car usage.
Integrate parking for more effective multimodal integration that gives priority to public transport buses, non-motorised transport and walking.
Promote efficient management strategies and use parking spaces– as far as possible -- as common and shared public parking spaces that are priced.
The policy will have to integrate the parking needs of the public transport buses, non-motorised transport and freight transport in a city.
Maximize the parking revenue gains to be ploughed back for other sustainable practices. The NUTP has also stated that revenue from parking should be used for public transport betterment.
Use parking creatively for multimodal integration to improve usage of buses, cycling and walking.
Says Roychowdhury: “With the help of a parking policy, it is possible to arrest and reverse these unsustainable trends. This can work well in Indian cities where public transport, cycling and walking still carry more than half of all daily commuting trips. Cars may be choking our cities. But a substantial part of daily commuting is on buses, foot and pedal. This is the strength that the Indian cities need to build on. Parking levers can help to achieve this.”
Indian cities were originally designed as compact entities to reduce travel trip length. But with rapid urbanization and motorization, our sprawling cities are becoming victims of killer pollution, congestion, and a crippling oil guzzling, car dependent infrastructure that endangers our quality of life. While sprawling cities, flyovers and signal- free corridors are increasing distances, subways and foot overbridges are taking away the right of pedestrians to cross at grade; gated communities are increasing dependence on personal vehicles.