India: Activists for Options Beyond Parking Lots

PUNE: Traffic and transport activists are aghast at the Pune Municipal Corporation's (PMC) plans to develop another mechanised parking facility in the city, when past experience shows that the facility is a waste of money. The PMC has five multi-level parking facilities in the city, and about 22 other parking lots in addition to on-street parking.

While there is no denying that vehicle parking is a problem, going about creating more parking spaces is not the solution. Instead, looking at ways to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads by improving public transport will address part of the problem, they said.

The traffic police had recently declared that the rapidly growing number of vehicles in the city would require an additional 365.12 acres of parking space every year. In the last year, the number of vehicles had increased by over 2.86 lakh, which included over two lakh two-wheelers. While a two-wheeler requires 2 sq. m space for parking, every four-wheeler needs 12.5 sq. m space and a heavy vehicle up to 28.125 sq.m.

Activists have rebuffed the need for authorities to create more parking space asserting that the need will only increase every year if measures are not taken to control vehicle population on city roads.

Transportation activist Sujit Patwardhan said it was impossible to create 365 acres space. "It is a huge area and it is not possible for the civic body to make available so much area every year in a city that has a space crunch. They do not understand that the real issue is to check the number of vehicles on roads. Parking is a problem for the existing number of vehicles, but people should be given an alternative to commute so that more vehicles do not come on to the roads. No attempt is being made to improve the public transport and nobody wants to take care of the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS). Instead more roads, flyovers and parking lots are being built. We are not going in the right direction to solve the problem," Patwardhan said.

He said that other options such as imposing a congestion tax, increasing parking rates and banning parking in some areas need political and administrative will. "The city is heading towards disaster which can be avoided. We oppose such moves and may go to court because it is going beyond toleration limits. The policies are being framed only for vehicle-owners. Pedestrians and cyclists may soon get pushed to skywalks or face the onslaught of vehicles," Patwardhan said.

Prashant Inamdar of Pedestrians First said the authorities do not frame schemes that are congruent with the Comprehensive Transport Policy (CTP). "It is necessary to adopt policies which will reduce the number of vehicles on the city roads. Simultaneously, the measures should help improve accessibility, safety and environmental conditions for all sections of the society by creating a world-class public transport network," it said.

The existing rules are not properly enforced by authorities that is escalating the problems, said Inamdar. "People have constructed shops in commercial buildings which actually should have parking. The authorities must demolish places wherever rules are violated. On-street parking is eating into the road space. Huge cars occupy roads and parking. Such vehicles should be banned from congested areas and charged higher parking rates," Inamdar said.

Creating more parking space like multi-level and mechanised parking is a wrong practice, he added. "This only leads to more congestion because people know there is a parking facility available and drive cars on narrow roads. This worsens the problem and the authorities need to keep on increasing the space," Inamdar said.

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