New Delhi: This is one question all political parties would avoid scrupulously; perhaps because it means nothing in terms of votes. Delhi’s burgeoning vehicle population is eating up its road space at an alarming pace. Parking of vehicles on both sides of the city’s arterial roads has made movement of even fire tenders and ambulances difficult. While all the three major political parties in the capital state - the BJP, the Congress and the AAP - believe that the city needs a “master plan to systematically solve its parking problem”, none have decided to make it an election issue.
As many as 1,400 vehicles are being added to the existing stock everyday. As per a study carried out by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), about 10 percent of the urban land of the city is used up by stationary vehicles. It is a little less than the city’s forest cover, which is around 11.5 percent of the total land. The situation, experts say, will be more chaotic in future with as many as 1.6 lakh new vehicles getting on the city’s roads every year with no corresponding increase in space to accommodate them.
Over the last decade, the vehicular population in Delhi has registered a phenomenal growth of 97 percent to 81 lakh – 25 lakh two-wheelers and rest four wheelers. Out of the total number of registered vehicles, 60 lakh are privately owned. These remain parked most of the time and meet only 15 percent of Delhi’s travel needs, they say, adding the city needs an area as big as 360 football fields to take in the new vehicles.
In 2004, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) of the Supreme Court had suggested a slew of measures, including promoting public transport, constructing multi-level parking and imposing higher parking charges, to solve the crisis. But in the years hence, the chaos has only increased.
The concept of multi-level parking failed to provide any relief because of the long cruising time and higher charges. “I do not use multi-level lots because of the time factor,” 32-year-old Rahul Mishra of Vasant Kunj told Firstpost.
“The parking policy of the city is only about supplying parking space. The city government believes that it is its legal obligation to provide endless parking to meet the insatiable demand. Even National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) is inconsistent on this – while it asks for full cost pricing, it also allows bending of building bye laws to supply as much parking as needed. Therefore, people think that it is the duty of the government to provide them parking spaces which is completely wrong,” CSE Executive Director Anumita Roy Chowdhury told Firstpost.
The NUTP has said land is valuable in all urban areas and parking occupies a large part of it; recognize this and levy high parking fee to raise the revenue and make public transport more attractive. The idea is to dampen parking demand, dissuade car use and boost public transport, walking and cycling. But the practice has not been changed.
“Cities set generous parking requirements without considering connectivity and accessibility of location. This incites more car use,” she said adding that the constructions of “flyovers and signal-free corridors destroy movement patterns needed to promote walking, cycling and public transport. Even more people are forced to use cars and the vicious cycle continues.”
Delhi with only 115 cars per 1,000 people allows three parking spaces per 100 square metre of commercial area but Tokyo with nearly 400 cars per 1,000 people allows 0.5 car spaces per 100 square metre.
“Tokyo works with low parking requirements, effective pricing, stringent enforcement and penalty and strong public transport connectivity to reduce parking demand. But we miss out on this big picture. Haven't we seen parking demand dropping in Connaught Place immediately after the metro came? In Hong Kong the office buildings in the central area can have zero to minimal parking as these areas are very well connected with other modes,” Chowdhury said.
Delhi allots more public land per day for parking cars than it does to house its poor who just get 25 square metre. “And all this for only 20 percent of city’s population, which has a family car,” said a study conducted in 2010 by Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning and Engineering) Centre.
According to the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), on an average, most of the cars in the city remain static over 95 [percent of the time. Yet policies encourage buying vehicles and provide cheap parking. “It will be extremely difficult for the capital to provide parking to each vehicle owner in the years to come,” said CRRI director Dr S Gangopadhyay.
Offering a solution to the menace, he said, “The alternative to park should be improved and at the same time, usage of cars have to be managed better. People should be encouraged to pay the right price for using public space.”