When it comes to parking, Indians display a strong preference for parking on the streets over authorized parking spaces. Why does on-street parking enjoy universal popularity?
To start with, it is inexpensive and places fewer restrictions on commuters compared to off-street parking. But this often brings with it a slew of problems, which motorists remain woefully oblivious to.
Why people choose on-street over off-street parking
Given its convenient and inexpensive nature, it’s not surprising that most commuters in India prefer on-street parking, a fact that is well-reflected in occupancy data. Despite being an organized and safe parking alternative, off-street parking has lagged behind due to the exorbitant parking fees, resulting in low occupancy levels. Most people view off-street parking as more time-consuming since it requires a formal process of entry and exit out of the space. On-street parking lots, on the other hand, are perfect for those looking to make a quick stop.
Perhaps the biggest reason for the preference of on-street parking is a lack of proper parking policies. Because construction costs for off-street parking are higher, on-street parking remains a cheaper alternative. On-street and off-street parking fees are not properly balanced, as a result of which people continue to park on the streets.
Parking on Indian streets is haphazard with commuters having scant regard for space, other users, and traffic congestion. While most think the problem is a lack of parking that can be solved by creating more parking, multiple cities in India that have attempted to do so by creating off-street parking have failed. Many surface and multi-level parking lots remain under-used even as the streets burst at the seams with chaos and traffic.
How Indian cities are solving the on-street challenge
In Pune, on-street parking fees have been historically low with weak enforcement. After nearly a decade of engagement with civic bodies and civil society organizations, the city is now on its way to adopt a progressive parking management policy focused on efficient management of on-street parking, and possibly even demand-responsive price setting.
Chennai is now starting a citywide parking management system with optimal on-street parking fees and mobile-based payments. It is also looking at a parking management contract where instead of the city simply renting public space to private contractors, operators will be paid per parking slot at a fixed rate in return for their management services and fee collection. Thus, revenue would directly go to the city, not the operator, which is then proposed to be used for paying the operator and improving public transport.
Ranchi is also improving its parking management. Starting 2016, the city was divided into four price zones with differential pricing. These prices were higher than those in the past, ultimately increasing the city’s parking revenue significantly.
On-street parking, with its low parking charges and minimal investment costs, is clearly a popular mode of parking in India. Despite the congestion and chaos that it creates, commuters in India prefer parking on the street over off-street parking. Nonetheless, efforts are being made to make off-street parking more viable. Perhaps the most significant step in this direction is using technology to improve the management of parking lots. Municipalities and parking owners across the country are deploying smart parking solutions for efficient management of off-street parking. Clearly, this is a step in the right direction that will expectantly reduce India’s dependence on on-street parking.