A persistent challenge that haunts modern cities is that of parking mismanagement. Whether it is a metropolitan or a developing city, improper management of parking spaces is rampant in most countries. The challenge city governments face is to devise parking rules that balance the supply with efforts to reduce the demand for parking.
Conventional parking policy has aimed at infinitely increasing supply by allocating public land, constructing multi-level parking, and mandating a minimum number of parking slots for buildings. However, such a policy has failed to reduce parking pressure, congestion, and pollution. After all, the demand for parking is insatiable. Thus, addressing the issue of parking through a systematic plan that takes into account the opinions of all stakeholders is essential.
What is a parking area management plan?
Parking area management refers to the organization and management of parking spaces. While the concept is not new, its importance in India is only recently being realized as municipal corporations throughout the country have failed at effective parking planning. With a rising population in India, vehicle ownership is also likely to experience a major upsurge.
A parking area management plan (PAMP) is a set of pre-defined measures for a designated area, prepared by local bodies in consultation with residents and other stakeholders. A PAMP promotes shared, public parking to maximize availability in cities with land constraints. The supply of legal parking is capped and illegal parking is penalized. Short and long-term legal parking spaces are demarcated, encroachments are cleared, ‘park and walk’ facilities are promoted, key corridors for on-street parking are identified, ‘no parking’ zones are earmarked, and parking information is made available to citizens. But exactly why do cities need parking area management plans?
Unsustainable pressure on land
According to some estimates, a car runs only for 400 hours on an average in a year and is parked the remaining 95% of the time. This is clear in the demand for parking – annual demand for additional parking spaces can be as much as 471 football fields in Delhi, evidently wasteful use of land. In Indian cities, personal vehicles occupy more than 85% of the parking spaces but meet less than 15% of the travel demand.
Parking encroachment on public spaces
Parking pressure is maximum on roads and available surface areas in commercial areas. Delhi, which has the highest percentage of its land under roads in the country, sees about 14% of its road-length being used for parking. In Jaipur, this share is even higher at 56% while it is 45% in Kanpur. The problem is that disorganized parking encroaches on safe walking spaces and often converts short-distance walking trips to motorized ones. Thus, the utility of public transport is undermined when safe access to them is restricted.
Free parking subsidizes rich car owners at the expense of the government
In Indian cities, on-street parking is mostly free or is priced minimally. In fact, it is one of the lowest in the world. Motorists paying next to nothing for using valuable public space put the burden of financing use on other citizens, who may not even own vehicles. Even inexpensive parking structures in India, parking rates are not adequate to recover the cost of investment. When we take the rental or land cost into account, the subsidy works out to be even higher. When this happens, city administrations don’t generate enough revenue from parking to invest in local area improvements. Because parking demand is market-driven, prices also need to be market-determined.
Parking pressures degrade the quality of life
When parking pressure builds up in residential neighborhoods with scarce land, neighborhood brawls and road rage become commonplace. This is an ugly social ramification of inefficient parking management. As car ownership increases in the future, the problem is likely to worsen. When residential neighborhoods don’t have enough land for adequate parking, parking encroaches on green areas and playgrounds, blocking access to houses, market places, etc. Parking on roads also affects safe walking and cycling by children, the elderly, and disabled people in residential neighborhoods.
Cities must work towards creating PAMPs
With an expected increase in the number of vehicles globally, Parking Area Management Plans have become crucial to the planning and organization of cities. Currently, in India, there is little policy or public understanding of enabling better parking management while reducing parking demand. A complex set of interventions interlinking parking management elements will need to be instituted for creating livable cities. PAMPs are the only way to address the parking chaos associated with unorganized parking. Conscious efforts on the part of city governments in civic bodies in promoting PAMPs can go a long way in dealing with the parking crisis facing modern cities.