How Demand Shapes Parking Policy4 min read
Given the congestion and pollution in our cities, there is an evident need for effective parking policy formulation and implementation. Among the prime factors underlying parking policy formation is the demand for parking.
Previously, parking policies aimed to increase supply in response to growing demand. This was done by keeping public land aside for parking, constructing multi-level or underground parking structures, and directing buildings to have a minimum number of parking slots. The overarching assumption was that the demand for parking would continue to grow with vehicles on the road so keeping spaces aside made for an effective solution. Read more about how demand shapes parking policy.
The issue with this approach was that it failed to reduce parking pressure, effectively worsening the situation. An uncontrolled parking supply meant an incentive to own more personal vehicles, leading to increased pollution and congestion. Moreover, land that could have been used for the welfare of society (to build hospitals, schools, providing housing facilities to the poor) was used for parking. Eventually, cities realized the problem wasn’t so much with the supply as with an unchecked demand.
It seems logical for a drop in demand to serve as a solution to our parking woes. However, policymaking must be changed such that instead of promoting an unlimited supply of free parking, demand is kept in check.
Demand in different areas
Parking spaces are categorized into the following major categories, depending upon the structures and areas in their vicinity:
- Parking near residential areas
- Parking near commercial and office areas
- Parking near hospitals
- Parking near educational institutions
- Parking near recreation centers, markets, and shopping areas
Since residential areas have a relatively higher demand for parking spaces, rules require a specified number of spaces according to the income strata. For example, residential areas with low-income families have spaces designed for the accommodation of vehicles like two-wheelers and bicycles. Localities with high-income families have allotted parking spaces for cars.
Commercial and office areas sometimes see policies restricting parking availability when they’re well-connected by public transport. This ensures that the demand for individual parking spaces remains low as more people turn to car-pooling, public transport, etc.
The relationship between demand and policymaking
Parking demand and policy see either a negative or positively directed regulation. Planning for parking had traditionally focused on ensuring free and abundant parking spaces by setting minimum requirements based on peak user demand. Since the demand for parking spaces increases exponentially every year, the complexities of parking and its effects on other factors have called into question the ‘free and abundant’ parking policies.
Is there a backward approach to understand the existing complex relationship between parking demand and policy-making? In 2016, the Indian government announced that the registration of vehicles would be permitted only once the owner produced a proof of parking space availability – a move to possibly curtail parking demand.
Parking policy formulation in India
Several governments are framing parking policy to reduce parking pressure and congestion on roads to make cities more livable. A prime challenge is to design rules that balance the need to provide parking with efforts to reduce the overall demand.
The National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) of 2014 has adopted the principle of demand management. This involves allocating and limiting legal parking spaces and pricing suitably to reduce dependence on cars. NUTP has recommended a graded scale of parking fees to recover the economic costs of land used for parking.
The Supreme Court accepted these demand management principles for Delhi. The Court-appointed Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) has stated that provisions of parking for personal vehicles cannot be considered a matter of public good. Since land is a limited resource, there is a limit to parking spaces that can be created in a city. There is a need for an intelligent pricing policy wherein users must pay for parking space instead of the government subsidizing the cost as with ‘free parking’ systems.
While Indian cities are now expected to frame responsible policies, there seems to be a lack of understanding regarding the principles of parking policy and parking can be better organized while reducing demand. There seems to be even less clarity about parking management strategies and operations.
A complex set of interventions that need to be detailed out for an effective programme with a guidance framework on interlinking these elements. Some means to control parking pressure are being considered:
- Parking meters for managing on-street demand in commercial areas, public spaces, and facilities that see high traffic (parks, hospitals, sports venues, universities), major transportation corridors, and high-density areas
- Residential parking permits (RPP) to discourage commuters from parking for a long time in low-density residential areas
- Posted time limits (without parking meters) where parking demand does not permit the installation of meters or where it impractical to install meters.
- Colour curb regulations such as disabled parking (blue), passenger loading (white), commercial loading (yellow), time-limited parking (green), or no parking (red) are used to look after site-specific needs. How policies will be framed in the future remains to be seen. City governments should, however, take cognizance of the pivotal role demand has to play in the process. Understanding its effects and making provisions to control it is crucial to building safe, livable cities.