Behavior change, better enforcement, the keys to solving the on-street parking problem | News Bharat

parking for footpaths
Cars from the mechanic shop parked on the footpath. Image: Laasya Shekar

With the increasing number of passenger motor vehicles in Chennai, the need for a comprehensive parking management strategy is strongly felt. Despite initiatives like multi-storey car parks being adopted by the government, the public continues to park their vehicles on the streets or pavements, causing many problems. With an aim to find answers to this long-standing problem in Chennai, Citizen Matters organized a webinar titled “Finding a Solution to Street Parking in Chennai” with a panel of experts for discussion.

The panel consisted of Sanjay Pinto, advocate, columnist, author and former resident editor of NDTV 24×7; Aswathy Dilip, Director General, Institute for Transport and Development Policy (ITDP) India; David Bharat Kumar, event planner, journalist and traffic warden of the Tamil Nadu Police; Kannan Balachandran, Secretary, T Nagar Residents’ Welfare Association and Raj Cherubal, Chief Executive Officer, Chennai Smart City Limited.

Poster for an event on street parking management

Read more: Charging for street parking could be a game changer for Chennai

Residents suffer due to unregulated on-street parking in Chennai

Kannan pointed out that when residential areas are converted into commercial zones, the footpaths are occupied by traders and their vehicles, leaving no space for pedestrians. “In the next few years, these hawkers may also switch to cars, further adding to the parking problem on the streets of Chennai,” he said.

“Areas like T Nagar already have a chaotic parking management system. Since every other vehicle has a police or lawyer sticker, residents could not question violators in case of accidental parking,” he added.

“When I go to court, I make sure that I leave home at least half an hour before the scheduled time, just to get a suitable parking space. Similarly, when I pick up my children from school, I leave at least 45 minutes before arriving because most schools have thousands of students but don’t have parking lots,” said Sanjay.

He pointed out that merchants around the city have the sidewalk around their shops for their personal space and have a practice of parking their vehicles on the sidewalk.

Parking is a complex problem that needs to be solved

Raj emphasized that the management of parking lots is a more complex issue that has its roots in systemic problems.

“There are multiple agencies with multiple jurisdictions involved and if we don’t solve each of these problems, it’s difficult to come up with a workable solution,” he said, adding that countries that have a good parking management system have a fantastic public transport system with very few cars per the road. It is very important that the local government has full control over the city and can make rules to control parking.

Aswathy noted that on-street parking is a common problem in cities and said that it is a very difficult problem to solve, but not impossible. Contributing to the problem is the involvement of various departments and many rules that were put in place many years ago when the issue was not as drastic as it is now. However, Chennai has taken the first step towards a solution, she said.

“Even if we took stricter measures and confiscated vehicles parked on the side of the road, there is not enough space to accommodate these vehicles. There is also a lack of towing vehicles at the police department,” said David.

Aswathy observed that the traffic police are understaffed to implement the necessary measures and parking is not their top priority as they have to look into law and order issues. When a civil parking enforcement authority engages a service provider, the Motor Vehicle Act does not give it all the powers required to enforce parking regulations.

“In order to eliminate the space constraint for the accommodation of impounded vehicles, it was envisaged that the vehicle would be towed and parked in the nearest available parking space, but the violator would be charged multiple parking fees. However, there were practical challenges that led to problems such as a high-end car being damaged during towing. As these car owners are more likely to have strong connections, this has been a challenge for service providers and sometimes even officials,” she explained.

David gave an example of trying to create a local solution: “To solve the street parking problem in Shanthi Colony in Anna Nagar, the local police once found an open playground and held a meeting with shop owners in the area. Traders were asked to share the ground rent and their customers could use receipts to purchase and get a discount on parking. However, traders were not willing to pay the rental costs.’

Read more: Street parking will soon be charged in the city: Raj Cherubal, CEO, CSCL

The need for behavior change

As a solution to street parking in Chennai, multi-level parking lots have been established. David said that the success of multi-storey parking and other similar solutions requires a change in individual mindset. “For example, someone who wants to buy something in a store prefers to park his vehicle right in front of the store so that he can leave immediately after the purchase. They don’t have the patience to park their vehicle in one place and take a short walk to the shops,” he said.

When we were working on the Pedestrian Plaza in Pondy Bazaar, shopkeepers objected to the redevelopment without setting up a multi-storey car park, Aswathy said.

“However, we knew from our experience with multi-storey car parks in cities like Bangalore, which had about 11 multi-storey car parks where occupancy was less than 20 to 30 per cent, that this was not really going to solve the problem because if and until you will not have a high level of enforcement, nobody will park their vehicles in the multi-storey car park,” Aswathy said.

Raj added: “For example, if I manage a multi-storey car park and if I don’t have control over a 500 meter radius, people will eventually park their cars wherever they want. It can be free in front of someone’s house or in a place where the cost of parking is much lower than my facility. So it becomes a systemic problem.”

Some suggestions to ease the hassle of on-street parking in Chennai

As part of the discussion on street parking solutions, the panel came up with the following ideas

  • A joint trip for schoolchildren from the same area who attend the same school
  • A mechanism at the regional transport office that mandates vehicle owners to provide parking spaces upon registration if they have more than one vehicle
  • Discussions between residents’ social associations and government agencies such as CMDA to come up with clear rules for parking in residential areas.
  • Ensure all schools have adequate parking on campus
  • Popularizing road patrol in schools and using cadets to enforce parking
  • Get the next generation to walk, cycle and use public transport instead of owning their own vehicles
  • Introduce a system of differentiated parking prices to prevent random parking

To follow the full discussion:

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