Do you know that a commuter in Delhi spends over 80 hours every year looking for parking spaces? That’s true. As soon as we step out, we are stuck! The case of parking is applicable to the central idea of economics which asserts that the economy’s limited resources are not sufficient to satisfy all human needs and wants.

Due to rapid economic and population growth, Indian metropolitan cities are staring at a mobility crisis. Having limited land for parking spaces or reduced parking spaces with an immensely increasing population has put India into big trouble. The number of families with cars has become much more than what the country is able to manage. Even families from low-income groups own a car today. This creates tremendous pressure on parking spaces which has led to serious concerns like traffic congestion, accidents, disproportionate demand and supply ratio, environmental hazards, etc. Because of poor parking management and policy, India struggles with chaotic situations like overcrowded footpaths, illegal parking, and criminal activities due to improper surveillance.

The parking spaces in India are priced extremely low and this is one of the reasons why private vehicles are becoming the most preferred mode of transportation. Low parking price encourages more vehicles on the road which contributes to air and noise pollution. Therefore, excessive use of private vehicles negatively impacts the environment and the public at large but still private vehicles continue to be a convenient mode of communication. Another most common problem today is the drenching of parking spaces. Vehicles continue to outnumber existing parking spaces, thus clogging roads. Incidences of deformed cars due to a space crunch and overcharging for parking are some problems that result thereafter.

People usually prefer on-street parking over off-street parking primarily because the former is cheaper than the latter. This leads to traffic congestion and chaos which causes delays. Commuters find it difficult to pass by as the vehicles are seen to be moving at a snail’s pace! This makes them wait for a long time. Typically when free on-street parking isn’t available, drivers choose to cruise instead of paying for parking. In Indian cities, during special occasions like festivals, concerts, fests, etc. roads are filled with unending traffic. A large number of vehicles come out on the streets, exerting immense pressure on parking spaces. This means more cruising, chaos, quarrels and long queues than usual.

Environmental pollution is the main consequence of parking problems. Pollutants like oil and grease are washed off from the parking lots into the water bodies during the rains. The pollutants contaminate the water table and are also responsible for the urban heat island effect. The pollutants emits causes health hazards and may cause respiratory and cardiovascular damages. There are 3.1 million registered cars (as of 2018) plying on the roads of Delhi with 1000 new cars adding to the load every day on an average. Delhi has been ranked on top of the World Health Organisation’s ranking of the world’s most polluted cities for several years, with vehicular and industrial emissions, dust from building sites, and smoke from the burning of waste and crop residue. One of the ways to mitigate the detrimental impacts of the parking lots is the use of solar panels in the parking lots which can help in the generation of electricity. Shading the parking lots with solar canopies may reduce the usage of air conditioners, increase fuel efficiency, thus it can contribute to reducing pollution and climate change.

Odd-Even scheme is considered as a tool for traffic management & pollution reduction. The odd-even scheme is a car-rationing scheme borrowed from countries like China and many European nations, where it is believed to have brought down the pollution levels caused by vehicular emissions. Cars with license plates ending in an odd number and even number are allowed to ply on alternate days, except weekends, but exemptions were earlier granted to women, VIPs, and two-wheelers. A joint study conducted by atmospheric scientists of IITs and IIM’s had revealed that pollution levels declined only by 2%-3% in the first phase of the odd-even scheme. Surely Delhi Metro is there, but not many people prefer Metro due to the last-mile connectivity problems. Also, not many prefer traveling on buses in the NCR region. Lastly, autos and taxis overcharge travelers.

The pace at which the registration of new cars is taking place will always create a barrier in meeting the equilibrium demand and supply of parking lots. Thus, increasing the number of parking lots is never the solution. Donald Shoup suggests putting a cap on the parking requirement, setting a maximum will limit the availability of the infrastructure and replace public transport with private vehicles. Parking prices should be used as another instrument to control the excess demand for parking spaces. An innovative solution to deal with parking spillover during the festival season would be the creation of informal markets in the backyards and lawns of the residential areas. Also, Early bird and off-peak discounts can also be given to control the parking crowd.

The large growth of vehicles has been positive in a few ways, including the development of the thriving auto industry and allied economic growth. However, there are many sets of challenges to be addressed. A recent WHO study has fourteen Indian cities featuring in the top fifteen most polluted cities in the world. This challenge leads to significant health and welfare losses, currently estimated by the World Bank at 7.7% of India’s GDP. Additionally, major Indian cities are also now consistently ranked amongst the world’s most congested cities. The average speed for vehicles in some metros are reported as low as 17 km/h. These high levels of congestion have a huge cost in form of reduced productivity and fuel waste; a high-level estimate of the economic loss of congestion, for our top four metros, is over USD 22 billion annually.

There are some other ways to solve car parking issues, such as multi-level car parking. Multi-level car parking is of two types – conventional and automated. Conventional multi-level car parking can be done anywhere – over the ground or under it. The open parking areas are more preferred as opposed to closed areas in case of parking above the ground as specialized fire protection systems and mechanical ventilation are not needed in this case. Automated multi-level car parking is more difficult to achieve in India considering the fact that it is entirely technology-driven and does not involve much human element.

In cities in the United States, parking demands are dependent on location. As expected, highly commercialized areas need more parking slots compared with less urbanized zones. Also, to exacerbate the problem, there’s also a lack of garages in some urban residences. The West, along with several developed Asian countries like Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan have made it very costly for the motoring public to drive and park in their main cities during working days. So, only the affluent can afford it. However, at the same time, they have made their public transport so good that the vast majority of the people happily use it, even the relatively well off. Many of them can afford to buy a car, but they do not as they are happy using public transport.

Countries like Australia, Ireland, Dubai, etc. have invested both time and resources in order to reform parking strategies. They have come up with sound and efficient ideas like parking meters and mobile parking apps which makes the search easy for the people and if the ideas like setting the price according to demand and occupancy control are implemented, technical affluence will work as a brownie point for the consumers and for the city as a whole. Allowing drivers to reserve spots based on their convenience and using smart parking apps can make mobile payments possible. Not only does this save drivers time spent searching for a spot, but it also reduces environmental degradation resulting from congestion caused by parking.

Many smart cities in India are gradually using technological innovations and interventions to solve their parking woes. This will encourage development for mobility issues in urban areas. In order to eradicate the problem of parking in India more constructive measures must be taken and an increase in the number of our available parking spaces should be the last idea worth considering!

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