Bengaluru to bring back paid parking to clear traffic congestion, but is this enough?

Any plan that doesn't cut down the burgeoning demand for streetside parking is bound to fail, say experts
Bengaluru to bring back paid parking to clear traffic congestion, but is this enough?
Bengaluru to bring back paid parking to clear traffic congestion, but is this enough?
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There’s little else about Bengaluru that attracts as much conversation as the city’s massive traffic issues. As the garden city and IT city threatens to turn into the gridlocked city, many fingers are pointing towards the city’s struggling parking system, which constricts already narrow roads and leaves motorists dodging haphazardly-parked motorbikes and cars.

With the situation deteriorating drastically in the years since the Pay-and-Park system was done away with in 2005, the BBMP now plans to revive it, starting with 85 locations across the city. Besides introducing graded parking rates based on locations, the new system will also feature an app that citizens can use to find vacant parking spots and get basic assistance on parking matters.

"We have adopted a method which is similar to the parking system of the New Delhi Municipal Council. The proposal is in its final stages and the tender has been submitted." said Prabhakara B, Executive Engineer, BBMP. 

But even as the BBMP contemplates the first steps towards reducing parking congestion, urban planners point out that a more far-reaching and comprehensive policy shift is needed, without which any attempt to bring new technologies will not serve.

N Sathyanarayanan, Managing Director of Central Parking Solutions, says that in the immediate short-term, the BBMP should prioritise creating dedicated parking lots that can pull vehicles off the street. For this, he says, BBMP already possesses the solution in the form of vacant plots scattered across the city, such as the land adjacent to the Bengaluru Football Stadium.

“They need to clean up these areas, install basic facilities and technology and use it as a parking lot. There are several small plots of land across the city, and each extra parking spot makes that much more impact in the life of a citizen,” says Sathyanarayanan.

However, he adds, systems that do nothing to discourage the endlessly burgeoning demand for roadside parking cannot succeed.  “Parking is a push and pull business, and just pulling people into traffic lots with the promise of better technology and safer parking may not be enough if you don’t push them out of the roads,” he says.

The simplest solution for this, he explains is a heavy increase in street-side parking tariffs, making it expensive for commuters to leave their vehicles on the street. Architect Naresh V Narasimhan, who has been associated with a number of urban infrastructure projects in Bengaluru, echoes this idea, adding that parking along arterial roads should be entirely done away with.

"It is high time that pay and park is introduced. I don't understand why we are allowing free parking at all. In all arterial roads, there must be no parking at any time. The government should identify the main arterial corridors of the city and remove parking facility. You have to do it in the inner ring roads first and then expand outwards," says Naresh.

Both Sathyanarayanan and Naresh point out that one of the major failures in past and current governments’ efforts to tackle the parking problem has been the lack of India-specific initiatives. Sathyanarayanan points out that most parking ideas and technologies imported from other countries fail in India because they do not take account of two-wheeler density here.

“Indian cities have a large number of two-wheeler vehicles whose parking needs are not adequately addressed. The approach towards parking in India needs to be holistic and India-centric, because India is not the same as other countries,” he says.

Naresh agrees, pointing out that there are over 45 lakh two-wheelers on Bengaluru’s roads. Observing that two-wheeler transport remains much cheaper than public transport, Naresh argues that bringing down the fares of the metro and buses to 30% below the average cost of riding and maintaining two-wheelers is an important step.

He also argues that Bengaluru’s parking solution lies in formulating policies oriented towards public transport or walking as a means of commute. Walking infrastructure should become seamless for an increasing the number of pedestrians, he says. 

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