A year after “South Square”, DLF’s automated multi-level parking facility in Sarojini Nagar here, became operational, the rift between the private concessionaire and the market’s traders could not be starker. While DLF says the facility is operating without any technical problems and has in fact recorded a higher number of users, traders allege that the facility was never intended to end Sarojini Nagar’s parking woes but was designed only for commercial exploitation.

The commercial floors are fully operational, says DLF Multi-level Car Park (Project Head) Benu Sehgal, yet for the automated parking lot to reach its full capacity of accommodating 824 cars it will require the help of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC).

“Currently, the facility accommodates around 400 cars a day. The NDMC cannot fix the same rates for both surface parking and parking at the facility. The latter should have a lower rate,” she adds.

The DLF currently manages the surface parking around the market which has space for more than 230 cars. “Traders themselves are not parking at the automated facility since the NDMC has provided them with free parking.”

Following repeated complaints from the Sarojini Nagar Market Association about the long waiting periods to enter and exit the car park, an efficiency test was conducted in July by the civic agency to find out if the facility can accommodate as many cars as it claims and if the vehicles can be retrieved under three minutes. However, the bone of contention between the private concessionaire and the traders’ association was over the definition of ‘retrieval time’. While DLF’s promise of a “three-minute” retrieval time is recorded for the time taken between the token number flashing on the screen and the vehicle retrieved from its slot, traders were alluding to the opportunity cost for the user to queue up at the facility.

As traders are one of the biggest consumers of parking spaces in Sarojini Nagar, Ms. Sehgal proffers a solution of setting up a “staggering system” which will avoid bunching up of vehicles by providing a time slot for a user to park at the facility. “Neither the staggering system nor the increase in rates for surface parking will make a difference,” says Sarojini Nagar Market Association president Pramod Sharma.

“If someone wants to park their vehicle quickly and conveniently, they would rather pay the higher rate for surface parking than queue up to enter the premises,” he says, about a facility that sees footfall of more 40,000 over the weekends. The design for surface parking facilities were included when the market was designed in the early ‘50s to accommodate the 150 families that reside in houses above the market.

Mr. Sharma also points to the danger of the facility as a potential fire hazard. “There are gas pipelines under the building connected to many of the eateries. This is very dangerous in an automated system,” he adds. Yet, both parties feel the upcoming metro station will be beneficial.

While Mr. Sharma feels it will help decongest the area and connect it other parts of the city, Ms. Sehgal says: “It will complement the car park facility as a bunch of people from places such as Dhaula Kuan can park here and go to other places by metro.”

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