Attendants prevent them from using the parking meters and charge double the fee on Thyagaraya Road in Pondy Bazaar
If you're not alert while parking your vehicle in Pondy Bazaar, you might end up paying more than the actual charge. Parking lot attendants along the entire market area on Thyagaraya Road seem to have adopted a uniform strategy to cheat those coming to shop.
There are as many as 14 automated parking meters along the stretch beginning near the Boag Road-Thyagaraya Road junction, right up to the end of the road, near Panagal Park. The meters have one attendant each to assist arriving shoppers.
Misuse of resource
Before you even parallel-park your car, an attendant comes running to you. “Ten rupees,” he says, holding out a ‘parking token'. The token is often an old one — at 11.30 a.m. on Wednesday, this reporter was given a token that said ‘1.15 p.m. – Rs. 10.'
A board right on top of the parking meter, however, displays different parking rates in bold letters — Rs. 5 for one hour, Rs. 10 for two, and Rs.15 for three hours. Try telling the attendant that you would take a coupon from the automated meter that you can see right there, and he quickly says, “Oh, that does not work.”
The meters work, but most motorists looking to park do not know. They need to put in new coins of Rs. 5, Rs. 2 or Re. 1 denomination into the meter, which spits out a token.
The Chennai Corporation's automated parking lot, introduced in select localities 2009, is managed by a private contractor, Millenium Synergy Private Limited.
The company has installed nearly 50 parking meters across the city, covering localities in Anna Nagar, Mylapore, Adyar, T. Nagar, Purasawalkam and G.P. Road. Soon, the six parking meters on G.P. Road will be distributed between Club House Road and some parts of T. Nagar.
The system works well in other localities, particularly in Mylapore, where some attendants even encourage customers to walk up to the meter, use the machine and take their own token. But attendants in Pondy Bazaar, where hundreds of cars are parked every day, are taking customers on a ride. The paucity of adequate parking space and the urgency with which a shopper wants to park at the sight of an empty slot works to their advantage.
S. Venkatesan, who had just parked his vehicle on an empty slot in Pondy Bazaar, handed out a 10 rupee note to the attendant.
“This happens every time I come here. The attendant gives some old token and demand 10 rupees. When I asked him why they charge Rs. 10 when the board says just Rs. 5 per hour, he said the charges had gone up,” said the driver from Mahalingapuram.
Access to some meters are blocked by toys or cans kept by hawkers in the area. Lack of awareness of the meters also seems to compound the problem. S. Mani, another driver who was waiting beside a parked car in the same row, said: “They ask for 10 rupees, we pay the amount. I have never used the meter myself.”
When contacted, T. Thirugnanasambandan, business development head of Millenium Synergy, said while the company had requested the Corporation to revise pricing, it was “shocking” that some attendants collected more than the actual charge at present.
“It is possible that one or two machines don't work due to problems in the battery. We will look into the issue immediately.”
Observing that the company had a target of Rs. 8 lakh to Rs. 9 lakh every month, he said: “We are making only half the amount. As per our contract, 16 per cent of the gross earnings made goes to the Chennai Corporation.”