Rapidly-escalating VEHICLE POPULATION has led to the perennial problem of parking inside Chennai city limits

Chennai city is home to bustling traffic of nearly 40 lakh vehicles, with around 30 lakh motorcycles and over five lakh cars.

The rapidly escalating vehicle population has led to the perennial problem of parking. On an average, the Chennai City Traffic Police (CCTP) register 850 cases of parking violations every day inside city limits, in categories including parking obstructing movement of vehicles, parking in no-parking zones, and parking in a dangerous manner that can cause accidents.

According to statistics (till mid-June 2014) available with the CCTP, 1,09,592 cases have been booked against motorists for obstructive parking and 92,516 have been booked for parking vehicles in no-parking zones in the city.

Two-wheeler parking violators are penalised Rs. 260, which includes Rs. 100 as the fine amount, Rs. 150 towards vehicle towing charges and Rs. 10 to the helper appointed by the traffic police.

Similarly, violating four-wheeler drivers are slapped with a fine of Rs. 475, with the break-up being Rs. 350, Rs. 100 and Rs. 25, respectively. There is a misconception among motorists in the city that a road sans a no-parking sign is free parking space for any vehicle, but the traffic police state any arterial road in Chennai city limits is strictly a no-parking zone.

Often, a no-parking board is put up only after the concerned spot has turned into illegal parking zone for vehicles, leading to bottlenecks at the location and adjoining roads, say traffic cops.

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If you were a bike thief, where would you park the stolen vehicle? The answer is most likely to be: any parking lot near railway stations or bus termini. Well, thieves are not the only ones who think so. Genuine owners of motorcycles too often leave their vehicles in such parking lots and claim their bike is stolen to claim insurance.

There are hundreds of such unclaimed bikes at various railway station parking lots in the city and suburbs. The police go after such vehicles only when there is a bomb blast threat or security alert in the city or elsewhere in the country.

These bikes do not just deny space to regular commuters who wish to park their vehicles, but also pose a serious security problem. “If this remains unchecked, it will encourage miscreants to abandon their getaway vehicles after committing crimes such as murders and chain-snatching. This is applicable to cars too,” says a senior police officer.

Besides, insurance companies too are being cheated, say the police. “Some people register false police complaints stating their bike is lost and claim insurance. It brings more money than selling the vehicle. Once, I traced a vehicle owner and tried to handover his bike. But he said he had purchased a new one with the insurance money,” says the officer.

On an average, around 100 vehicles are abandoned in such parking lots. “It’s very hard to find space for parking. Most of the space is occupied by bikes covered in dust,” says N. Prabhakar, a frequent commuter.

So what is the solution? Police officers feel strict monitoring is the only solution. “Install CCTV cameras, ask for identity proof and mobile numbers of those who park their vehicles. Report to the police if a bike lies unclaimed for more a day,” says the officer.

(Reporting by Petlee Peter and Vivek Narayanan)

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