The festival season may be around the corner but people living in residential areas abutting commercial hubs are not excited. Their life turns into a nightmare every time shoppers descend on them, often leaving them struggling to enter their own home. Lack of parking space is a perennial issue for the residents, but the situation turns worse during the festival season. From mid-September till Deepavali, residents of the by-lanes of T. Nagar battle their way to walk, let alone use their vehicles for commute.
V.S. Jayaraman, a resident of Motilal Street of South Usman Road, says, “There are people who park inside our apartment and argue with us when we ask them to take their vehicle out.” Although large shops on Usman Road have made arrangements for parking, it is hardly enough, given the crowd that throngs them.
Several streets at T. Nagar have tiny plots earmarked as parking lots. Most of them overflow daily. The result is people park wherever they find space. This leads to an altercation with the residents of the locality and an unpleasant exchange of words. “We are law-abiding citizens, and don’t want to protest by blocking the road. Our appeals to the police and the civic authorities have not helped much,” he said.
On Pinjala Subramanian Street, which has been declared one-way for vehicular traffic, a garment shop has taken over the entire stretch for parking. It has provided underground parking, unlike other shops of its ilk. Ever since the shop sprang up, the street has metamorphosed into a two-way street, adding to the chaos. Meanwhile, the multi-level car parking on the pedestrian plaza on Theagaraya Road finds very few takers, while the roads continue to get clogged. People have converted even the pedestrian plaza into a parking lot, edging out pedestrians.
On Anna Nagar 7th Avenue, residents complain of unauthorised parking. “Sometimes, people leave their cars unattended for several days. I park my two-wheeler in a way that will prevent misuse of the space,” said an affected resident. Although the residents tried to take up the issue with the civic authorities and the police, they found no relief. On 18th Street, three shops, including a grocery store, have led to congestion owing to haphazard parking, said P. Murali Krishnan, who lives a couple of streets away.
P. Vadivel, a resident of Anna Nagar West, said that if the parking of vans throughout the day on the SBOA West Gate Road and School Road made it difficult to walk on the pavement, then on East Main Road, School Road and Park Road, shops had extended their space on pavements to accommodate customers’ vehicles.
At Velachery, the areas near the Dandeeshwaram market have been taken over; pedestrians have been forced to the middle of the road. Elsewhere in the city, be it Purasawalkam, Adyar or Mylapore, the situation is no better as residents helplessly watch their space shrink every day.
Efforts to improve parking facilities began in 2019-20 when the Institute for Transport Development Policy (ITDP) conducted a survey but the COVID-19 pandemic halted the process, explained a Greater Chennai Corporation official. The city has designated 20,000 parking slots, excluding the private parking lots provided by shops, malls and apartments. “A preliminary study has concluded that the city needs around two lakh parking lots,” the official said.
Last month, the Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA) joined hands with ITDP to conduct a survey of the city’s transport needs, including road safety and parking requirements, and to develop a comprehensive policy for the metropolitan area.
Officials admit that the occupation in the multi-level car parking is only around 20% and in the past several months, the number of persons parking on street has risen. The reason for this is not too far to find. With buses going off the road at T. Nagar, owing to the Metro Rail work at Panagal Park, people are forced to use other means. I. Jayakumar, CUMTA member-secretary and special officer, said, “We are planning a detailed area-wise study. That will be the intervention plan which will boil down to parking areas, including on-street and off-street parking.” An assessment has revealed that 45 lakh of the 75 lakh vehicles on the city roads are two-wheelers. Also, the city needs 9,000 buses, whereas it has only 3,000, currently. Even the Chennai Metro Rail operates only skeletal services, leaving its users in the cold. At present, only 22 mini-buses are being operated for Metro Rail travellers, though there has been a demand for more.
Corporation officials say their revenue has increased substantially from parking charges. “Earlier, we earned ₹1.25 lakh a day. Now, it is ₹2.25 lakh and on Saturday ₹3 lakh,” an official said. The Corporation has identified 5,000 slots in areas such as Purasawalkam, T. Nagar, Besant Nagar and Elliot’s Beach, Anna Nagar, and Parry’s Corner. The parking charges are ₹5 for two-wheelers and ₹20 for cars for an hour. The same applies to the multi-level car parking at T. Nagar. Yet, vehicle-users here do not use the facility. An assistant in a garment shop said most employees park their vehicles on the by-lanes for free as they do not have the wherewithal to park for a fee.
Plea to reduce the charge
Prakash Galada, a businessman at Pondy Bazaar, said the shoppers complained that the on-street parking attendants could not return small change. To park on the street, a person must pay an hourly fee of ₹15 for two-wheelers and ₹60 for cars. “The parking attendants claim they do not have change. The Corporation could consider reducing the charge for car parking to ₹40 or ₹50,” he suggested.
The Corporation had identified more parking slots in areas such as Tiruvottiyur, Puzhuthivakkam, Adyar, Madhavaram, Madipakkam, East Coast Road and Thiruvanmiyur. There are proposals to earmark parking slots in areas such as Manali in the north and Alandur in the south, a revenue official said. “But as soon as we began work, Metro Rail started its work. Once that is completed, we would be able to start identifying spots,” he added.