Parking policy: Take it beyond the streets

Last month, the Court gave six weeks to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Commissioner to submit a detailed project report on the methodology of implementing the BBMP’s Parking Policy 2.0

Updated - June 24, 2024 09:04 am IST

Published - June 24, 2024 09:00 am IST - Bengaluru

File photo of smart parking project by Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) on Kasturba Road, during the trials, in the central business district (CBD) in Bengaluru.

File photo of smart parking project by Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) on Kasturba Road, during the trials, in the central business district (CBD) in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: MURALI KUMAR K

Streamlined parking as a tool for traffic decongestion is a no-brainer. But the glaring lack of a parking policy, an apparently flawed pay-and-park system, and the ceaseless onslaught of newly registered vehicles in their thousands has left Bengaluru’s roads in a chaotic mess. Can a recent High Court directive effect a change?

Last month, the Court gave six weeks to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Commissioner to submit a detailed project report on the methodology of implementing the BBMP’s Parking Policy 2.0. The much-delayed implementation of the policy has left vast road stretches of the city narrowed down by haphazardly parked two-wheelers and cars, with regulation nowhere in sight.

Big on objectives

Approved by the state government as early as February 2021, the Parking Policy 2.0 had its objectives clear: To shift from free, chaotic parking to paid, well-organised parking; to streamline the system by strengthening enforcement through robust active management based on demand. To address the issues, the policy prepared an Area Parking Plan (APP) for multiple zones across the city.

A zonal-level comprehensive parking plan, the APP focused on regulation of on-street parking in commercial and residential areas, off-street parking plans, special parking for disabled persons and cyclists, pricing for parking, management of parking and more.

To activate this, the plan proposed identifying high parking demand areas, existing parking facilities and their utilization besides gaps in demand and supply. The idea was to achieve a far more efficient use of road space, while boosting sustainable mobility options.

Encroachments

The city’s parking chaos stems from a major issue: Encroachment of parking lots within commercial, institutional and even residential buildings. As mobility analyst Ashwin Mahesh points out, “All these buildings were given permissions and plan approvals to construct and occupy only on the assumption that the spaces they have indicated for parking will be used for parking.”

The BBMP, he says, never imagined that single family homes, Ground +1 and +2 homes, would eventually become triple family homes, with one family on each floor. “Most of those buildings were constructed showing parking space for only one vehicle. Now every family on every floor has one vehicle. It is physically impossible to park there. All have externalized their requirement,” he explains.

Inevitably, this has meant invading the road space. “There are people who take their car out in the morning and leave it on the street. You can’t do that, the street is for other users, not for parking your car, even in front of your house. We have now allowed a situation to develop where the number of violators is close to half a million. Half of the city’s cars are parked on the streets. Can you take action against half a million people?”

File photo of the first automated pay car park reserved for women drivers displayed by the BBMP on Brigade Road.

File photo of the first automated pay car park reserved for women drivers displayed by the BBMP on Brigade Road. | Photo Credit: SOMASHEKARA GRN

Streets rendered unsafe

The 2.0 Policy had acknowledged this problem, when it stated: “Residential streets in neighbourhoods are meant for local movement and till a decade ago were also safe havens for light recreation by children and the elderly alike. However, today most residential neighbourhood streets are overtaken by on-street parking rendering these streets not only unsafe but also at times inaccessible to ambulances and fire tender vans during an emergency.”

Lack of any regulation on residential area on-street parking, coupled with violations of the zoning regulations (ZR) of the master plan has resulted in significant increase in on-street parking demand, says the policy note. In a telling comment, the policy adds that “the burden of providing parking space for personal vehicles should be on the vehicle owner and not the civic agency.”

St. Mark’s Road way

Messy on-street parking had left St. Mark’s Road in the city’s Central Business District (CBD) highly congested. But a total revamp of the road under the TenderSURE project had the footpath widened and a finite number of parking slots neatly earmarked. Owners were not happy, as they had converted their basements into office spaces and left all vehicles on the road. Eventually all had to fall in line.

Strict enforcement and smart road design here meant efficient parking and traffic management, particularly beyond the peak school opening and closure hours. “Essentially, the real issue is the BBMP’s willingness or unwillingness to enforce whatever the parking policy is. If they do not enforce the rules, it doesn’t matter what the policy is,” Ashwin notes.

Poor regulation and enforcement have left not just the CBD but residential areas also in a mess, says Murali Urs, a software sales director residing in the city’s R.T. Nagar. “Permissions given for converting houses to offices have added to the problem in residential areas. The massive shortage of parking slots in the CBD during weekends can be overcome to a great extent if BBMP allows commercial buildings to open their parking space for the public on a chargeable basis,” he suggests.

Multi-level car parking

Multi-Level Car Parking (MLCP) was once pushed as a concrete solution to the problem. But the facility on J.C. Road has poor occupancy at any point in time. Another MLCP is soon to be launched at Freedom Park to cater to vehicle owners in Gandhinagar and surrounding areas. This facility has a capacity to accommodate 600 four-wheelers and 750 two-wheelers.

Compulsion is likely to dictate occupancy. The MLCP on K.G. Road has higher occupancy thanks to the no-parking zones demarcated along surrounding streets. At Freedom Park too, the Bengaluru Traffic Police have banned parking on the surrounding Hospital Road, Subedar Chatram Road and Tank Bund Road.

Two Wheeler and Car Parking Junction at M.G. Road.

Two Wheeler and Car Parking Junction at M.G. Road. | Photo Credit: SREENIVASA MURTHY V

Walkability is key

But there is a walkability problem for all parking zones and MLCPs. Once the vehicle owner parks his / her car or two-wheeler at the designated slot, the last-mile walk gets complicated. As Ashwin says, “For every parking spot with a meter, the geography served by it should be walkable on a clear, well-lit, safe and level footpath. Only then you can start penalising people for not using that spot.”

Now, can a parking policy enable people to shift from private to public transport? “It is possible only if you are able to control private vehicle usage by clever use of the policy. Whenever you park outside your premises, you are parking on a public road and that cannot be taken for granted. When you park on a road that is not wide enough, you are blocking a whole lane for a dead car that is not moving people,” explains urban architect Vijay N.

Parking as disincentive

Parking can act as a disincentive for private car ownership. Vijay cites the inner London model, where no building barring a few commercial outlets has parking slots within. Car owners have to pay and park outside, on the street. Since the parking fare is steep, people are forced to rethink car ownership and even the purchase of a second car.

This, says Vijay, “is a very clever way of strategically reducing congestion, private car ownership and increasing public transport use. But we, in Bengaluru, can only gradually reach there. We can’t do this blindly without increasing access to public transport with good last-mile connectivity. Maybe we will reach there in 10 years, but a start should be made.”

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