Plan for off-street parking plazas

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, AUG. 30. In a bid to ease the acute traffic congestion on city roads, the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation has decided to take up a survey to identify land for construction of off-street parking plazas. The Town Planning Committee is preparing to conduct the survey following a direction from the Government.

Corporation sources said the idea was to acquire private land at key locations and hand it over to private parties for construction of multi-storied or underground parking lots. The project is proposed to be implemented on a Build-Operate-Transfer basis. Though the final details have not been worked out, civic officials said the parking plazas would probably accommodate commercial space also to bring down the period for recovery of investment.

The project is the latest initiative on the part of the local body to address the acute shortage of parking space which has emerged as a major problem for road users. The development of parking areas have failed to keep pace with the burgeoning number of motor vehicles in the city. Traffic management experts maintain that off-street parking facilities are inevitable in the long run.

Last year, the Corporation had prepared a scheme to introduce a `pay and park' system at 20 locations in the city. The proposal designed to organise parking in the most congested locations was to be implemented as part of the People's Plan Campaign. The scheme proposed paid parking at select locations in the Medical College, Palayam, Spencer Junction, Statue, Pulimoodu, East Fort, Chalai, Vellayambalam and Museum areas.

Plans were drawn up to tender the collection of parking fee with tickets for two or three hours which could be used at any of these parking lots. But the proposal was put on the backburner after the elections to the Corporation Council in October last.

The Thiruvananthapuram Development Authority had also toyed with the idea of constructing multi-storied parking-cum- commercial centres. TRIDA had planned to construct the multi- tier parking lots equipped with ramps in the Medical College, Pulimoodu and Secretariat areas. The plan was to entrust the construction to the private sector. The investment could be realised through parking fees and rent from commercial space. But the proposal failed to take off.

It is estimated that there are more than 1.3 lakh vehicles including about 20,000 cars and over 70,000 two-wheelers plying the 2,029 km of road space in the city. As many as 6,000 cargo vehicles bringing essential commodities from the neighbouring States add to the congestion. Diversion of parking lots and encroachment by hawkers have compounded the problem. More than 100 new vehicles are added to the city traffic daily. Parking lots in the congested Palayam and Chalai market areas are filled to capacity during peak hours forcing vehicles to waste fuel in taking circuitous routes to find other slots.

More than 20 per cent of the road space at major junctions and commercial centres is appropriated by private vehicles, autorickshaws and taxi-drivers. All efforts of the police to restrict haphazard parking of taxis and autorickshaws have met with severe resistance from driver's unions.

Of the seven areas earmarked for development of parking lots by TRIDA in its 1994 masterplan, three have already been diverted for other purposes. While the plot at the Pulimoodu Junction has been used for construction of the General Post Office building, a multi-storied commercial complex has come up in the old Ayurveda College compound. Another plot at Thampanoor has been taken over by a private party after years of litigation.

Town Planning officials maintain that finding land for parking lots is a difficult proposition at a time when the acute space crunch is leading to vertical development of the city. They say that the only long-term solution is to relocate some of the Government offices, commercial centres and markets to suburban areas and develop ring and radial roads. Traffic managers feel that there is an urgent need to accord priority to scientific traffic management in urban planning.