It is roads which pay for illegal parking city pulse

POOR PLANNING: Rows of vehicles are parked free of cost under the flyover on Usman Road causing congestion and safety hazards.

POOR PLANNING: Rows of vehicles are parked free of cost under the flyover on Usman Road causing congestion and safety hazards.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

Kannal Achuthan and R. Sujatha

Urban planning consultant says several commercial buildings have violated norms on parking of vehicles

Chennai: Violation of building regulations, subsidised street parking and poor enforcement of parking rules have turned road margins and footpaths into garages.

The populatiobrn of private vehicles in the city is about 27 lakh, a four-fold rise from what it was 10 years ago, according to the traffic police. However, the city is yet to have a comprehensive parking policy that spells out punitive measures for violation of parking norms in buildings and sets sustainable parking tariff.

Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Sunil Kumar said that as much as 30 per cent of road space is lost because of parking. This hampers flow of traffic. He said that private establishments cannot mark portions of public roads as parking slots for their use. The traffic police have sought funds to buy a few more recovery vehicles for towing.

Most commercial buildings in the city and several apartments have failed to provide enough parking space. Several hotels, restaurants, hospitals, wedding halls and big retail chains use by-lanes and footpaths for their parking needs. Streets that were largely residential are swamped by illegally parked vehicles.

Parking costs

The Chennai Corporation has about 100 designated on-street parking lots, where motorists pay to park. Corporation Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni said that the civic body was looking at alternatives such as parking meters to improve efficiency in collecting parking fees. Also, multi-level parking facilities have been proposed in three places to create extra parking space.

But these facilities may not be enough. Urban planners say that free, haphazard parking on roads comes at a high price: Traffic gets congested, road rage increases and pedestrian safety is threatened. Urban planning consultant M.G. Devasahayam said the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority’s second master plan has not addressed the parking issue adequately. Owners of commercial buildings that flout parking norms must pay to avail of parking space. “In cities such as Washington D.C., parking lots are commercial enterprises by themselves. These parking lots are planned in central business districts,” he said.

The owner of a private parking lot in T. Nagar said that strict enforcement of parking rules by traffic police was required if parking lots should become a commercial enterprise. “Only if there is strict enforcement will people pay to park,” he said. Parking tariffs also need to be revised. Fees are heavily subsidised even for car-users in street parking lots offered by the Corporation. While the Corporation charges only Rs. 5 for six hours of car parking, malls and theatres charge about Rs. 20 for only two hours.

Land use

More and more multi-storeyed buildings and commercial buildings have come up in localities that were largely residential. Priya Padmabhan, a resident of Lloyds Road in Royapettah, said that the stretch was rarely clogged with traffic till a big retail chain set up shop there without any provision for parking.

Kishen Vaswani, who owns a shop on Blackers Road, off Anna Salai, said the ‘no parking’ sign on the pavement outside his shop was damaged sometime ago. This has led to illegal parking on the narrow road.

A traffic enforcement official noted that drivers were willing to take a risk when they violated parking rules. “They may get caught perhaps once or twice in a month. The fine amount that he will pay for a violation may amount to Rs. 20 a day and it is not much to be worried about,” he said. Increasing parking tariff and fines, and better enforcement may also encourage more people to use public transport or car-pool.

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