Friday, June 24, 2005

Wheels go about in circles before they rest

Wheels go about in circles before they rest
The parking woes in the city can be minimised by having an efficient public transport system and multi-level parking structures, says Nandini Sundar.
Deccan Herald

NOT too long ago, the sight of a parking attendant directing your car towards the parking lot drove up your blood pressure, raising expectations of an argument or even a short tussle over unfair parking charges. Mere sighting them made you boil with resentment, not without justification, that here was one more out to harass you. The days you desperately wished you had seen the last of them.

Come April and the BCC deciding to dispense with them, you heaved a sigh of relief thinking that sense had finally prevailed over the Corporation. You looked forward to parking your car gaily, anywhere, without the hassle of a parking attendant breathing down your back waving a parking slip.

Two months down the road, it is time to wonder if perhaps they were a necessary evil, to regulate the minuscule parking slots, to prevent them from becoming even more minuscule with citizens’ urge to hog the maximum space for their cars without a thought to later parkers. After all, the normal thumb rule is first come first serve isn't it?

Of course, many a time you have failed to get parking in places like MG Road even when attendants were present and were forced to park on side roads. But the comforting part was you would get parking somewhere in the vicinity. Not anymore. Thanks to the introduction of parallel parking and lack of attendants, whatever slots were available earlier are no more so. Parking has literally been halved. Add to that the growing number of vehicles on our roads thanks to easy loan facilities and mushrooming IT companies and you get the picture.

Says Suhail Yusuff, Secretary Brigade Shops and Establishments Association, “The traffic police has reduced the parking by half in the Cantonment area. This has severely affected both commuters and business besides increasing congestion on the roads. Typically a person goes round twice; at times more to find some place to park and given the one-ways, vehicles are on the road longer. Instead of solving, the problem has been compounded.”

Parking on roads

Says DCP Saleem, “Parking on the road is an old concept. Bangalore roads have the same width as in 1976. There were one lakh vehicles then as against over 22 lakh now. Our roads cannot take the traffic and allow parking. The solution lies in multi-level car parks. All new buildings are now coming with adequate parking facilities but old ones do not have. Here the basements are used for other purposes instead of parking. As for Brigade Road, we have Garuda Mall which has a large parking facility.”

How does a person access M.G. Road from there?

“You can walk down to Brigade Road from there. We have requested for a multi-level parking system near Kamaraj Road to cater to M.G. Road.”

That is in the long term. What about the short term till such ventures attain fruition?

“The parking meters installed on Brigade Road produced excellent results in terms of revenue generation as well as time parked. This is a system that should have been replicated in other centres to solve the parking problems,” contends Yusuff.

The advantage of angular parking is that it makes it difficult to double park as, besides blocking the traffic, you are blocking two cars that are parked. “Parallel parking, besides halving the available slots, allows cars to slow down to a complete halt, blocking the road, to grab the first slot that becomes available.”

He laments, “With parallel parking, the revenue generated on Brigade Road has failed to cover even the maintenance cost.”

Transport system

Architect and Urban Planner, George Kuruvilla contends that an efficient public transport is the answer to our problems. “Restricting the entry of vehicles into central areas, charging steep parking fees in key areas are some of the ways we can tackle congestion and parking problems.”

According to him widening the roads to accommodate larger number of vehicles would only prove to be a temporary solution, as “these roads would get crowded no sooner than they are widened. We are talking about 22 lakh vehicles currently with the numbers increasing in the future.”

Perhaps he has a point there. Yet, for an efficient public transport system to operate, we would still need wider, pothole free roads. The current state of our roads is not only unsuitable to carry the present load of traffic but any mode of transport.

“What we also need are larger sidewalks to encourage people to walk. Some areas should be restricted to pedestrians alone,” he suggests.

This should certainly work in crucial pockets. But what about the other areas where such restrictions cannot be imposed?

It is not uncommon to see people walking in groups on the road away from the sidewalks, chatting, blissfully unaware of the traffic they are blocking on the narrow roads. Add to this the haphazardly parked vehicles on these narrow roads and you get a fair idea of the space available for actual driving.

But I'm digressing here. We are talking about parking woes not clogged roads.

Multi-level parking

So what is the solution? The BCC echoes DCP Saleem's views that multi-level parking would ease the woes. But a quick look at the record of multi-level parking systems in the city indicates that this is moving at the same pace as our roads and flyovers.

The initially planned five-storey structure on JC road housing 600 vehicles that took eleven years to see light and finally emerged as a two-storey structure accommodating 250 vehicles is a case point.

Says Nithya, an officer in a leading multinational bank, “At least till the multi-level parking systems become operational, we should continue with parking attendants and perhaps parking meters, where applicable, as they ensure people park in the slots. The vehicles too are safer as the attendant keeps an eye on them.”

Whether it is parking attendants, parking meters or multi-level parking, the potential future requirement would have to be assessed and the issue has to be addressed accordingly.

This would have to be complimented by not only an efficient public transport system but also as Kuruvilla suggests, “by prohibiting private vehicles from entering certain nodal centres which are to be accessible only by this public transport. This efficient public transport should connect vantage points housing large multi-level parking.”

Such measures, however, have a time lag and fail to meet immediate requirements. In the meantime, halving parking slots to ease congestion is not the answer. Worse if such slots are left unattended.

Intelligent directives like prohibiting private vehicles from shuttling school children would go a long way in not just decongesting roads but easing parking. Perhaps what is most needed is change in the mindset of people that requires getting dropped at the doorstep of their destination instead of walking the few hundred metres.

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