Tackling Parking Menace In Hyderabad-Now or Never?

As of early 2016 the total number of private vehicles(2+4) registered in Hyderabad were approximately 32,26,254. The number of two wheelers were 26,02,311 and the number of four wheelers were around 6,23,943. According to the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA) report on Draft Parking policy published in 2013-

“The increase in developed area (land) from 2000–2011 was 7%. While the increase in land under transport & communication from 2000–2011 was 0.91%. Whereas the growth of private vehicle (2+4) during 2000–2011 has been 12%.

One of the fundamental reasons for all the parking issues is- the growing dissonance between automobile dependency and the lack of infrastructural development of cities to accommodate this dependency. The 0.91% increase in land area under transport and communication vis-a-vis the 12% increase in private vehicles shows how huge the dissonance is.

An article was published in the Deccan Chronicle dated 28th June 2015 with respect to growing violations under wrong parking. It states-

“About 96,000 out of the 2.8 lakh challans issued by the traffic police in one month were related to wrong parking, highlighting yet again the size of the parking problem in the city.”
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On an average a vehicle stays parked 95% of the time. A 2006 study by the Central Road Research Institute in New Delhi estimates that of the 8,760 hours in a year, an average car’s steering time is only 400 hours. Also it is estimated that on an average a car uses around three parking spaces in a day. And the space required for a car to park and move in and out i.e. the equivalent car space (ECS) required would be around 23 square meter. Thus in total a car consumes around 69 sq.m of space on an average in a single day which is usually a public space. The commercial real estate value is very high in urban cities. Usually the parking rates are not in consonance with the commercial real estate value. So a large portion of public land is being used by these cars at a subsidized rate. Morally this is against the principles of fair use as a certain section of society is subsidized to use public land for private use. This fosters the behaviour of ‘individual car usage’ rather than ‘ride sharing’. This further leads to congestion of roads as the area under roads isn’t increasing in proportion with vehicles on roads.

So by all means the policy of hidden subsidy or free parking should be eliminated. Globally it was observed that appropriate pricing of parking has led to great impacts. By changing the parking rates from free or subsidized to the actual cost, has brought down the automobile dependency by 10–30 per cent. Limited parking supply and higher parking fees has brought down the car ownership significantly in New York when compared to other US cities.In Portland, Oregon, an overall cap of approximately 40,000 parking spaces was set and was allowed for a 3% increase in 1990. It was observed that close to 43% of commuters in the city shifted to public transport. In India, it was observed that mere introduction of metro at Connaught Place in Delhi has reduced the parking demand by 10%.

Thus, blindly increasing the parking inventory shouldn’t be the norm. But improvement of public transportation, alongside ride sharing with no hidden subsidy in parking fee and capping the inventory after careful examination should be undertaken as an immediate measure.

There is a wide spread speculation as to GHMC coming up with multi level parking facility in the city. As construction of multi level parking facility is expensive they should do a thorough survey before undertaking it. The parking rates should be in consonance with the operational cost. Also there should be strict enforcement of penalty against violations of parking, so that people use the facility. The surface parking rates should be higher than the multi level parking spaces as they have an easy access. The following extract, the EPCA Report (June, 2012) needs to be kept in view while planning and executing Multi Level Car Parking in Hyderabad:

Given land constraints, local agencies in Delhi (and other cities) are increasingly opting for the fully automated technology option. But this choice has problems, as is evident in the case of Delhi’s first such project — Sarojini Market . In this case, the concessionaire, DLF was given the project on a BOT basis by NDMC. Under the terms of the agreement, the concessionaire has to build the parking facility and gets to operate it for 35 years. In addition, they get to commercialize 25 per cent of the space. But the project has run into problems, both because of the economics of the project because of low rates of parking, particularly surface parking and also because of technical problems. In this fully automated mechanical system, designed by Precision Automation & Robotics India Limited (PARI), cars are scanned for any unwanted objects at the entrance of the parking, post which the cars proceed to the bays where the driver leaves the car on a pallet placed on each bay. Immediately after that, the car’s registration number is scanned and the in- time recorded. Next, the pallet is shifted on to a lift, which transports the car to the floors above. But technical glitches and delays are leading to failure of this parking system. 
The newly built, Sarojini Nagar multi-level car parking structure is completely electronic. There are no ramps or staircases as fallback in case of power failure or an emergency. Such projects would perhaps work near commercial places and offices where people park their cars once and retrieve it only in the evening. In markets, there is high turn over rate. During peak hours, long queues outside the structure increase the waiting time. This parking lot has a capacity to accommodate 824 cars and eight elevators to park and retrieve cars. According to the concessionaire, DLF, their retrieval time is roughly about 2 to 3 minutes on an average. But the real experience of the users is different. Even though it has just been a few months since the structure was inaugurated, at least 4 times technical snags have obstructed its operations. The system had just stopped functioning due to the technical snag, people were unable to retrieve their vehicles and many had to wait throughout the night. When everything failed, they started retrieving the vehicles manually with the help of cranes. 
 People report that inside the structure it takes 10 to 20 minutes to park. Retrieval is another 10 minutes. The users who are still not used to the system also get impatient about waiting for the retrieval of the cars. The other issue with this choice of technology is its high operational costs, which makes recovery all the more difficult. It costs roughly Rs 10 in electricity and operational costs, to park and retrieve a single vehicle. This means that parking rates must be increased so that these facilities become viable.

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The parking needs are dynamic in nature, based on the location we are visiting. At few places we park for shorter duration and at few we park for longer duration. For better understanding some of the case scenarios are listed below:

Residential Area- Relatives or visitors drop by during the day time and park for few hours in the by-lanes. Whereas the house/car owner’s use the same by-lanes to park the car all through the night.

Markets/Business- Customers park for shorter intervals while the shop owners and employees park for longer duration.

Roadside- Based on the need, people park for shorter or longer duration. Shopping, Work, Commercial vehicles etc. Ideally this should only be used for shorter duration.

Malls- The average time a person spends in a mall is 3 hours. On weekdays the parking lot is occupied less than 50% to the full capacity.

Hotels- They are occupied mostly during lunch time or dinner time. The average time is same as malls.During the weekends the footfall is more.

Offices- On weekday’s vehicles are parked between 9am- 6pm. On weekends the parking lot is empty.

Metro/Railway- Taxis and autos park for shorter duration while general people park their vehicles and commute to work and collect them in the evening.

The needs of the people are different so is the commercial value of the land based on the location. Also the demand is different at different locations based on the date and time. So it is impractical to keep the price fixed for something which is so dynamic in nature.But the issue is, how do we keep the price dynamic? It is impossible for a human to keep track of the demand at hundreds of locations on real time basis and change the price accordingly. The only way this could be done is by building an algorithm (app) which could assess and keep the price in sync with the demand, something similar to Uber. The function of the algorithm (app) will be multi-faceted. For a customer it will show the nearest available parking space based on real time and an opportunity to pay online. And the parking provider can put the inventory on the app. It could also be used for overnight parking for residential colonies by a monthly pass or for shorter duration in the market yards. You can do innumerable customization's based on the need, at just one click.

Some of the pros are listed below:

  1. Data Sets: You would be having access to numerous data sets and this acts as an aid in better judgement. This is essential in increasing the inventory and regulating it by capping it. Surveys are not a good substitute to data sets derived out of real usage. And the plight of Delhi’s multi-level parking facilities proves this. If Delhi had access to these data sets it wouldn’t have built multi level parking facilities at Hauz Khas or at Sarojini Market. As people only park at these locations for shorter duration, it doesn’t make sense to build a multi level parking facility.
  2. Need based Inventory: As we know the demand for parking is dynamic in nature based on the location, time and date. Having such an app would give an opportunity to increase the inventory based on necessity. For example hotels and pubs have a larger foot fall over the weekends. While the offices remain shut over the weekends. So the hotels and pubs can use the parking lots of offices on the weekends and the offices can use parking spaces of hotels and pubs on the weekdays. Also the government could provide incentives in the form of tax exemptions to foster the practice of sharing of inventory. This could save the government some additional costs, in the form of not having to build additional parking spaces(multi level parking spaces.)
  3. No loss of revenue: Currently most of the public parking spaces are controlled by parking contractors. They pay a nominal amount and get the parking tenders and thereafter make a lot of money. There were many instances in the past, where the contractors indulged in fraudulent practices such as charging higher tariff than the GHMC norms by printing fake tokens. Also, as the parking fee is collected in the form of cash, taxes could be evaded by tampering the account books. By eliminating middle men the government can eliminate the loss of revenue.

Thus, it is a win-win for all stakeholders. It is a convenience for public, as they can now locate the nearest available parking space using the app and also can plan their travel accordingly based on the availability of parking. It is highly rewarding for the commercial sector, as they can now earn on the unused parking spaces and also can borrow from the nearby facility when the demand is increased. It saves the government, from spending more money on building additional parking spaces(multi-level parking structures) and use the saved revenue for improving public transportation.

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