Free parking favours Bangalore’s richest

By paying for roadside car parking, Bangalore municipal corporation can solve its congestion problem and earn at least 500 crore rupees a year.

Written by Shobitha Cherian and Pavan Srinath for Prajavani on June 2, 2015.

The country’s biggest scams over the past decade have been those where natural resources and public property have been given away to a few, either at low costs or for free. The 2G spectrum was not auctioned properly the first time, and neither were coal allocations done fairly.

What this meant was that a large amount of money that the Government of India could have charged went uncollected. Crores, and perhaps lakhs of crores were lost to the public exchequer as a result. The directive principles of state policy in the constitution in fact asks ‘that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good’.

However, public wealth is not just lost with poor auctioning of coalmines and airwaves — we can see public wealth being given away for free to the rich even as we commute on Bangalore’s roads daily. Allowing cars to park for free on the side of the road is a transfer of wealth from the public to the city’s elite. Roadside parking remains free or barely charged on Bangalore’s roads to this day, like in most other Indian cities.

Bangalore has less than 10,000 kilometres of tarred roads, below average for a city of its size. These roads are meant for public and private vehicles to move from one place to another — but so much of that road space gets lost to parked cars and bikes. While there are constant efforts to widen Bangalore’s roads, we allow stationary vehicles to encroach on limited road space. How can precious road space — such a scarce thing in Bangalore — be given away for free to people to park their cars all day?

Parallel parking is all but missing on Bangalore’s roads.

The city is also giving roadside parking away for free at a time when the city’s roads are the most congested, and are bursting at the seams. Instead of road-widening, charging for car parking is the best and simplest way to reduce the traffic on bangalore’s roads.

Imagine if those parking areas on the side of roads had buildings built on them instead — space that could have been rented out for commercial and residential purposes. All that money is actually revenue lost to the government because it chose to keep the roads wide, and then allowed people to park for free. The real estate price for a square foot of a road is the same as the price of a square foot of land next to that road. So if you could rent out that square foot of land as commercial floor space at 30 rupees per month, then that is the amount of money a parking authority needs to collect for each square foot of space where cars are being allowed to park.

Original article in Prajavani, a leading Kannada daily newspaper.

And it is not the poor of our city who own cars, but the rich — definitely those in the top half of the population. By allowing roadside parking to be free, the BBMP and the Karnataka government are actually giving away public wealth to rich! In a new study, we estimate that the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike is giving away a minimum of 6 lakh rupees an hour to the city’s car owners. That is a whopping 530 crores every year! These 530 crores of revenues can be achieved by charging for car parking alone, along one side of less than 3% of Bangalore’s roads.

Bangalore has almost 10 lakh private cars. Our research suggests that even if the city charges for the parking of a total of 81,000 such cars — along just 5 major roads in each of Bangalore’s wards, then the city will get over 500 crores a year of revenue. Note that this is a minimum number: if the city chose chose 10 roads instead of 5 and included both sides of the road, the city could get as much as 2,000 crores per year.

Bangalore city has tried a few parking schemes before. People have announced in the past of multistory car parks being built. But paid car parking in a multistory building makes no sense when people can park for free on the side of the road. If instead the city decides to start roadside parking and charge it well, automatically more property owners will want to build car parks, instead of the government having to build them themselves. Donald Shoup has shown how roadside parking can be successfully implemented in the US and improve a city’s road use efficiency, and it can be done in Bangalore too.

Bangalore city’s finances are in a bad shape. While the Palike creates a budget estimate each year of over 6000 crores, the actual budget size is less than 2500 crores. Even within this, the city receives half its revenues from the state government. By asking Bangalore’s residents to pay for roadside parking, the city will have a powerful new source of revenue on which to stand on its own feet. City wards should be allowed to keep all the parking fees that they generate, so that they have a robust own source of revenue to fund the needs of the ward.

Estimation made by Shobitha Cherian and Pavan Srinath

Not only that, but once the rampant parking menace is controlled, our roads will be less congested — and be used for what they are supposed to be used for, moving traffic. The biggest beneficiaries will be public commuters. By asking people to pay daily for parking in busy areas, we are also making it expensive for them if they don’t use public transport — or even autos and taxis. Today if you have to travel from Jayanagar to Shivajinagar, it would cost you over 100 rupees by auto. But only cost you 40–50 rupees of fuel in a car, and a pittance for parking if at all. If parking fees were instead charged at 20–30 rupees an hour, then most people would automatically leave their cars at home.

Bangalore’s traffic problem is not a road-widening problem. It’s not a too-many-cars problem. It’s a free parking problem. By charging for parking, not only will the mahanagara palike become more financially stable, but our roads will also less become congested. If a daily wage labourer’s commute in Bangalore can go down from two hours a day to one hour a day, his income could go up by that much.

Instead of transferring public wealth to the rich, let us design parking policies that can instead benefit those who need help the most.

Donald Shoup is a leading authority on parking policy, and the author of “The High Cost of Free Parking