Jam-packed parking lots, bursting at the seams with vehicles, is a common sight in Chandigarh. Year 2016 saw a ray of hope for harried commuters looking for a place to park, when Municipal Corporation announced to bring ‘smart parking’ in Chandigarh. Claims came crashing down when rates of parking doubled in the name of ‘smart parking’. However, facilities on ground were never ‘smart’.
It was claimed that residents would be able to book their parking spaces but the mobile application for the same never worked. Smart cards were to be issued, which could be recharged through e-sampark centres, but that was never adopted.
Finally, the civic body had to scrap the contract with the firm brought in to manage the smart parking lots. Interestingly, the contract was scrapped and rates were reduced, just few days before the Lok Sabha polls were to be announced. This left the residents wondering if it was a political gimmick. While two wheelers were charged Rs 10, a four wheeler owner has been charged Rs 20 for parking since April 2018. There was hue and cry after the rates were hiked but civic body took long to reduce the rates to half and it happened just before the polls.
There are 26 parking lots in the city, including the sole multi-level parking in Sector 17. At present, the parking lots are being run by the municipal corporation after they scrapped of the contract with company managing the lot. In 2016, a Mumbai-based company was given the contract to manage all parking lots at a cost of Rs 14 crore annually.
Parking scenario at present
The parking situation is worst in sectors 17 and 22. In Sector 22, the parking lots are encroached upon by vendors. People either park their vehicles on the main roads or in front of the houses in internal lanes of the sector. In the absence of parking space, if one parks on the main roads, the vehicle is towed away by traffic police.
A shopkeeper, on the condition of anonymity, said,”In order to satisfy its vote bank, the vendors are not asked to vacate and are allowed to encroach upon the area, leading to a chaos in the parking lots.” “God forbid but if a fire breaks out here, a fire tender cant even enter these areas because they are all choked,” he said.
In Sector 17, all the parking lots are full. People park on footpaths nearest to the places where they have to go. While one can witness haphazard parking in all surface parking lots of Sector 17, the multilevel parking, worth Rs 50 crore, lies deserted. The multilevel parking is still not running to its full capacity and sees only 350 to 400 vehicles against a capacity of 900 vehicles. People prefer to park wrongly on the main road but do not use the multilevel as they say it is too far off. The BJP claimed that the Congress had wasted public money by choosing to construct the multilevel parking at its location.
When inaugurated, it was stated that e-rickshaws will be made available for people from multilevel to Sector 17 plaza. But that was never implemented.
Draft parking policy remained on papers
The draft parking policy had suggested designated ‘Each Car Space’ (ECS) for houses, congestion charge for parking in high-density commercial markets during peak hours, Residents Welfare Associations managing parking on internal lanes and mandatory plying of staff buses to manage the parking chaos.
The concept of ‘congestion pricing’ in “sectors 17, 22, 35, 43, high density commercial markets, along V1, V2, V3, V4 roads, Phase I and II of Industrial area” was suggested and user fee was to be high from 9 am to 12 pm and 5 pm to 8 pm. However, things never materialised on ground.
The draft police also specified “mandatory plying of staff buses by industrial and IT companies with more than 50 employees. The shuttle service should be started by various institutions hospitals, public offices, Industrial Area and IT park, to discourage use of personal vehicles.”
The draft policy specified that “Green areas will not be converted or used for parking as it has adverse impact on environment and public health, especially to children.” The policy spoke about the concept of on-street and off-street parking. “Parking supply is of course mediated depending on who owns and controls it. On-street parking is totally owned and mostly controlled by local authorities. Off-street parking might be owned by either local authorities or private parties or controlled by local or private authorities,” it said.
When the policy came in general house for discussion, it was deferred by the councillors on the grounds that it wasn’t people friendly and policy needed to be worked upon again.
In February 2019, MC takes possession of all parking lots. The Chandigarh Municipal Corporation took possession of all 26 paid parking lots, including the multi level parking, after canceling the parking contract with the Mumbai-based firm. The contract was terminated after two cheques of Rs 1.5 crore, paid by the firm, bounced, the commissioner of municipal corporation, K K Yadav, stated.
MP Kirron Kher then inspected the parking lots the next day and asked MC to reduce the rates in absence of ‘smart parking’ facilities.
MC canceled contract even in July 2018. In July 2018, a similar incident occurred, when the firm failed to pay installment and MC took over the parking lots. Civic body then decided to run on reduced rates. However, the show lasted only for a day as the firm approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court and got the issue stayed. The next day, the MC had to hand over the possession of parking lots back to the firm.