Countering the Delhi government’s proposal for free parking in residential areas, the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) has submitted a fresh report to the Supreme Court recommending differential rates, under which people will have to pay more for multiple cars. “The pricing for residential parking should be determined jointly by the local agency and RWA/shopkeepers’ association but it must be based on the principle of charging differential and higher rates for additional cars,” the EPCA report states.
On March 6, the SC had directed a joint meeting of EPCA, civic bodies, Transport Department and Delhi Police to prepare a parking plan for both residential and commercial areas, after the Delhi government proposed to modify the draft parking policy to remove clauses that mandate parking fees even in residential areas. Since May 2018, the Delhi Maintenance and Management of Parking Rules, 2017, is caught in a tussle between the elected AAP government and the bureaucracy, which maintains that the policy can be notified only after the Lieutenant Governor’s nod.
Stuck in politics
Delhi's Parking Policy is a revolutionary step as it prioritises those who use public transportation and pedestrians over car owners. Ahead of polls, the political will to charge parking fee from car owners in residential areas is lacking. MCD officials had started pilot projects in a few areas to check the feasibility of the policy, but the unwillingness to implement one aspect has meant that the whole policy has been delayed.
In January, the SC was forced to step in owing to the delay. However, the AAP government then submitted in the court that it wants to modify the policy. Apart from removing the clauses on residential areas, the government also sought to make the Transport Minister the chairperson of the Apex Monitoring Committee under the policy, instead of the Chief Secretary. The EPCA opposed both proposals, following which the SC asked it to meet all stakeholders once again and frame its opinion. The panel, chaired by retired IAS officer Bhure Lal, found that instead of resisting, many residential colonies in areas like Saket and Alaknanda have already put in place paid parking, that too with the differential pricing component.
The report observes that the crisis of unsustainable parking pressure in residential neighbourhoods has created serious law and order problems, including deaths, local congestion and toxic exposure and erosion of well-being and liveability.
Examining the government’s proposal to build more multi-level car parking (MLCP) slots as a solution, the report notes that existing MLCPs in areas like Hauz Khas, Kalkaji and Rajouri Garden remain under-utilised, as per information provided by SDMC, since parking in residential areas is not regulated or priced. It also provides a detailed cost analysis of MLCPs, observing that the “exorbitant costs” in constructing them and the operational losses passed on as “hidden subsidies” to car users. It further estimates that the land requirement for parking the number of annually registered private vehicles (four- and two-wheelers) is more than the land requirement for housing over 75,000 households in Delhi.
“If this is compared to the subsidy given to bus passengers, then it is clear that there is a distortion in policy. As per the government’s own data, the average subsidy extended to DTC is a mere Rs 10-15 per user per year,” it states.
It also recommends identification and demarcation of service roads and residential lanes, and commercial and mixed land use areas to avoid spillover. “If residential areas demarcate parking and provide permits, but this is not done in mixed land use areas, then vehicles will simply move from one to the other and add to congestion and law-order problems,” says EPCA, stressing that parking in residential areas must be the joint responsibility of the municipal corporations, DDA, RWAs and market associations.