Illegal and unauthorised parking of cars and scooters on roads and streets is endemic across Indian cities. The most common refrain of the violators is that there are no, or at least not enough, legal parking space available.
On the face of it, this sounds like a reasonable excuse. After all, Mumbai already has the highest density of vehicles in the state. According to a state transport department study, Mumbai’s vehicle density is 510 cars per square kilometre. The shortage of parking is a real issue. However, the fact is, as evidenced in Mumbai, even when there are public parking lots, people barely use them; the occupancy percentage never crosses into double digits.
The city’s motorists, therefore, needed either an incentive to use the parking lots or a disincentive to stop parking on the road. On July 7, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) unleashed its solution: a new set of rules regulating parking, and a stiff menu of penalties ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 for those violating the rules.
The BMC even included hefty towing charges in the penalties and announced that if a vehicle impounded for wrongful parking is not claimed within a month, the BMC would auction it. The BMC’s new rules essentially stipulate that if a motorist parks his vehicle on the road when there is a public parking lot available within 500 metres, they would attract these fines.
The initial results are promising. In less than two weeks of its implementation, the occupancy in the 26 parking lots, which dot the area in which the BMC has implemented these rules, has gone up by 24 per cent. In the process, the BMC has earned Rs 31.56 lakh in revenues.
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While higher revenues are welcome, the new rules are more about altering behaviour than raising revenues, reducing congestion, and making space for vehicles providing emergency services such as ambulances.
A statement from Municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi’s office said: “Roads are public spaces and not meant for parking.” The BMC hopes that a reduction in traffic congestion will make it easier for buses to ply, further incentivising public transport.
Economist Ashok Datar, who closely maps transport-related issues, especially in Mumbai, hailed the municipality’s decision. “In many countries, the cost of parking is more than the cost of the car itself, but in India, when people buy a car, they think they can park anywhere.”
According to his calculation, in a city like Mumbai where land is expensive, the cost of a parking slot is much higher than the average cost of a car. Datar hopes that BMC’s new policy makes buyers check whether they have the space to park their car before they buy it.