How can anyone save those living in bungalows furnish proof of parking space?
The Rajasthan High Court has, in a recent case, ordered the State government to register only those cars whose owners furnish proof of availability of parking space. The Delhi government has latched onto the idea and is reportedly considering a similar move.
It is true that the parking situation in Delhi is chaotic, as indeed is the traffic situation --- despite the metro taking a considerable load on itself --- what with cars piling upon cars at a torrential pace.
Delhi’s nouveau riche and the rich have built up such an envious stock of cars, that the city continues to enjoy the dubious distinction of having more cars than the other three megapolises — Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata — put together.
But the solution being attempted is ham-handed, to say the least. The difficulty with it is the naïve assumption that cars are always parked in residences.
Cars remain parked in the residences of owners only during non-peak hours, and on holidays at best. At other times, they are either plying on roads, or parked at workplaces or shopping complexes. Can anyone provide proof of availability of parking space during the peak hours?
True, there are commercial complexes where one can book space by paying a consolidated periodic amount, monthly or quarterly, but that would be a miniscule portion of the total parking space available.
Fillip to corruption
Equally naïve is the assumption that if the parking problem at the residences of the car owners is tackled, the entire problem would be solved. Who, save the bungalow owners, can provide such proof, and that too for not more than one or two cars in the building?
Building of reserved parking space at the stilts of multi-storeyed flats, containing not more than 10 flats at best, is a recent development, that can barely make a scratch on the surface of the gigantic problem.
In large apartments, there is a scramble for parking space, with ‘first come first served’ being the norm. Many, including yours truly, are witness to neighbours all but coming to blows, either over lack of parking space, or for being unable to remove their cars from the haphazard pile of vehicles.
In the event, the proof demanded by the Rajasthan High Court can possibly be given only by bungalow owners and a few others who have bought for themselves parking space along with a flat.
Driven to the wall, car owners might do what we have been doing all these years in every walk of life — greasing the itchy palms of the freshly minted parking bureaucracy.
And it would have a whale of a time, accepting bribes gleefully with one hand and laconically handing over the requisite certificate. In the end, the move is destined to give a fillip to corruption without achieving its objective.
The problem of road congestion and its concomitant parking problem have to be addressed in more pragmatic ways. We can’t import solutions from abroad, such as metered parking on roads, not the least because our roads aren’t wide enough everywhere.
Municipalities would be at their wits’ end monitoring each slot and the police, already harried, would prove unequal to the task.
The enforcement police in the US crawls along the roads, making a visual inspection of parking slips placed on the windshield. Our police can be counted upon to seize the opportunity to squeeze something out of the car owners.
Multi-tier parking lots are indeed a solution which is being attempted. There is no reason why affordable multi-tier parking should not be built in residential colonies as well to address the problem of families having multiple cars, and apartments not having enough parking spaces for all their members.
The problem at workplace can be tackled by making car pooling mandatory, by allowing cars bearing even numbers one day followed by odd numbers the next and so on, at the pain of heavy penalty.
Not for us the incentivising route adopted in Washington and other places in the US — allowing passage through less congested lanes for cars occupied at least by two persons, under the name of HOV (high occupancy vehicles) — given the fact that we don’t have wide enough roads everywhere.
Car pooling, to be sure, spawns its problems, such as difficulty in coordination and so on, but it seems to be a reasonable solution, though the traffic police’s resources would be stretched, having to keep a hawk’s eye on cars plying.
Company transport can also be mandated, though, ideally, companies should come forward voluntarily to arrange for convenient buses for pick-up and drop-back of their employees. True, this would work better if employees lived in clusters. But even if they are separated by distance, they may not mind the detour.
The real solution to the problem of traffic congestion as well as parking, lies in mass transport and not in making people scramble for parking space, setting in motion another rat race.
(The author is a New Delhi-based chartered accountant)