Apollo keeps parking woes at bay with multi-tier lot

N Ramakrishnan Chennai | Updated on January 22, 2018

Automated multi-level car parking- a joint venture of Corporation of Chennai and Apollo Hospitals, at Greames Road, Chennai.
Photo : Bijoy Ghosh
To go with N. Ramakrishnan's report   -  Bijoy Ghosh

You drive your car into the compound, hand over the key to a parking attendant and collect a parking ticket. A short walk and you are inside the bustling Apollo Hospitals, on Greams Lane in Chennai. Till recently, your worry – apart from the health of the ones you are visiting in the hospital – would have been on finding a slot to park your car in the vicinity of the hospital.

Now, with the inauguration of a multi-level automated vehicle parking facility, that is one worry you need not break your head over.

One of the drivers on duty, drives the car and parks it on a ramp. A couple of youngsters at a computer terminal assign the car to a slot in the eight-storey structure. The car is moved by conveyor into an elevator – there are four of these – which lifts the vehicle to the designated slot. The whole operation takes just a few minutes. Likewise, when you return, the car is brought down automatically and handed over to you. There are a few chairs in the waiting area.

Last week, Apollo Hospitals inaugurated an automated multi-level vehicle parking facility built at a cost of ₹43 crore. Spread over about 25,000 sq ft, the facility can accommodate 249 cars and 280 two-wheelers. Apollo Hospitals has designed and built it, and will have to operate it for 20 years before handing over the facility to the Corporation of Chennai. The hospital will also have to pay the civic body ₹48 lakh a year as per the concession agreement. The hospital has not started charging the users as it wants to overcome all the teething problems.

According to KR Chakravarti, Chief Project Manager, Apollo Hospitals, the hospital handed over the contract for the facility to Simpark Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, part of the Simplex Projects group, which has executed similar projects in Ahmedabad and Kolkata.

Parking rates

As per the agreement Apollo Hospitals has signed with the Corporation, it can charge vehicles ₹20 an hour. This may not be sufficient for the project to break even. Chakravarti says Apollo did not take up the project to make a profit, but if the project breaks even it will be a good model. The parking rates were fixed in 2009 and Apollo plans to ask the Corporation to raise the rates.

“It will take six to eight months to see how visitors respond to the facility and what is the impact on congestion on the streets in the hospital’s vicinity,” says Chakravarti. “We have to see whether we can look at this investment as a strategic one… certainly not looking at making a profit out of this,” he adds.

Are multi-level parking facilities the solution to a city’s parking woes? “Yes and no,” says Vikram Kapur, Commissioner, Chennai Corporation. Yes, because it solves the problem of congestion on the streets in that particular locality. But then, adds Kapur, it is a drop in the ocean. There are 40 lakh vehicles on Chennai’s roads. And, space to put up such facilities is limited, especially in areas where parking space is in huge demand.

Public transport

According to Chennai traffic police, nearly 2,000 cars disgorge patients and visitors at Apollo Hospitals every day. And, the automated facility accounts f0or a little over a tenth of this.

Also, says Kapur, such multi-level car parking facilities only subsidise the well-off, using taxpayers’ money. They encourage more use of personal transportation when the idea should be to get people to use public transport.

Traffic engineering experts too agree. They say such facilities are purely local solutions to what is a much larger problem.

The ideal is to have 70 per cent of the population using public transportation and only 30 per cent using their own vehicles.

In Chennai, it is definitely skewed in favour of private transportation.

Similar projects

The Chennai Corporation has had limited success with other multi-level car parking facilities in other parts of the city.

One proposed in Broadway, in what was once the city’s central business district, has found no takers, despite the tenders being floated a few times.

Another one was planned in T. Nagar, a busy shopping district, near a huge public park.

With plans to make the area pedestrian friendly, the civic body has now shifted this facility to another location, in the vicinity.

Kapur says the Corporation has outlined a non-motorised transport policy, the aim of which is to encourage use of more public transport, making the streets pedestrian- and cyclists-friendly.

The city will also have to come up with a parking policy, covering both on-street and off-street parking, outlining the tariffs for parking, penalties and how to enforce the rules.

Published on September 20, 2015

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