I vaguely remember a discussion held many years ago about the growing problem of people parking their vehicles on public roads. All that I remember from it is something said by one of the participants who was adamant that the problem had been created because the municipal authorities do not enforce one basic rule.
A rule that exists in their books but is never enforced. The rule, according to him, laid down unambiguously that every owner of a vehicle had to park on her or his own property.
In all probability, the rule might go back to the times when the rich and powerful moved through the then uncluttered streets of Shahjahanabad in carriages, coaches, gigs, phaetons, Victorias and buggies. It would be around the time when the civic body had grown into a municipal committee that would have had to frame such a rule because citizens objected to horse-hitched carriages left in front of their homes.
Perhaps the rule could also have been framed a little later, around the time the first privately owned smoke-belching contraptions known as ‘horseless carriages’ began arriving in Delhi in the late 19th century.
I do not know if such a rule exists in the guidelines of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi today or not. If it does and the civic authorities have not enforced it, they need to explain why. All of them – past and present – need to do a whole lot of explaining.
Had such a rule been enforced from the get go, we wouldn’t have this cheap display of wealth that has become the identifier of the moneyed.
If only you could park your car on your own property, there won’t be four cars parked on the road in front of every house in the residential localities of the rich. You would only buy as many cars as you could park in your house.
We hear that such a rule is in its final stages and is likely to be notified soon. The rule was placed for public scrutiny a few months ago. One can only hope – for the well-being of those who live in this city, for those compelled to come here in search of work, and those being born in it for no fault of theirs – that the proposal becomes a reality soon.
A rule like this will ensure that anyone parking a car on a public road will have to pay parking fees. The proposed parking policy prepared by the Aam Aadmi Party and approved by the Lieutenant Governor – a rare occurrence in the atmosphere of confrontation that has dogged the relations between the two –envisages that those parking on land that does not belong to them will have to pay a hefty parking fees.
Incidentally, all roads, including roads passing through the so-called ‘gated communities’ like Maharani Bagh, Niti Bagh, Gulmohar Park, Hauz Khas and the Johnnies-come-lately like Vasant Kunj etc., are public roads. Those who park on these roads, in areas not designated as car-parks, on roads through all residential localities and on footpaths should be made to pay for putting public property to private use.
It is necessary for all the agencies involved in the exercise to pull together if this scheme is to succeed. The police, the land owning authorities, the transport department, the licensing department, the civic authorities – MCD, NDMC, the Cantonment Board, PWD and CPWD, along with others that might also have jurisdictional issues given the multiplicity of authority and absence of responsibility that dogs this ‘un-smart’ city, have to pull together.
This one rule, implemented without exceptions being made for anyone, can transform this city and get it rid of its chaos. Try to imagine the impact if this one single rule is enforced.
“Parking vehicles on land that does not belong to the vehicle owner is not permitted, Parking on public land will attract parking charges.”
The landscape of this city will change, all those whose cars are parked on roads will either need to create parking on their property or pay for parking on public-land. A whole lot of people will suddenly realise that they do not need five cars in a family of three.
Suddenly, there will be place for pedestrians because the cars will have to vacate the footpaths. The daily grumbling, cursing, shouting, abusing, exchange of blows and occasional stabbing and firing at each other, triggered by parking woes will be a thing of the past.
Other suggestions which are part of this new proposal include: graded parking fees for owning additional cars; refusal to allow the purchase of a car unless proof of owning parking space is provided; abolishing of privately-run car parks and; reducing parking fees of multi-level car parks. All these are sensible suggestions. We need to apply them now. It is almost too late already, if we do not do so now and prevaricate for another year or two, the situation might become irredeemable.
Almost every road has permanently lost at least one – and in most cases – two lanes to cars that are perpetually parked on them. This proposed rule of substantially increasing parking charges for cars parked on roads and reducing parking fees in multi-level car parks will free a lot of road space and reduce traffic jams, save fuel burnt while waiting or crawling in a jam, and help reduce pollution.
The proposed steps, like reduction in the number of cars parked in residential areas and on roads, staggered parking rates for owning more than one car, high taxes for purchase of additional cars and denial of right to purchase if the buyer does not own a place to park, etc., if implemented with single-minded political will, without making exceptions for anyone, can go a long way in solving many of the problems of congestion and people getting late for appointments or reporting late on duty.
The indirect benefits of less cars on the roads are too many to be listed, but cleaner breathable air, reduction in noise pollution, drop in number of accidents, reduction in cases of hypertension and instances of road-rage are just a few that immediately come to mind.
But if we really want to make this city liveable and want this new parking policy to reach its full potential, we need to take two more essential steps.
Increase buses on roads. In case we are serious about reaching the figure of 11,000 public transport buses that are needed on Delhi roads, we need to order at least another couple of thousand buses over and above the next lot of 2,000 that has been approved by the AAP government.
We need to take a serious look at the philosophy of profitability that governs the Delhi Metro. No public transport can be run on the principle of profitability – certainly not in a phase when it is pumping its revenues into expansion. The last fare hike pushed a couple of hundred thousand daily passengers out of the metro onto privately owned transport. The metro is now more expensive than two-wheeler travel.
The only method of getting people off their private transport is to make public transport, better, cheaper and more accessible