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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Urban India gropes for parking solutions

Karthik Rao-Cavale tackles parking policy in India's cities in a recent post on his blog, "India lives in her cities too!"  It is a really good overview with clear thinking. Certainly, India's parking policy debates urgently need clearer thinking!

He makes an excellent point about the opportunity India has to get its parking policies on track NOW:
India, however, has a tremendous advantage in this regard. It is estimated that 90% of the commercial buildings that will exist by 2050 are yet to be built. Cities like Bombay are preparing themselves for large-scale redevelopment of entire neighbourhoods. If India changes its parking policy today, it can effectively rebuild its cities in a way that does not privilege the interests of automobiles over the interests of the city at large.
A local government parking structure in the old Walled City area of Ahmedabad.

Karthik outlines the unfortunate ways in which Indian authorities are currently trying to boost parking supply:
  1. direct municipal provision of parking (especially popular in Chennai he says)
  2. giving private builders incentives (additional FSI) to build parking for public use (tried in Mumbai)
  3. the conventional model using minimum parking requirements to force all residential and commercial developments have “sufficient” parking (Delhi already has amazingly high minimum parking requirements and India's Urban Development Minister recently called for no new construction to be built in India without parking space).
He argues that all of these approaches are doomed to failure while also causing various problems. They place responsibility for parking on the wrong heads: on government or on developers.

The alternative that he lays out is inspired by market-oriented and Shoupista thinking on parking. Karthik suggests that responsibility for parking should rest ultimately with vehicle owners, who must be willing to seek parking space as a commercial transaction from willing market providers. Government should stay out of the parking business to make way for this commercial industry to emerge.

He outlines a number of principles for putting this into action (see his post for more explanation).

Is chaotic on-street parking proof of a shortage (here in Ahmedabad for example)?

One small criticism. I have a quibble with his opening sentences: "It is incontestable that there is a shortage of parking in Indian cities. One only needs to look at the number of vehicles parked on the streets to guess that the number of off-street parking spots in the city is insufficient ...". The conclusion may be true but chaotic on-street parking does not necessarily prove there is an overall shortage. No amount of off-street parking will solve the on-street problems magically if on-street enforcement remains weak. My guess is that some Indian shopping streets that are believed to have parking shortages actually have some empty basement parking because visitors and employees alike prefer to park more conveniently in the streets and in the frontages.