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.


  1. Dear Paul, Thanks for your comments. I'm really happy that you approve of what I had to say, and I was astonished to find that you could summarize my winding prose so succinctly without missing any of the important points! That's a useful skill to have!

    As for your quibble, I agree with you that haphazard on-street parking by itself does not prove shortage of off-street parking. My statement was basically to clarify at the outset that there does exist a shortage of parking space in most cities (I should have used more concrete evidence to support this claim) and that I do hope to see more parking facilities coming up. My mistake.

    I do argue later on that enforcement of on-street parking rules needs to be stepped up. In fact, one of the reasons the Mumbai incentive parking has gone empty is that street parking rules remain unenforced, and there is no incentive for anyone to take the trouble of parking in off-street multi-storey parking lots.

  2. I've come upon these fine remarks only recently. sorry if they are too late.
    As a huge fan of both Donald Shoup and Peter Norton, I agree that parking provision is a private sector business and that we should reallocate and balance proper usage of city streets. Regarding the earlier statements of an obvious parking shortage, all great places have parking shortages. From Key West Florida to San Francisco, to New York, parking rates are at a premium. The parking is judged a shortage as viewed by most vehicle drivers and some local business operators.
    The basic question? That degree of urban design and quality of urban life will remain after an equilibrium of parking, walking, biking and transit is reached in a given urban context. The United States, with its strong agrarian and pro-industry culture, has inadvertently adopted a policy can be called the "Great Delegation." To avoid substantial infrastructure and annual operating costs, the government provides the guideway (streets and highways) upon which privately selected, maintained, and operated vehicles are encouraged to travel. Departure times, route selection, music type, smoking or non-smoking; all are delegated to the user. In support of this grand user delegation, parking is but one element necessary to complete this supply-side network. What rail system is complete without the yards and shops?
    This rail system analogy is in no way intended to justify all travelers becoming automobile owners and drivers. No urban place of quality can afford to have every traveler bring a small portion of their family room with them, with adequate storage space at every stop, as they travel to and fro.
    In summary I offer the following points:
    1. Government should rely on the private sector for off-street parking provision and limit the number of spaces per unit of development.
    2. The the government should continue to supervise this private sector parking business, to prevent the cheapest and worst looking facilities from arising in the compact urban places.
    3. In lower density areas, where parking and cycling becomes less feasible, a small portion of parking should be required by regulation since the motor vehicle mode will be dominant and space is more readily available.

    As an aside, keep a watchful eye on the powerful interests Peter Norton describes as Motordom. They sell more vehicles if parking is easier.


Post a Comment