Taming India's on-street parking: Shreya Gadepalli

This post gives a detailed summary of my interview with Shreya Gadepalli of ITDP India about progress in several cities in India on managing on-street parking.  

ITDP India has been working successfully with Pune, Chennai and Ranchi to improve their on-street parking management. It is a difficult challenge but Shreya highlighted some real improvements with important lessons for other cities. She also mentioned progress (and stumbles) in other cities, including Delhi.

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[In two weeks from now, look out for an interview with North American parking expert, Todd Litman, author "Parking Management Best Practices"]

A Daunting Situation

Progress is being made, as the photo above suggests. But making India's on-street parking work better is a huge challenge by any measure.

"Parking on most streets in most Indian cities is un-managed and haphazard. People park any kind of vehicle in any location in any direction that they wish. Often parking occupies anywhere between a quarter to a half of the entire street right-of-way ...", says Shreya.

Most streets lack footpaths (sidewalks) and many buildings have been required to have a significant front setback. Parking typically straddles the open frontage of the building, across what should be the footpath, and onto the street.

What is the Problem?  [05:01]

Most people think the problem is a lack of parking and that the immediate solution is obviously to create more parking.

But Shreya points out that multiple cities in India have attempted to solve their parking problems by creating off street parking and most are failing. So-called "Pay-and-Park" parking garages all over India are typically woefully under-used, while chaos continues in the nearby streets where there is practically no management or enforcement.

It is a familiar story (from around the world) for regular Reinventing Parking readers. The only way to get better value from OFF-street parking is to manage the ON-street parking.

Near the end of the interview [28:52], Shreya reminds us that even in the richest of India's cities, it is still a small minority who are using cars. The single largest mode of transportation in Indian cities is walking. There are more cyclists on Indian streets then there are people in cars. And there are more people on public transportation (including informal shared autorickshaw services which run on fixed routes) than in cars or on motorcycles. So parking management that effectively subsidizes car ownership and car use is incredibly unfair.

Promising steps in Pune [07:04]

Pune has a history of limited on-street parking management. On-street parking fees existed, with very low rates, only in limited locations and enforcement efforts were weak.

However, after nearly nine years of engagement with the civic body by ITDP and other civil society organizations, the city has adopted a progressive parking management policy focused on better management of parking on the streets.

Implementation will begin with a pilot on five key streets of the city, to learn lessons before extending the policy to other areas.

Shreya emphasized [11:20] that ITDP has been pushing in several cities for parking price-setting to be a technical process not a political process. They have been urging Shoup-style  demand responsive price setting, so that whenever the demand for parking increases beyond a certain level (eighty five to ninety percent occupancy during peak hours) then the price should go up. Pune's policy does indeed include talk about demand-based parking price setting. But it is too soon to know how that will be interpreted and implemented.

Innovation in Chennai: mobile-based payments and a smart contract  [09:29]

Shreya also highlighted some highly significant steps underway in Chennai, which is now starting a citywide parking management system, covering around 12,000 parking slots across the city.

The management plan includes on-street parking fees of between 20 to 40 rupees per hour for cars and 5 to 10 rupees for motorcycles.

Later in the interview [25:48] we discussed Chennai's plans to use mobile-phone based payments and skip parking meters completely.

ITDP has been working with Chennai to avoid the trust problems associated with parking attendants collecting cash (the usual approach in India).

So Chennai is jumping straight to a modern mobile-based payment system.

It is dealing with the problem of out-of-towners' and others who can't use a mobile phone for whatever reason (no phone, dead battery, etc) by planning simple alternatives, such as enlisting local shops as a place where one-off parking payments can be made.

[13:21] Another important innovation to watch in Chennai is the approach to the parking management contract.

Most Indian parking fee contracts are simply a matter of the city renting public space to private contractors in return for allowing them to collect fees. You could call it a land-rent approach.

But Chennai is now focused on parking management and the contract reflects that. The operator will be paid per parking slot per hour at a fixed rate in return for their management services, including fee collection. [For the policy wonks, it is like a gross cost contract in public transport.] The revenue will go directly to the city not the parking operator. The revenue is then used to pay the operator as well as for public transport improvements and better walking and cycle infrastructure.

Chennai's experience in the coming months will be something to watch. A contract has already been awarded. And within six months the entire system should be up and running.

Ranchi improvements ... and hiccups [15:02]

Ranchi, capital of the eastern state of Jharkhand, has also improved its parking management with help from ITDP.

Starting in late 2016, Ranchi improved parking management on 2.5 km of Mahatma Gandhi Rd. About 550 slots were marked and four price zones delineated. Red means no parking. The orange zone has high fees (40 rupees per hour for cars and ten rupees per hour for motorcycles). The yellow zone has slightly lower-prices and the Green Zone even lower. These prices were much higher than what they were in the past and one key outcome was that the city's parking revenue increased twelve-fold.

Unfortunately, the contract model was still one of essentially giving the land for rent. There were lots of hiccups and the first contract had to be ended. Currently, the city is managing with its own staff issuing paper tickets for users. However, the city wants to re-tender the parking management system and to add a few more key streets to the system.

Mumbai seems stalled for now

Mumbai parking policy looked like it was showing some promise last year when the city put forward a fairly progressive plan for parking management. However there was push-back from certain quarters that seems to have stalled the initiative.

Improvements in Delhi? [17:41]

Although Delhi parking fee contracts are also still land-rent in style, the parking fees have seen improvements.  Parking used to cost a fixed amount of ten rupees per visit irrespective of the duration. This kind of fee is totally useless as parking management.

As a result of weak on-street parking management, many of Delhi's off-street "pay-and-park" garages sit largely empty.

More recently, Delhi public-sector parking fees have been around 20 rupees per hour, with a fees for every subsequent hour. This is much better as a rationing mechanism.

Unfortunately, the contract approach is still one of essentially leasing out land for fairly short-term contracts - typically one-year contracts - where the operator gets this land for a fixed fee, which they bid on, and thereafter they charge for parking at whatever the rates are supposed to be. This does not put much focus on parking management or the efficient use of public space.

Delhi is worth watching for some recent parking policy developments in Delhi may have some promise, with all the right messages coming out about how parking needs to be charged and how usage of personal motor vehicles needs to be controlled. There are some odd aspects in the early steps but time will tell. 

Delhi has institutional complications not present in other Indian cities. [21:23] In most Union Cities, most responsibility for parking management is with the Municipal Corporation. But Delhi is a peculiar case, with a State-level Government for what is essentially a city. And the city has also been fragmented into multiple jurisdictions. There is the New Delhi Municipal Council - the core of the city - and three Municipal Corporations around this core.

The Traffic Police often "get it" [23:45]

Surprisingly, Shreya had praise for the Traffic Police in many Indian cities.

Although they are not under the control of the Municipal Corporations, most seem to "get the issue" and to understand that the solution for parking is management. This is important, since the enforcement task is a police responsibility in India.

Police-based enforcement is often problematic in many countries and I usually advocate having dedicated parking wardens under the control of local-government.

Making good use of parking revenues [23:54]

I asked Shreya about the use of parking management revenues and whether any Indian cities are following Donald Shoup's suggestion of strategically using such revenues to ease the politics of parking management.

Traditionally the money just goes into a central account of the Municipal Corporation. But Chennai, Pune, Ranchi and many others have been thinking of setting up Urban Transport Funds into which they would put transport revenue, such as any parking surplus, to be on better walking and cycling infrastructure and better public transportation. However, most such proposals have not yet made progress.

More on parking management from ITDP India

Parking Basics: ITDP India's Parking Basics booklet outlines key principles and steps involved in managing on-street parking and regulating off-street parking.

There are various other items about parking on the ITDP India website. Visit the news and resources sections and search for "parking". 

About Shreya Gadepalli

Shreya is director for South Asia for the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, the international non-profit on sustainable transport. She has been with ITDP since the late 1990s.

She played a central role in ITDP’s extremely successful India Cycle Rickshaw Improvement Project which created an improved and modernised design for India’s cycle rickshaws. The design took off to become the standard design across northern India, with huge benefits for millions of people.

More recently, Shreya has been guiding ITDP India’s work on BRT planning, parking reform, Transit-Oriented Development and street space redesigns.

I also interviewed Shreya about Streets for People in India for the Reinventing Transport podcast.

Shreya is based in Chennai, the city formerly known as Madras, but travels frequently all over India.

Keep scrolling down to see the full transcript. 


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Here is the YOUTUBE version

I would welcome your feedback. Leave a comment below!


[Paul Barter] Welcome to Reinventing Parking, the podcast about parking policy for anyone who wants a better city and better urban transport.

Today I'm talking with Shreya Gadepalli about on-street parking management in India's cities. We'll be taking quite a deep dive into the issue and I think the lessons from our discussion are relevant to many cities way beyond South Asia.

Shreya is director for South Asia for the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, the international no-profit on sustainable transport. She has been with ITDP since the late 1990s.

In recent years, ITDP India has been doing some great work on parking issues, including some useful publications which I'll link to in the show notes at www.reinventingtransport.org where you can also find out more about Shreya.

Enjoy the interview.

Shreya, thank you very much for joining me on the Reinventing Parking podcast.

[Shreya Gadepalli] It's my pleasure, Paul, and I am really excited to be on this podcast.

[Paul] Today we're focusing on parking and streets. And the kinds of streets that we're going to focus on are streets lined with commercial and retail uses mainly. So the first thing I'd like you to do is can you paint a picture for our listeners, especially those outside India, of what the parking situation in the streets of Indian cities is like.

[Shreya] I can use a single word to describe the parking situation. And that is - a mess.

[Paul] Yeah so listeners in many countries will relate to that. But can you paint the picture in a bit more detail?

[Shreya] Sure, parking on most streets in most Indian cities is unmanaged and haphazard. People park any kind of vehicle in any location in any direction that they wish. Often parking occupies anywhere between a quarter to a half of the entire street right-of-way and given that it's haphazard, it's also quite inefficient how that space is used. Even parking in residential areas is quite a mess. People often fight over parking space. They often see the space in front of their shops or in front of their houses as being their own. And so in some senses it's become a process of privatization of public space.

[Paul] How much of it is on the formal roadway, how much is sort of in a gray area perhaps between roadway and private property and how much takes place on what we might call the footpaths or the pavements if they exist?

[Shreya] So, one of the questions I often ask people is if they know how much percentage of streets actually have footpaths, and the number is presently under 1% in more or less all Indian cities. And given that, even parking becomes a gray area as it is, so you don't know whether it's a footpath that you're parking on or if it's the street that you're parking on because parking itself is not marked clearly delineated.

The other issue of course is that, because of the way building by- laws are written, there is a significant front setback and if people were to follow these guidelines then they end up having all this front setback used for parking, which means that the entire frontage of the building often is open, oftentimes also with gates, and parking not only happens inside the premises of these buildings at the front but often extends out onto where a footpath should be.

[Paul] People who are aware of Indian cities and their problems would know that there are some really important and severe problems - matters of life and death. Why should anyone care about parking? Some might say, oh this is a minor issue why should we be talking about it even?

[Shreya] Unfortunately, even parking has become a matter of life and death. There are many cases which are reported almost on every day about how people are fighting for parking, how people ended up shooting each other or harming each other, people dying over parking. So it has become quite a severe issue. And it's very important that we take action to make sure the issue of parking is solved.

[Paul] That is extreme! On the other hand India is a very big country, so I guess anything will be in larger numbers in India.

[Shreya] That's true.

[Paul] The nature of the problem... You've painted a picture and anyone casually observing Indian commercial streets will see this picture. What do people locally believe is the nature of the problem? And there might be several different verdicts on that. And what do you and ITDP India think is the nature of the problem?

[Shreya] So, parking is quite an enigma, if you will, because people think that the immediate answer immediate answer to the problem is that to the problem is that there is an issue of not enough parking. And that's why there's a crunch and that's why people are parking wherever they are parking.

The immediate solution, as its seen, is to create more parking. And given that this amount of street space is limited, the answer is seen as being creating off-street parking, often in the form of what are called multi-level car parks or MLCPs.

Now multiple cities in India actually have attempted to solve the parking problem using this method of creating off street parking.

And Delhi it looks like is probably the farthest ahead in trying to solve by providing more parking. And it has in reality not solved anything. Our own office in Delhi is in a fairly upmarket area in South Delhi, and the city went ahead and converted a fairly flourishing and vibrant park into an underground parking garage, which was meant for what is called in parlance Pay-and-Park in India. And the Pay-and-Park has languished sitting empty, while there is excessive parking that's happening on this street because there is practically no management or enforcement of parking on the street from ground level around this parking lot.

[Paul] This would be a familiar story to many many people who are involved in parking management. It may come as a surprise to some people who were just casually observing. But this is the story in so many different cities all over the world. That's why today we're we're going to focus on the on street parking because, as you've said, unless the on street parking is managed, all of this extra off street parking is a waste of money. I understand ITDP has been working in several cities. I was hoping that maybe we would talk about three in particular that I know that you're you're keen to talk about. Those cities are Pune, Ranchi and Chennai. Let's take Pune first.

[Shreya] Pune has had a history of limited on-street parking management. There are of course some areas where there has been pay-and-park on the street but the fares have been very very limited. And hence the issue has not been addressed. Pune also created some off-street multi-level parking units in the years past. And, while they've been used, the truth is that they have not really solve the issue, as I had mentioned earlier.

Having said that, in the past few years the city has taken a very progressive stance towards all aspects of transportation. The parking was also one of them. And after nearly nine years of engagement with the civic body by ITDP but also by various other civil society organizations and other stakeholders the city finally adopted a parking management policy. So the city's elected body discussed and debated this issue and after much discussion they agreed that the only solution to the parking problem is actually managing parking on the street.

So now the city is looking at implementing a parking management system, first as a pilot on five key streets of the city but thereafter to be expanded to the entire city.

One of the reasons which also prompted the city to adopt a parking policy was because the national government has, under the Metro Rail policy, required cities to have a parking policy as a pre-requisite for getting funding from the National Government.

[Paul] How unusual is this new attitude in Pune? Are many Indian cities coming to the same conclusion or is Pune a pioneer in this respect?

[Shreya] I would say there are a few other cities which are headed in this positive direction. Chennai and Ranchi are some of them.

Chennai has very recently started the process of implementing a citywide parking management system. Initially it would have around 12,000 parking slots across the city managed through fairly high rates for parking. Now these range anywhere between 20 to 40 rupees per hour for a car and around one-fourth, which is five rupees to ten rupees, for motorcycles.

[Paul] Do those kind of levels of fees come as a shock to people in a place like Chennai or Pune? Or are they seen as reasonable?

[Shreya] They certainly are much higher than what they have been in the past. For example in Chennai, the parking rates in the past used to be five rupees for a period of three hours and now we are talking about up to 40 rupees for a single hour. So obviously the rates - it's a nearly 30 fold increase in prices as you can see.

Having said that, parking fees in off-street locations, such as malls and cinema halls, have actually been at near this level, if not the same level. And therefore it's not unusual. And especially parking at places like airports have been even higher than these levels.

[Paul] Just to follow up on that, one of the nice features of the parking policy in Pune was talk about having demand responsive price setting, so that if the demand was high the price would be higher. At least that principle was there, although the details of exactly how they would do that were a little fuzzy. Is a similar thing happening in Ranchi and Chennai? One of the dangers here is that people suspect that it's just a tax and it's just about revenue. And I'm always very keen to try to suggest to cities to always talk about the parking management goals here. Do you think these three cities are successfully focusing on the parking management goals from the parking fees or is that message getting lost in all of the noise?

[Shreya] I think it is still quite early to make that assessment. I completely understand the concern. And we have been actively pushing these cities to not make the parking price-setting a political process, but instead make it a technical process, which is to say that whenever the demand for parking increases beyond a certain level (and in our opinion that number is anywhere between eighty five to ninety percent of occupancy during peak hours) then the price should go up. And the cities seem to understand this, or at least the decision-makers seem to understand this, but this still needs to percolate down and actually be put into practice. As of now it's not being done. And we would continue to engage the cities to explain the need of the reason for why it should become a de-politicized process, where people are clearly explained what the purpose of parking management is and how it would benefit them and not be seen purely as a process of fleecing by a public agency.

[Paul] My understanding is that Pune and Chennai are on the way to implementing on street parking management but that Ranchi has actually done more on the ground already for a couple of years. Are you ready perhaps to comment on what lessons ITDP India and Ranchi have learnt in that process, of things that went well and that other cities in India and and elsewhere might copy, and also mistakes maybe that should be corrected and lessons learned from the mistakes as well?

[Shreya] Sure. Before I go to Ranchi, I must mention that the way Chennai is taking the issue of parking management forward is progressive progressive, or more progressive than other cities, because instead of making this a form of renting a public space to the private sector for doing parking management, which is essentially a form of essentially land revenue capture rather than parking management. Chennai actually has gone ahead into a model of service management, which is that the operator would get paid per slot per hour. And that is a fixed rate. So the operators job is to make sure that parking is managed and enforced and is not just renting out land from the public agency to maximize their profits. In this case the initial money, whatever it is, actually sits with the city, and the city then uses that money towards improving public transportation and walking and cycle infrastructure.

As against this, Ranchi, even though it took a fairly progressive step towards parking management, the contract model was still one of licensing, which is essentially giving the land for rent.
In the city's favor I would say that the city actually increased the parking fees to a much higher level than what was there in the past. The city of Ranchi adopted a parking policy towards the end of 2016, started implementing parking management in the core of the city on a main street called Mahatma Gandhi Rd - a stretch of around two and a half kilometers of prime real estate and prime retail. Around 550 slots were marked for parking management and the zones were delineated into four types. The first was red where no parking was allowed. The second was orange where the fees were fairly severe - the rates were 40 rupees per hour for cars and ten rupees per hour for motorcycles. The third zone which is called yellow had slightly lower-prices. And lastly there was the Green Zone. So the prices were much higher than what they were in the past - at the very least twice as much and in some cases as much as four times as much. The city also earned revenue which was twelve-fold increase. So it went from earning about a million rupees per annum to 12 million rupees per annum from this process.

[Paul] And was that just because of the higher fees or was there a better fee collection mechanism perhaps or better oversight of the contractors?

[Shreya] To some extent that too but, as I said, the contract was one of licensing - or essentially land renting - and therefore the revenue to the city was fixed and did not depend on how well the parking management was done. And the onus of maximizing profits, so to speak, was that of the private sector operator. And while they tried doing a decent job, at the same time there were lots of hiccups. Unfortunately the first contract had to be ended. Presently the city is managing with its own staff using a fairly rudimentary mechanism of issuing paper tickets for users. But the city does want to re-tender the parking management system, adding a few more key streets of the city under the parking management mechanism.

[Paul] OK. And perhaps they've learned their lesson about the structuring of the contract from that previous negative experience. Before you go on, I guess perhaps for the listener we should give a little bit of background. You've mentioned this this very simple approach to parking contracts in the streets. So Indian motorists in many cities are accustomed to paying for parking now and then but what they are accustomed to is these very low fees to contractors who are not really trustworthy, right? There's this phrase of the parking mafia that gets used. This is not good parking management but it's kind of just this - like you said - land rent approach.

[Shreya] That's right. So this land-rent approach has existed for a while, most prominently in Delhi, which has had parking fees - fairly low levels. Initially the fees used to be a fixed amount of ten rupees per visit irrespective of the duration. Thereafter, various public agencies which had land increase the fee rates to around 20 rupees per hour and subsequently they charge fees for every subsequent hour and so on and so forth. This is true with both the New Delhi Municipal Council - the core of the city - as well as the Municipal Corporations of Delhi - there are three of them - around this core. Having said that, the approach taken by all of these agencies has been one of essentially leasing out land for fairly short-term contracts - typically one-year contracts - where the operator gets this land for a fixed fee, which they bid on, and thereafter they start charging people whatever the rates are supposed to be. This obviously is purely a mechanism of trying to get money and doesn't achieve the stated goal of managing and enforcing parking for efficiently using public space.

[Paul] So Ranchi, Chennai and Pune seem to be pointed in very roughly the right direction and it remains to be seen how how they can proceed. I understand there's a lot of policy activity also in Bangalore - what used to be called Bangalore - Bengaluru. And Delhi, as you mentioned, is working on its parking policy and trying to implement. There's been a lot of starting and stopping in Mumbai. Do you have any brief answers to whether those cities are broadly on the right track?

[Shreya] So, like you said, there are other cities which are working on parking.
Mumbai at least showed some promise. In the last year they had put forward a fairly progressive plan for parking management across the city. However there was push-back from certain quarters which has effectively stalled the initiative. Nothing is happening right now. It is quite unfortunate.
Delhi again showed promise. All the right messages came out about how parking needs to be charged, how usage of personal motor vehicles needs to be controlled. The policy seemed to have some promise but some of the aspects of how it is being implemented on the ground a little concerning where, most recently, we learned that the city is effectively giving for free two parking slots per residents owning cars in the city which is quite unfortunate.

[Paul] That's a nice segue into my next question actually, because I understand that in Delhi, that that particular problem - of the residential parking permits being given free - is an institutional turf problem. That the agency organising that was not the agency that was able to charge fees, and they're waiting on another agency to charge the fees. And in the meantime they're setting the very unfortunate precedent of giving these things free and giving too many of them too generously. So the next question is, do you think the institutions are a key part of the problem in Indian cities and do you have any suggestions of how Indian cities should reorganize their parking management, in terms of which agency should be given the the power and the responsibility to do this?

[Shreya] So in most Union Cities, the onus or the responsibility of parking management and the right to charge parking fees is that of the Municipal Corporation. Now Delhi is a peculiar case, where there is the State Government for what is essentially a city. And the city itself has been fragmented into multiple jurisdictions. Because of this, while the state government initially came up with what sounds like a fairly promising parking policy, the implementation has a lot of issues. And one must also understand that the police department, which is often required to do the enforcement component is, in Delhi's case, neither under the Municipal Corporations nor under the State government, nor when it comes to that, the National Government.

So we should at least, for the purposes of this discussion, probably set that aside because that's not the case in other cities where the city actually is controlled or the issue of parking is controlled by a single agency, or primarily a single agency, and that's the Municipal Corporation.

And what we have seen time and again in multiple cities is that the police - the traffic police - even though it's not under the control of the Municipal Corporation, seems to get the issue. And it seems to understand that the solution for parking management is to control and to price parking. So the police department, in that sense, seems to be fairly aligned, at least in some respects, to what progressive parking advocates might want to see.

[Paul] One of the approaches taken in various cities that have managed to get progressive parking policies through the political process has been to play a little bit of politics with the revenue. So, when there is good parking management usually there's a revenue surplus. And so one of the things that some cities do is to allocate that revenue in ways that appeals to the stakeholders that are most relevant. Now exactly what that means varies from place to place.

But are any of the Indian cities that you've been working in thinking about allocating the revenue? And do you think they are being politically savvy in the way they are doing that? So for example, it seems that Mumbai has stalled. Maybe one way to un-stall Mumbai's process would be to say the revenue is going to be doing something that appeals to those stakeholders. Can you reflect on that issue?

[Shreya] So, I would say that multiple cities, and again especially the cities that ITDP has been working with, whether Chennai or Pune or Ranchi, have been thinking of setting up an Urban Transport Fund into which they would put the money - the revenue generated from parking surplus - or the revenue surplus from parking management. And utilise that towards better implementation of walking and cycling infrastructure and public transportation However, those mechanisms have still not been effective yet. So we are actively working with these cities to help them - to provide the right technical guidance on how this could be implemented effectively.

In other cities, traditionally the money just goes into a central account of the Municipal Corporation and then just gets spent in any direction. So it doesn't even need to be on transport related infrastructure it could be just for the payment of salaries of staff or for sanitation services or whatever else the corporation is interested.

[Paul] My next question is a connected question. It's about payment mechanisms. It's connected to the last one in the sense that people need to know that the money is going to something that they think is worthwhile but they also want to know that it's not going into the pockets of criminals or crooked politicians or whatever it might be. And one of the difficulties in the past is with this so-called parking mafia, people absolutely don't trust that. I know ITDP has been putting a lot of thought into payment mechanisms that would help enhance people's trust that the money is collected and goes to the right places. Can you talk about talk about those ideas that you've been trying to explore? And what's the latest status? I know that you don't think parking meters are the solution in India - that other methods would be better.

[Shreya] That's right. And I think the farthest ahead in this direction is Chennai. And it's just started implementation of this fairly ambitious program of managing 12,000 parking slots across the city with fairly high parking rates.

But one of the key components is a system of cloud and mobile-based payment along with enforcement which is also IP enabled and hence it's not just a mafia dependent thing, if you will. But more of a transparent and automated process that utilizes technology - the best of the technology has to offer right now. So what this does is that people register themselves with the parking management system. They have an account and as and when they park at a certain location, either through an automated process or through a couple of very simple steps on their mobile phone, they can start and stop the virtual parking meter, if you will, and make payment for that through their account.

Of course, there might be some people who are out of towners or who do not have access to this technology immediately and there are other alternative mechanisms we can put, such as having local shops tie up with the parking management system where people could go and make a payment on behalf of them. So this seems to be a fairly progressive way.

And from what I understand, in some African cities and many European cities which traditionally have parking meters are now moving towards this more virtual format of fee collection. And also a more transparent mechanism.

[Paul] That will be something to watch. When do you think Chennai will actually be going live with that, and we can return again at some point and see how it's going?

[Shreya] So - Chennai - the contract has already been awarded. Within the first 45 days, they're supposed to show the proof of system implementation and then within six months the entire system should be up and running.

[Paul] If there's one takeaway from this episode that you want the listener to remember what would it be?

[Shreya] The simple point is that parking is an enigma, when it need not be. The answer to the parking problem is not creating more parking but to manage the parking that's available in a much better fashion. And let's try to maximize the efficiency of how we manage our parking and simultaneously start investing in other modes, like better walking and cycling environments, better public transportation, so that people also have better alternatives.

[Paul] It's striking that India is a place where even in the big rich cities like Mumbai or Chennai it's still a minority who are using cars. Maybe it's almost a majority who are using motorcycles. But parking management that is subsidizing cars is incredibly unfair in that context. But it's very hard to get that message across isn't it?

[Shreya] That's right. I was recently doing a training program with fairly senior officers from across the country and it was quite eye-opening for them that there are still more cyclists on Indian streets then there are people in cars. The single largest mode of transportation in Indian cities happens to be, not motorcycles, not buses, but walking. And there are actually in most cities more people on public transportation or some form of public transportation than there are on motorcycles even though that public transportation is in the form of informal shared autorickshaw services which run on fixed routes providing people a public transportation offering in the absence of any formal public transportation.

[Paul] Well Shreya thank you so much for sharing your insights on on-street parking management in India. It's been very interesting. I hope we can talk again sometime in the future and update ourselves on all of those promising policies that you've told us about. Thank you very much!

[Shreya] I hope so too.

31:01   end


  1. Even small streets with road width of 20 meters are CROWDED with vehicles, which make EMERGENCY MOVEMENT by AMBULANCES and FIRE FIGHTERS unable to move, and cause considerable anxiety. WHY NOT WE BAN PARKING on such LANES?

    1. Depending on the goals of each particular street, banning parking may often be a good option. But note that well-managed parallel parking takes a width of just 2.5 m or so. So a street with a width of 20 m may have room for parking. It depends what else is needed/wanted in that street (footpaths - how wide; bicycle paths?; a median? traffic space). But the parking needs to be well managed. ITDP has a good street design guide for India, with suggested design options for various street widths. See https://www.itdp.org/2011/12/22/better-streets-better-cities/

  2. Very usefull information about indian people park their vehicle on street.


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