Is Mumbai a step closer to solving its parking crisis?

Mumbai Parking Authority is to be established to understand Mumbai's parking crisis. And how to solve it.

For the first time, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has gathered a team of experts and citizens to frame and implement a parking policy for the city of Mumbai. The committee of 15 members was set up in 2019, but was defunct during the lockdown but has been reconstituted and met for the first time on January 18, 2021. 

This committee will envisage the setting up a new body – the Mumbai Parking Authority.

All civic policies are usually conceived and drafted by civic officials or elected representatives.

Also read: Mumbai, this is how you can tackle traffic jams

Mumbai Parking Authority

Set up under the aegis of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, this is the first time that experts like urban planners, transport policy  and civil society representatives are collaborating for to re-think policy.

Headed by retired IAS officer Ramnath Jha, the team intends to draft a comprehensive parking policy for a way out to of the traffic congestion in the city. 

Former civic commissioner Ajoy Mehta conceptualised the committee in 2019 as BMC chief and got the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to rope in the experts, says executive engineer of BMC’s roads and traffic department, Rajendra Gandhi. 

Mumbai’s existing parking policy lapses in March 2021, but would be extended for another year by when the new policy would be ready for implementation, says Gandhi.

Congested city 

Mumbai is one of India’s most congested cities by virtue of the number of vehicles (about 34 lakh vehicles registered till 2019 ), complicated by its linear shape. Its 2000 kms road network is estimated to be used by 30 lakh vehicles for parking – including 11 lakh cars and 19 lakh two-wheelers, according to a draft by the MPA. 

Cars spill over from the scarce parking lots in the space-starved city onto the roads and even footpaths at many places. Incidents of conflicts within housing societies and road rages over parking are abound.

 Though the Mumbai Municipal Corporation did ensure 30 multi-storey parking lots and about 14 amenity plots for parking ensuring 25948 equivalent car spaces (ECS) for parking  across the city, the measures seem inadequate. 

(Photo: Rishi Aggarwal)

One nodal authority

The highlight of the new policy is that for the first time, all the departments co-ordinating the parking policy like Mumbai police’s traffic division, Road Transport Organisation (RTO) and the Mumbai Metro  Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) will be brought under a single division.

Officials from those departments will be sent on deputation to this new authority. 

Apart from drafting the parking policy, the MPA under the BMC also seeks to be a one-stop organisation for all parking solutions in the city from enforcing its implementation to overseeing parking lots and even levying parking penalties on streets.

Currently, Mumbai police’s traffic division has the penalising powers on parking-related offences and the revenue generated is collected by the state government. 

While delivering the 2021-22 budgetary speech, municipal commissioner Iqbal Chahal stated the revenue generated through parking policy would be utilised for strengthening parking infrastructure further.  

Penalties for on-street parking

The team has already rightfully identified on-street parking as a major cause of traffic congestion and subsequent economic loss. It found that only about 45% space of the public parking lots are used up by the 34 lakh vehicles registered in the city.

Most of the vehicles prefer to park instead on the streets since it is free, accessible and more comfortable. “Currently, 90% of the street space is available free of cost for parking. The people need to know that parking on-street cannot be considered as a right,” explains Shishir Joshi of Project Mumbai, who is a civil society representative on the MPA. 

Each of the 25 wards in the city would have its own ward Parking Management Plan  (PMP) aided with ground surveys and GIS mapping for optimal utilisation of on and off-street parking spaces.  

A PMP would identify and ensure optimal utilisation of the available parking spaces in the given area. The PMP will recognize the need for all types of parking requirements be it cars or auto or of heavy commercial vehicles, areas focussed with pick-up/ drop-off facility, loading/unloading facility and new concepts of city parking pool, valet, warehouse, garage parking, etc. and strategically assign the available spaces for these functions. 

Utilising space for parking

Wali Kashvi, co-founder of Parkr, a parking technology solutions provider app, says “Parking is a dynamic issue that depends on factors like locality, time of the day and even the roll over of vehicles. So, commercial places witness heavy parking during office hours but are relatively free afterwards. Similarly, a single space here could be shared by say three different vehicles during different points of time. 

Many parking lots including the likes of the airport continue to be under-occupied; at least 40% of the airport parking continues is not occupied.

The MPA is actively working with tech teams to bring in technology that can be feasible for the entire city. We have the technology to allocate parking spaces in specific areas for people depending on their estimated travel time. This will also help them plan on whether to take their car out or opt for public transport instead by factoring in the parking scenario for their cars at their destination.

Kashvi says that though there is a shortage of parking slots in Mumbai, the problem is compounded by indisciplined parking on the roads to avoid inconvenience and/or save money. “People are loath to walk their way from the car to the mall entrance though they would walk much more within the mall,” he says.  

Parking in itself is a contentious issue with the parking contractors and subcontractors known for their underhand tactics. Many parking attendants are known to levy their own charges and at other places, parking is allowed right on the streets by the contractors.

Parking in private buildings?

Another proposal to beef up the parking spaces by tapping in to the slots at various private buildings, has found few takers. Only four housing societies have agreed to let their society’s parking to be opened for outsiders, so far. 

Yatindra Pal, secretary of Tarapore Gardens society at Andheri’s popular Lokhandwala Complex says: “We are a society of 294 flats with about 200 parking slots. Within this we have to manage additional cars of residents along with two guest slots for our residents. How can we give our slots for public parking, when we ourselves are short of parking space? Also, how can I allow unknown cars and people to enter into our society space since it could become a security issue.”

Many old buildings short on parking cars inadvertently spill over on the roads. 

Many buildings short on parking slots are known to deny parking to tenants or refuse parking for extra cars of flat-owners. There are also instances of owners selling their parking slots to other residents to accommodate their extra cars. 

“Our building parking space is a private space and not a public space and surely the BMC cannot force such schemes on us. Instead let them penalise those who illegally park on the streets to free up street space and also to reduce their nuisance created on the streets,” says Pal.

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