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Parking does not pay in Mumbai

Friday, February 15, 2013
By Vishudas Sheshrao

In Mumbai today, parking practically dictates one’s lifestyle, acting as the arbitrator of who gets to take their cars on the road and who does not. However, the BMC has several plans, including multi-story parking under section 33 (24) of the DC Regulations, web based pay and park services, creation of a multi storey parking, etc.

On June 21, 2012, for the first time, the State government realized the hazards of unsystematic parking, when the Mantralaya building was gutted in a blaze and fire tenders could not move forward due to vehicles parked randomly around the gates and open spaces in front of the building.

Scores of fire tenders and snorkels were standing at a distance of a few yards and on the other side of the headquarters of the state government when it was burning. All policy makers including the chief minister, the deputy chief minister, the chief secretary of the state and the municipal commissioner of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) were helplessly watching the conflagration.

Court Matter
Early 2012, the BMC had decided to take over all its own 47 pay-and-park lots in south Mumbai allotted to private contractors and employ its own civic staff there. As a consequence, private contractors, badly hit by the curtailing of this highly lucrative source of revenue moved the Bombay High Court. Hasim Qureshi, who was entrusted this contract earlier, claimed that he used to pay Rs. 46 lakh per month to the BMC against the 47 parking lots.

On December 27, 2012, the Bombay High Court declined to interfere with the BMC’s decision to take over pay-and-park sites from private contractors.  

The division bench of Justice A. M. Khanwilkar and Justice Mridula Bhatkar was not keen on granting any relief to the petitioners A. A. Auctioneers and Contractors Pvt. Ltd, which manages 47 parking lots in the city. The company gave an undertaking to the court that they will hand over peaceful possession of the sites on the midnight of December 31, 2012, when their contract expired.

“If this is the policy decision taken by the corporation, the question of resorting to tender process for allocation of pay-and-park agency work in respect to the 47 locations will not be required. Even if the commissioner did make any endorsement on the proposal submitted by the petitioners to allow them to continue to act as the corporation’s agents at the 47 sites until the new tender process is finalized, it will have no relevance and cannot be invoked by the petitioners,” the bench observed.

However, the contractor argued that the BMC did not have any means or logistical support to look after the lots. Reacting to this, the bench said, “There is no reason to doubt the BMC’s ability and efficiency. The petitioners can’t compel it to continue with the contract.”

People welcomed court decision
Businessmen, professionals, share bazaar brokers, professors, defense officials, college students and traders who used the parking lots welcomed the swift move of transfer of parking to the BMC. Frankly, they were pretty fed up of being the target for what was often seen as whimsical and inordinately high rate-fixing of the facility. People have alleged for a long time that private contractors were harassing and exploiting them when it came to parking their vehicles. They further alleged that rates were completely arbitrary, with different fees in different parts of the city for parking.

Today, Sandeep Jalan, a bank employee, who used to park his four-wheeler near Horniman Circle, is happy that he shells out less money compared to the earlier charges. “Since the BMC has taken over, I feel the charges have been standardized and now I am paying less against the earlier amount of Rs. 30 for 4 hours.”  

Web based parking: After the court directives and the entrustment of the operation of the pay and park to the civic body, there has been a further development.

To bring uniformity, the BMC is planning to create a web-based pay and park system.

In this new system, the civic body is providing hand-held digital gadgets to the operators. This digital machine would be is directly connected to the central server of the civic body. As the operator gives receipt to driver, it would register in the central server and occupied and unoccupied space will reflect on the web. Officials believe it would bring transference and accountability in the pay and park cell.

Hutatma Chowk underground multi story-parking.
Four years ago, the BMC had embarked on a radical project to make a multi-story under ground parking project in the south Mumbai as it is over congested.

Officials of the Traffic department had visited open spaces and finally selected Hutatma Chowk. This was considered as a major project to solve the traffic problems of south Mumbai. According to a rough estimate, this parking lot would have the capacity to accommodate around 490 vehicles. Reportedly, this project was entrusted to a relative of Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi.

However, when Subodh Kumar took charge as Municipal Commissioner of the BMC, he dumped the project citing that it is not a priority and required a huge capital budget and the civic body did not have the fund. The file is still pending in the office of Municipal Commissioner.

Private players
According to Section 33 (24) of the Development Control (DC) Regulation Policy, new construction on a plot of over 1,000 square metres in the island city and over 2,000 square metres in the suburbs will get additional FSI of up to 4 if the developer agrees to build public parking lots and hand over these to the BMC free of cost.

Around 70 developers had approached to the BMC to avail the benefit of this scheme. After the screening of project papers, the BMC gave clearance to 11 private developers and 29 places finally got selected.

The Lodha group, makers of luxury buildings, had constructed a Multi storey parking building with capacity of around 689 vehicles at Lower Parel. The developer is ready to hand over the BMC but the civic body is reluctant to the possession. According to officials, around 3,000 public parking space would be made available in near future under the DC Regulation 33 (24).

The Multi story parking building is already in place and the developer requested to the civic body to take the possession of it. However, from last couple of month, the civic body is reluctant to take possession as it has no mechanism to operate it. Officials further fear that if they take possession, then illegal occupants will encroach on it.

Present scenario (conclusion)
The BMC has several plans, including multi-story parkings under section 33 (24) of the DC Regulations, web based pay and park services, creation of a multi storey parking, etc. to accommodate the ever growing number of vehicles in the city. No project is working out, and so far it would appear that no lessons were learned from the from the Mantralaya issue.

The gap has been increasing between available open spaces in city and the increasing number of vehicles. Roads in Mumbai are congested because the number of vehicles per kilometer of road length is a staggering 674 in the city. The average figure for the state is much lower, at 78 vehicles per 1,000 meters of road. In Mumbai today, parking practically dictates one’s lifestyle, acting as the arbitrator of who gets to take their cars on the road and who does not.

Vehicles are parked wherever the driver gets space, sometimes as much as a kilometer away from one’s target destination.

 

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