Parking in Mumbai: A case study of mis-governance

Civic authorities need to apply their mind and plug revenue loss, save petrol

Ashok Datar | July 3, 2023


#planning   #parking   #Urban governance   #Mumbai   #transport  
(GN Photo) picture for representative purpose only
(GN Photo) picture for representative purpose only

Despite the urgent need for parking regulation, the government has shown no heart for it in the last 15 years. Now the problem has become a nightmare.

The Mumbai Parking Authority (MPA) was established in 2018 by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). There was no clarity about its relationship with the traffic police that gives permission for establishing paid and regulated parking lots on roads. The parking authority reports to the additional municipal commissioner (AMC) (roads and traffic) and manages parking lots on existing roads (numbering about 70) to provide spaces for about 1200 cars.

These were established mostly in the A ward between 2010 and 2016. The MPA has not added a single road parking lot in last five years. But it did utilise several multi-storied parking lots by builders for BMC in lieu of a handsome gift of FSI to add floors to their building proposals, mostly in the island city. This scheme was introduced in 2009 and was found extremely attractive to builders.
 
Parking spaces for public to BMC and extra FSI for builders for building more luxury flats at virtually little or no cost of land/FSI

Builders responded very well to this very lucrative offer. When the land (through FSI) was given free, they built hundreds of parking lots in many high-rises. This helped them to build many more floors through extra FSI and as well as built flats worth couple of crores of rupees each with two parking spaces for each new flat. This bonanza is estimated to be worth several hundred crores and a win-win situation for flat buyers and builders.

The locations, though, suitable for building high rises and for flats, unfortunately were not suitable for ‘public parking’ as they were built in areas where extra demand for parking was not there, nor was it found convenient by people to drive a distance to park their cars and later climb up floors or walk back the distance to reach the parking space.

Lack of data with MPA or BMC makes performance evaluation and setting objectives become difficult

The general public for whom such public parking was provided at apparently no cost did not include too many users. In fact, the MPA was established to ensure these parking lots were fully used. The MPA spared no efforts in promoting the use of such parking spaces in 30+ high-rises and about 30,000 parking spaces up to 10 floors above ground. Such high-rises are located on Senapati Bapat Marg within a distance of 500 metres in Prabhadevi with parking spaces for about 10,000 cars. By now it is likely that there are more than 60 high-rises where about 50,000 parking spaces would be available. But you cannot blame the MPA. They tried to ensure that these spaces are used and succeeded to some extent (up to 10%-20% as per estimates given though no official record on occupancy is maintained for the last five years).

By 2018, about 60 high-rises had free public parking available for about 30,000 cars on ground plus eight floors. All locations were not suitable for parking demand. As a result, in spite of good protected parking spaces available at reasonable prices, they go a begging. Barely 10% to 20% were taken, many on monthly basis for nights. Very few, in relation to supply, were occupied in day hours.

Over the period, the occupancy has increased to some extent, but the MPA has never published any performance record of occupation of these parking spaces in parking hours, per parking lot and total for Mumbai. In absence of availability of authentic figures, it is estimated that parking revenue of about Rs 4 crore was collected annually. Not keeping a systematic performance record has been a particular weakness of BMC and you cannot single out the parking authority for this “vagueness”.

Declining performance of ‘fine’ story and loss of revenue – not to mention poor parking discipline

It appears that neither the traffic police nor the MPA even bothered to know the dismal fall in first post-Covid year, i.e., 2022, when the parking declined to a mere 21,000 cars from 22 lakh cars in the pre-Covid year, i.e., 2019-20. Post-Covid, as traffic and parking came back with vengeance our fining efforts simply went to sleep as the amount of fine declined from Rs 8 crore to a mere Rs 90,000 (the pre-Covid year to the post-Covid year).

Providing paid and regulated parking in an orderly manner under more than 60 flyovers will make the highways free from parking and also make way for an exclusive bus lane facilitating smooth traffic. This would have  also prevented the need for having more highways or say,  adding another floor on the existing W E H . Paid and regulated parking under flyovers is very convenient for motorists and very good for traffic movement . But with some ill informed court ruling which prevented parking under flyovers for “safety reasos, the govt did not explain and convince the courts that this ruling has led to illegal parking of scrappable cars, bhangar, and banks parking cars of loan defaulters. But no such thing has happened and our callous neglect of this has led to a lot of mess under flyovers a kind of dumping ground !

Secondly, there is the common incidence of wrongly parked cars – day and night. I estimate that there are now about 6 to 8 lakh cars parked on both sides of roads (another 2,000 cars are parked under the flyovers all over Mumbai). Currently there are about 20 lakh cars are in Mumbai. Illegal parking has grown by leaps and bounds. This anarchy was helplessly allowed by the traffic police and/or BMC for the valuable space under 50+ flyovers in Mumbai.
 
Providing paid and regulated parking under the flyovers will make the highways free from parking and also make way for an exclusive bus lane facilitating smooth traffic. This would have also prevented the need for having more highways or, say, adding another floor on the existing Western Express Highway (WEH).

But our authorities never think of governance, traffic rules and discipline; and rather encourage more cars driving with abandon, boosting car industry sales and also increasing oil imports. Conversely, parking regulation is seriously considered by all thinking city-regulators in the world.
 
Where is the governance, data, review etc? I got above figure through RTI from a minor official of the traffic police department. The traffic police does not share such data with senior officials or the MPA and neither the authority asks for such data. Let us wake up government authorities to the fact that they are supposed to do a job and know the facts and progress and change as per performance.  

Ashok Datar is a Mumbai-based transport economist.

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