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urban india caught up in parking muddle

March 14, 2021
Parking Mess in India

With low car ownership of 22 cars per 1000 inhabitants, India is expected to touch 35 cars per 1000 inhabitants by 2025 (Ghate & Sundar, 2013). This would translate to about 300 cars per 1000 population in large metropolitan centres like Delhi, Chennai etc by 2025. Besides congestion, road safety, and vehicular emissions, the parking challenge is killing the cities today.

Increased parking demand and more so car parking is taking a toll on-road space, pedestrian pathways, cycle space, green belts, public open spaces and even city parks in some instances. 

Parking Policies

The government of India came out with the National Urban Transport Policy in 2006 which spelt out the need for amending Building Byelaws in all million-plus cities to accommodate adequate parking space. It also stressed the construction of Multilevel parking complexes in city centres with metered parking. Since then most cities have revised their parking norms for different land-use categories. 

A comparative of parking requirements for Commercial/ Retail developments across four major cities shows that Delhi prescribes far more parking followed by Bengaluru. And this correlates with the vehicle population topped by Delhi with 1.1 crore vehicles followed by Bengaluru at 0.8 crore. Cars comprise 30% of total vehicles in Delhi as of 2018.

The 3ECS/100 sqm in Delhi translates to 96 sqm of basement parking space for 100sqm of floor area (considering 1ECS=32sqm as per NBC). This means that area almost equivalent to floor space is being provided for parking reducing the efficiency of developments. 

These blanket parking norms across the city are ill-informed and promote more car usage. Thus increasing congestion and aesthetically ruining the city with parts of cities looking like one big parking lot.

Car Parking Prescribed Norm for Commercial/ Retail Uses
Delhi3 ECS per 100 sqm of floor area for CBD & District Centers2 ECS per 100 sqm of floor area for Local shopping
Mumbai 1 ECS per 100 sqm of built-up area
Hyderabad 60% of the Built-up area as Parking area in Shopping malls/ IT Complexes40% of the Built-up area as Parking area in Other Commercial Buildings
Bengaluru1 ECS per 50 sqm of floor area
Source:  Compiled by author from Building Codes.

Cost of Parking 

Parking spaces in today’s scenario do not come cheap but with a high cost of construction. Today considering the case of Hyderabad with a rocky underground, the construction cost is roughly 6 lakhs per car for a regular basement car parking. In the case of a two-level stack parking, it amounts to about 4.5 lakhs per car while for a robotic automatic parking lot it exceeds 10 lakhs per car. Land costs and operational costs are over and above the construction costs. 

In 2019 Hyderabad witnessed one of the highest office space absorptions to the tune of 11.2 million sqft. Considering the city parking norms and a 50:50 break-up of IT to other Commercial Buildings the total parking spaces required for this 11.2 mn sqft works out as 5.6mn sqft.

Adding residential, institutional and other uses to this would mean a much higher floor space being built for parking each year. Although on the average car are parked 95% of their lives and driven only 5 % (Donald Shoup, High Cost of Free Parking) which means economically this is not the optimum use of expensive city space. 

Environmental & Planning Concerns

Besides the energy and material costs of constructing and maintaining parking lots, more parking spaces in an urban area push the use of personal vehicles over public transport, walking or cycling.  Higher use of personal transit induces traffic jams, demand for more road space and adding to emissions and challenges of handling air pollution.

Photo by Maxim Tolchinskiy on Unsplash

World Air Quality Report pegs six of India’s cities among the top 10 most polluted in the world and out of total emissions transport contributes a significant chunk. 28% of total emissions in winter in Delhi are attributed to transport as per a TERI study and 17% for the summer period.

Open parking areas are majorly topped with asphalt surfaces which add to the urban heat island effect raising temperatures of the microenvironment thus impacting energy usage. Paved parking is covered or open increases impervious surfaces in a city thus reducing the recharge of groundwater.

San Francisco in 2010 came out with a parking census and the results were quite startling. The city had a total of 441,541 spaces and 72% of all publicly available parking spaces in the city were free parking. Though 28.5% of households did not own cars, the city collectively owned 8% more cars than a total number of households.

Free and low priced abundantly available parking goes much against the principles of Transit Oriented Planning aimed at compact development along transport corridors.

Maximizing development around transit nodes or corridors by providing new development and housing within a 10-minute walk from transit stations or stops is the need of the hour. And cutting down on parking requirements not only will improve the ridership of public transport but add to placemaking with walkable streets and mix-use dynamic neighbourhoods. 

Possible Solutions

Tel Aviv has recently cut down 10,000 parking spaces in the city to enable the construction of infrastructure for public transport. The reduction in parking standards in Tel Aviv is aimed at setting differential parking tariffs as per demand and reducing the share of private cars.

TomTom Traffic Index |

Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi are among the top 10 most congested cities as per 2020 TomTom’s traffic index though the congestion is lower than 2019 owning to Covid 19 pandemic and push towards home working.

Bangalore BBMP recently announced Parking Policy 2.0 for issuing on-street parking permits in residential areas. Though the parking permit rates announced are on the lower side but it indicates a policy move to freeing road space from a haphazard parking mess.

To tackle the ever-increasing congestion as well as make space for pedestrians, cyclists, public transit with limited land available in urban areas it becomes noteworthy to study the impacts of excess parking.

A comprehensive review of these minimum parking standards and policies prescribed in Indian Cities along with car ownership, public transport plans is required to analyse the current situation. It is imperative to assess the true costs of parking which are generally conceived as free or a low priced amenity. The current car-centric planning has been a recipe for disaster with metropolises being designed around parking facilities rather than people resulting in wastage of space, public money as well as adding to environmental costs.

Alternative approaches to tackle these parking minimums are crucial going forward for enhancing our urban ecosystems. These alternatives need careful evaluation and how best these can be incorporated to arrive at solutions that address the misallocation of public urban space.      

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