The Greater Chennai Corporation recently decided to drop its major multilevel car parking projects in the city, including proposed initiatives in Nungambakkam and Vadapalani, after its T Nagar project turned out to be a non-starter. It was in February that the Corporation unveiled the T Nagar parking lot at an outlay of Rs 40 cr, to accommodate over 200 cars and 500 two wheelers. But the paid-parking project was beset by a lack of patronage as motorists took the cheaper way out and continued parking their automobiles on the road.
It seems timely to consider some feasible solutions for the city’s never-ending parking problems. In 2008, a study said 27% of Chennai’s road length was exclusively used for parking, which is higher than that of other metros. Almost 14 years on, the traffic scene here has only worsened. As per the Comprehensive Mobility Plan for Chennai Metropolitan Area (CMA) Report 2019, corresponding with the traffic composition, the number of two wheelers parked on-street is the highest, followed by cars, with average duration of being parked — just over an hour.
Demand for organised parking in Chennai’s CBD is high with areas like Mount Road, EVR Periyar Salai, T Nagar, Purasawalkam, George Town, Nungambakkam, Adyar and Mylapore witnessing an acute shortage of parking supply. However, a parking lot is not the only solution for vehicular encroachments in Chennai.
Lapses in enforcement of State laws such as construction of commercial buildings without the provision of blueprints detailing the availability of parking spaces have also exacerbated the problem. Even the Madras High Court had intervened a few years ago, directing the administration to ensure that any restaurant/hotel that operates in the city must ensure that it has adequate parking space in its vicinity to accommodate its patrons.
Hackneyed urban planning is also to be blamed. Most buildings in residential neighbourhoods these days have boards prohibiting the parking of visitors’ vehicles in its perimeter. While individual houses can accommodate just one automobile belonging to the resident of the house, even major housing societies are built in such a cramped fashion that most visitors are left with no option but to encroach upon the public road. With the rising cost of real estate, people even prefer opting for an extra room at the expense of parking space.
Stakeholders believe there is a need to amp up the quality of public transport in Chennai and improve last mile connectivity. Subsidising transit costs for employees of private enterprises as well as students can be catalysts for decongestion. The scrappage policy must also be revisited and a middle ground must be found where owners of older vehicles can be compensated commensurately for giving up on their automobiles at the end of their lifespans.
The aforementioned Comprehensive Mobility Plan also stresses on the need for a city-specific parking policy. This could include elements such as differential parking fares for areas with high congestion and the use of Intelligent Parking Management tools. We also need cooperation from the private sector to help enforce flexible work hours that lets workers skip the peak hour traffic, as well as helps in efficient utilisation of the available public transport systems. Once the transport infrastructure is beefed up, a system of odd vs even registration numbers for private vehicles can also be considered.