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Saturday , 30 September 2023

Considerations in a Multilevel Parking System

N. Satyanarayana, Managing Director, Central Parking Services (CPS) Pvt Ltd looks at the design challenges of multi-level parking systems in India: Parking adequacy, giving space to two wheelers, external traffic management, defining traffic control points, flexibility to shift parking between levels and geometrics of parking.

The results of a market study, conducted by CPS, on the needs and problems of customers in three categories – corporate sector, shopping malls and railway stations–were quite interesting. Over 68% of the shoppers in three cities – Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai – considered parking as a major factor in choosing a shopping mall. The first thing that comes to a shopper’s mind is whether the Shopping Centre or mall has adequate place for parking? What are the chances of getting quickly a parking slot? How easy is it to get in and out of the parking slot? Today, parking has become such an important part of infrastructure that 79% of the corporates who lease properties consider parking as a basic amenity. Only 23% feel that parking in airports is as efficient as it should be. 83% of office goers consider bad parking to be a major reason for loss of productivity, especially after they spend a long time in just finding a parking place.

Today parking has moved from something nice to a must-have facility; without adequate parking facilities, both commercial and residential infrastructure are not considered complete. The other story that is emerging is that we are moving from a two wheeler country to a four wheeler country. This is a significant factor while designing a parking facility. CPS’s experience in about 150 projects has shown that parking facilities in most buildings have not been designed to take care of their requirements for the next ten years. Again, the growth in personal incomes led to more cars on the roads, bringing about infrastructure challenges for taking care of parking design needs.

Often it is very difficult to pull out vehicles from parking lots due to poor design; though sometimes even when there is enough space, there is poor utliisation of space. At other times, the car owners leave the car key with the attendant and find that the car has been taken away by somebody else.

Buildings have parking facilities either in basements or else in a mechanical structure, or a combination of both. The parking facility should be designed keeping in mind that parking is the first and the last source of experience and contact for the customer. The questions to be asked are: does it offer the same experience as the rest of the facility; does it have a simple design and is it user friendly? Does the user get the benefit for what he is paying?

There needs to be flexibility in terms of change in traffic flow. Nearly in every Indian city, the number of vehicles, and hence the number of cars on the road is increasing. Often, the roads become one-way and when this situation happens, the traffic circulation is changed. An example of this is the parking facility at the Shopping Centre in Park Circus, in the city centre of Kolkata. Executed by CPS, it has a parking facility for about a thousand cars. The entire design was done and approved. The design was implemented, and the mall was scheduled to open in about 15 days. Suddenly, in a few days, the local traffic department told the mall authorities to reverse the traffic to the mall, saying that the flow did not work well. A huge number of changes needed to be made to accommodate this request and there was a delay of three months in opening the Centre.

The system has to have revenue control and audit capabilities. It must be a state-of-the-art that is adapted to and should work in Indian conditions. Having so many two wheelers is a typical Indian phenomenon. Another aspect is that operating a parking lot has a very local aspect to it. Running a parking lot in Delhi is very different from running it in other metros.

The entire parking management should be facilitated by the design of the parking system. Parking adequacy is one of the first challenges in parking design. Once, CPS did an audit of a parking facility designed by a company and found many interesting issues. The first point was since municipal norms are statutory and specify that there should be a certain number of car spaces per hundred square feet of built up area, most developers just try to get this statutory number or a little more than that. But this is often not enough. For example, in a shopping centre on a Sunday evening there are many vehicles due to the many service amenities the mall has – movies, multiplex theaters, food courts, restaurants, retail destinations etc. This causes a very long queue in the parking lot, with cars often waiting for more than 20 minutes to get a parking slot. This is because the peak load on a Sunday is very high as compared to the parking design that has been done. The parking design has been done according to municipal norms which is grossly inadequate, and not according to actual needs of the building.

The next problem is that most of the municipalities do not even recognize that we are a two-wheeler country. In Bangalore, which has about 42 lakh vehicles on the road, there are 28 lakh two wheelers.

The municipal guidelines in most places, which follow the NPC guidelines state that there needs to be two car parks for every 1000sqft. But there is no space for two wheelers in this scheme of things. Most of the developers, when confronted by this problem say that they will come up with a solution. What happens is, after a building is built and the Occupancy Certificate has been obtained, residents find that some of the car spaces have vanished and have been converted into two wheeler parking spaces, or two wheelers occupy the fire driveway. This shows that two wheeler parking facility has been hurriedly constructed, as an afterthought. There are enough statistics to prove this point.

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