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Sunday , 1 October 2023

Rethinking parking policy to improve accessibility ? A pilot study in Mumbai for comprehensive parking reform

The large number of cars and two wheelers being added in Mumbai each year and the lack of parking spaces have resulted in most of these vehicles being parked on the roads in an unregulated manner. Pawan Mulukutla, Project Manager ? Urban Transport, EMBARQ India looks at the situation in Marol, Mumbai and possible solutions.

Parking traditionally started on the street since drivers would naturally park their cars on the free kerb where they used to tether their horses. As car ownership grew in the early decades of the 21st century, off-street parking arose as a solution to avoid spill-over. However, the assumption that led to these early policies did not account for an imaginary hypothetical scenario in which everyone would drive, no other modes of accessibility were available and thirdly, no interrelation with an existing city fabric exists. Excessive motorisation in the last decade and consequential parking beyond available space has increased traffic congestion severely in Mumbai like any other metropolitan city in India. Streets in an urban area have a finite area and a resultant, finite capacity to handle vehicle movement. Streets are also multi-functional. The quality of street life is drastically altered by parking. The road area and the volume that a car occupies on the street, both affect a pedestrian?s street experience also. Parking matters because parking policies in regard to both on-street as well as off-street parking, significantly affect congestion.

Mumbai is the seventh largest metropolitan agglomeration in the world (United Nations 2011) and the most important economic centre in India; however, when compared to other large cities in Asia and the Western world, it has the lowest off-street parking market prices (Asian Development Bank (ADB) 2011) and on-street parking is largely not regulated (free of cost). In contrast to this reality, the real estate prices in Central Business District areas in the city are above those in other global cities such as Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, Chicago, Singapore, Los Angeles, Washington DC), among others and comparable to those in New York midtown and Milan (ADB 2011). This situation reveals in some way the hidden subsidies to car users and congestion in a city with limited road space.

Random on-street parking on both sides along several major arterial streets in Mumbai has been causing inconvenience for all users. On some of the arterials, out of six lanes only four lanes (capacity of the road reduced by almost 33%) are available as an effective carriageway leading to further congestion. Additionally due to the lack of an effective parking policy and enforcement, it gives citizens a feeling that parking is virtually free on the roads, at all times of the day. In addition, incentives in the form of Floor Space Index (FSI) are given for building public parking lots, creating high-rise buildings that affect urban fabric and lead to inactive and unsafe frontages. This also results in a vicious circle of meeting the excessive demand by creating more supply, which attracts more cars. This really calls for introspection since 78% of the population of Mumbai travel using public transport.

In Mumbai, the proportion of free parking on roads is ample, while the parking cost is low – between `5 and `20 per hour. The city is at the lower end in terms of pricing for parking when compared to other cities around the globe. The figure below provides comparative parking charges in CBD areas for global cities. While the cost of cars, fuel and urban land is not very different in various comparable cities such as Hong Kong, New York or even Bangkok, the price of parking is much higher than Indian cities. Similarly, in Hong Kong and New York, pricing is market driven with monthly parking rates for a reserved parking space ranging from `10,000 to `20,000. As a result, the car ownership in such vertical cities is much lower than the purchasing power of its population.

With the annual addition of more than 50,000 cars (Transport Commissioner Office, Government of Maharashtra) excluding a larger number of two wheelers, as well as substantial increases in commercial vehicles, there will be a huge requirement of new parking spaces each year. The effect is clear and visible. Most of these vehicles land up on the roads, to be parked in an unregulated manner. The situation is becoming more alarming. Almost on every road and lane we now notice parking of cars and other vehicles including private buses on both sides ? spilling over to footpaths and impacting the carriageway and pedestrian sidewalks.

EMBARQ India, in partnership with MIDC (Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation) and Marol Industries Association (MMIA) has conducted a pilot study to address the parking needs of the area including developing a policy in addition to improving pedestrian access. The hope is that it will serve as an example to address parking needs of various industrial / business districts in the city and country and guide the built form to improve access and circulation.

There is a need to look at parking holistically as a part of a number of strategies to encourage the use of public transport. More specifically, it should be viewed and approached in conjunction with accessibility improvement.

MIDC Marol is a planned industrial area of 127.52 ha, with a floating population of 0.18 million (2011). It is in close proximity to Chakala station (700m), which is located along the upcoming Versova ? Andheri ? Ghatkopar Metro Corridor-I. MIDC Marol is transforming into an IT (information technology) hub and business district. While it is serviced by good-quality infrastructure to facilitate this change, it has a poorly designed and maintained street infrastructure, poor pedestrian access and connectivity to public transport and parking issues along its roads. This has resulted in reduced comfort / safety for pedestrians; increased congestion, noise / air pollution as more people use private motorised vehicles and a poor image for MIDC Marol as a business destination. However, its close proximity to good transit system makes it a compelling case to rethink this area as an attractive employment zone.

MIDC Marol
???? Area: 127.52 Ha
???? Planned in 1960s
???? Manufacturing and service industries
???? Amenities: ESIC Hospital, MIDC Marol Depot and SEEPZ Depot

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