Delhi’s new parking policy will be the end of the neighbourhood in absence of an alternative
Delhi has grown around the cult of the car with much of the urbanisation in the city occurring in the southern half which was planned around wider roads. It is no surprise that there are over three million cars registered in Delhi. Add to that other cities that make up the urban agglomeration of the capital – Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Noida, Greater Noida, Faridabad, Sonipat and now even places more further on, the number of cars in the area is estimated at over five million. And that should not be a surprise with vast distances involved inside the city, and one that, for the first half-century after independence, lacked a mass-rapid transit system and a wholly inadequate bus system; car sales skyrocketed to the extent that the National Capital Region in some years has accounted for almost a quarter of overall Indian car sales for many of the past years.
This explosion of cars has led to an expected parking crisis as Delhi has also grown in population. Several planned localities built by the Delhi Development Authority, for example, were designed in the 1960’s and the 1970’s, at the heights of the socialist economy of the day where cars were the preserve of the very rich and, therefore, these middle-class colonies had just sufficient parking space for scooters. As the economy opened up and cars, like the reliable and affordable Maruti 800 came to be, the city took to them rapidly. But as older houses in areas like Greater Kailash were replaced with new apartment-style constructions, and as families acquired their second and third passenger cars, houses with previously enough parking space, for a couple of small or medium cars, now often six to eight cars were plot. Even with innovations such as stilted construction that made for underfloor parking, this has not happened in most houses. As a result neighbourhood streets and pavements are filled choc-a-bloc with cars and the situation in commercial areas is worse. It is not surprising, therefore, that tempers can flare over parking issues. In fact, there has even been the occasional homicide, thanks to parking issues.
But tempers are also bound to flare when people discover that proposals for parking fees for parking on the street would have to be paid by the residents. Delhi’s lack of planned housing and provisions for parking as well as lack of last-mile connectivity for public transport are the excuses that car users will almost certainly give when protesting these rules. However, parking has become so haphazard that in some areas it is a menace to human life as cars and motorcycles block access for emergency vehicles. Much more organised parking has to be built in both residential and commercial areas as well as speeding up work on the fourth-phase of the Delhi Metro. Because these parking fees, unless they are punitive, which they will almost certainly not be, will not discourage car ownership. However, people have to be convinced of the virtues of shared mobility and improved public transport. At the current rate, it appears that the streets of Delhi will resemble permanently jammed parking lots.