An Infographic Blog
Conceptualised and Designed by Kawin Kumaran
Content created by Nashwa Naushad, AV Venugopal
Photographs by TD Achuthan
An Infographic Blog
Conceptualised and Designed by Kawin Kumaran
Content created by Nashwa Naushad, AV Venugopal
Photographs by TD Achuthan
The Pondy Bazaar Pedestrian Plaza, one of Greater Chennai Corporation’s most anticipated projects, was launched with much pomp and show on the 13th November, 2019, by the Hon. Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Thiru Edappadi K. Palaniswami. Spanning over 700m on Sir Thyagaraya Road, the plaza has successfully transformed one of Chennai’s busiest and car-centric shopping streets into a pedestrian promenade by prioritising people over vehicles, and opening up new ways of experiencing the space. With wide and safe pedestrian walkways on both sides, ample shaded seating, beautiful landscape, and colourful play elements, the plaza was designed as a space accessible for all, including women, children, senior citizens and people with disabilities.
A couple with a stroller walks past the parade of shops, the infant’s eyes light up at the brilliant display of wares. A group of young women store-hop, hands full with bulging shopping bags bursting at their seams, but they still want to shop more. An elderly man on a wheelchair swiftly moves through the teeming crowd, pausing at places to enjoy the sights and sounds of the promenade. Musicians take over the streets as people walking by stop to listen, curious and pleasantly surprised. Two generations of family converse over fresh filter coffee, while the third-and the youngest- runs around and plays on the see-saw by the footpath.
Vibrant, attractive, lively, with spaces to walk, run, play, socialize, sit, linger and observe.
A street full of people. A street for people.
This is the New Pondy Bazaar Pedestrian Plaza!
The Pedestrian Plaza project was conceived with the intent of enhancing the unique shopping experience that Pondy Bazaar offers, by reclaiming public space for the shoppers. For the first time, Chennai is looking at a street as not just a mobility corridor, but as a social, public space for everyone, be it families, children, and the elderly.
An open-air mall in the heart of the city!
With the success of the pedestrian plaza, the city now plans to scale up the work by redesigning and developing streets in Chennai to be future-ready and Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) friendly incorporating various aspects of mobility, utility and livability.
The first phase of the Mega Streets project envisions the creation of a network plan and redesign of over 110 km of streets spread across six different neighbourhoods. The network plan will prioritise shaping spaces accommodating the needs of all road users.
With more neighbourhoods set to see a similar transformation, Chennai is surely moving towards better and livelier streets for all!
Written by Aishwarya Soni
Sketch by AV Venugopal
Videos created by Aishwarya Soni, Kawin Kumaran.
Photographs by TD Achuthan, Santhosh Loganaathan
Edited by Keshav Suryanarayanan
Check out our previous blog on how the Pedestrian Plaza reclaims the street for pedestrians and shoppers.
Chennai passed the Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA) Act in 2010 and the Government of Tamil Nadu greenlit its operations earlier this year. Cities like London and Singapore with highly sophisticated city-wide transportation systems today, were in a similar condition to Chennai when they developed their own transportation authorities. As Chennai looks at creating CUMTA, there are many lessons that can be learnt by looking at the challenges cities like London and Singapore faced and how they moved ahead to where they are now.
“Has your daily commute in Chennai changed in the last ten years?”
Most people asked this question today would feel it has changed, but can we say it has changed for the better? Chennai spends more time now being stuck in traffic than a decade ago. Public transportation can be uncomfortable and irregular. Last-mile connectivity options are few, expensive, and often frustrating for most modes of public transportation in the city, including the metro. There is also the problem of the paucity of information. At a time when most of us have smartphones and data plans make it possible for us to live stream a cricket match on them, we still lack real-time information on when the next bus or train on a particular route might arrive. Why is this so? How can we start to address these problems?
Technology in Transportation
There are several steps that can help overcome this: accurate live route information for public transportation, a common electronic payment mechanism, and the creation of fare zones- a section of travel within which a set fare is charged. These are neither unreasonable nor unique demands. In Singapore, for example, the smartphone application for live route information also indicates the availability of seats on a bus. London, meanwhile, is moving towards contactless payments. Imagine being able to pay through your debit card or smart watch on the bus or metro or train instead of using different payment cards on each public transport mode.
How have these cities been able to do it all? What can Chennai and other Indian cities learn in order to make these necessary technological interventions and create a world class public transportation system?
One City, One Transport Authority
Central to addressing these issues is understanding the importance and role of a single city-level institution dedicated to the governance of various public transport systems in the city. Chennai today has 10 different agencies running public transportation: one each for the bus system, the suburban rail and metro rail. In addition, there are different agencies in charge of roads, enforcement, etc. One of the key challenges is the lack of coordination between the various departments. Several government agencies are responsible for individual aspects of transportation and there needs to be effective coordination between them for smooth progress to avoid delays and inefficiencies. This can be facilitated by creating a single agency to bring the different departments together. In creating such an agency we can look to different cities which have tried and achieved this. Consider the example of London, the default case study for efficient urban transportation today.
London’s transportation landscape was as fragmented as Chennai’s today. London faced similar challenges, and different companies were responsible for operating the public bus, underground train and tram services. Further complications arose due to the existence of several train and tram companies in London.
In 2000, London created Transport for London(TfL) to bring them all together. TfL is responsible for the day-to-day operation of all public transport networks in London and the city’s main roads. The public transportation system of London was completely transformed by working under one institution, resulting in the integration of these different modes and their access through one common mobility card called Oyster. TfL’s Open Data policy has also enabled software developers to create apps that people of London can use to access real-time information for public transportation and plan their journey.
London is not the only city with a common authority for urban transportation though. Many cities around the world – including Singapore, New York, Lagos – have one. Many Indian cities, including Chennai and Bangalore are now considering a Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA).
CUMTA moves ahead
First described in India’s National Urban Transport Policy, 2006, the Government of India recommended an UMTA be set up in all million-plus cities for “coordinated planning and implementation of urban transport programs and projects and an integrated management of urban transport systems”
Finding merit in the concept, Chennai passed the Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (CUMTA) Act in 2010. The strength of CUMTA will lie in its ability to bring together the multiple agencies that are represented on its board. As a coordinating body, it can help institute integrated transport planning and decision making for Chennai as a whole. CUMTA can help give direction to the individual agencies and to the government’s overall transport strategy.
Earlier this year, CUMTA’s operations were greenlit by the Government of Tamil Nadu. As the institution comes into service, Chennai has the opportunity to radically transform its public transportation infrastructure. Learning from cities like London and Singapore which have overcome their fragmented systems to become leaders in the field of urban transportation will benefit both CUMTA and Chennai greatly.
Written by Varun Sridhar
Edited by Keshav Suryanarayanan, AV Venugopal
Upcoming: Part 2 of the CUMTA series
ITDP spoke to Mr. Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer and Director of Customer Experiences at Transport for London, about CUMTA’s role in defining the future of mobility in Chennai. Watch out for our next blog that will describe Mr.Verma’s inputs and recommendations/directions for the city and the institution.
An Infographic Blog
Conceptualised and Designed by Kawin Kumaran, Aishwarya Soni
Content created by Nashwa Naushad, AV Venugopal
Photographs by TD Achuthan
The French philosopher and sociologist Henri Lefebvre interpreted space as an entity that is not static, but one that is alive and dynamically shaped through the interaction of people with it. He stressed on the importance of the production of space through these social relations over merely treating space as an object. We, however, live in a world which largely follows the technocratic planning principles for managing these spaces, rather than embracing the relations that form them.
Through understanding the relationship between people and their surrounding environment inherent to every space, the cities can ensure a demand-driven approach to solution making, where decisions are largely tailor-made than mass produced to the context. This will ensure a multidisciplinary approach to solution making, where there is open knowledge sharing and a collaborative work of different stakeholders. An intervention will thus have more credibility when it is shaped through a participatory approach involving all participants who have a stake in it.
An interesting example of how the participatory deliberation of the people can shape spaces they live in was observed in the case of the tactical urbanism intervention along the Sringeri Mutt Road, facilitated by ITDP India Programme in Chennai. The quick and cost-effective initiative that was largely community driven, was aimed at enhancing the road and personal safety of the neighborhood, primarily women and children.
Deepening Democracy: Innovations in Empowered Participatory Governance by A. Fung and O. Wright highlights three key principles of Empowered Deliberative Democracy which seem to be strongly embraced in this case.
The first principle speaks of ‘practical orientation’ of having a specific focus on tangible problems, which helps solve it through the next two principles. With abandoned vehicles and unauthorized parking lining the stretch along the canal, the dead spaces had become a breeding hub for anti-social activities. The tangible problems in this case were identified as the need to enhance road and personal safety for the street users in the neighborhood.
The second principle is about ‘bottom up participation’ which calls for including people directly affected by the problems, to serve as a channel for experts and citizens to work together. The direct involvement helps in increasing efficiency, trust, and accountability. The ITDP India Programme was able to measure the root cause of the concerns through initiating dialogues with the different stakeholders in the neighborhood. Those who faced the brunt were frequent users of the street, which were the local residents and the students and teachers of the neighboring school. The different layers of the problem were gradually unwrapped through site visits and discussions with these users
The third principle on ‘deliberative solution generation’ involves joint planning and problem solving through a process of deliberation. The participants hear out each other’s concerns and work together towards developing a solution through discussions than heated arguments.The fresh lease of life that the space witnessed was due to the efforts of the Chennai Traffic Police, Greater Chennai Corporation, civic action groups like Thiruveedhi Amman Koil Street Residents Association (TAKSRA) and Karam Korpom, Chennai High School (Mandaveli) and the ITDP India Programme.
This case showed alternate approaches to transformations that a city can witness, where deciphering the needs and solutions is a joint process with the people involved, than a top-down approach.
The intervention on the ground, its success and the interest it has lit amongst the city officials to scale- up, draws parallels to stage model of social innovation discussed by Robin Murray, Geoff Mulgan and Julie Grice.
The tactical urbanism solution as a prototype addressed the poor social conditions that prevailed. The smiles that it achieved in bringing to the faces of the children and other users have reflected the triumph of the approach and the city is pushing towards scaling up these quick, low cost and community driven interventions to other areas.
Pugalis and Giddings in their work on ‘The renewed right to urban life’ extends on the Lefebvrian philosophy which values the coproduction of space. They bring up the concept and importance of ‘little victories’, small wins that add up to create strong ripples capable of bringing a systemic change. A systemic change involves the gradual reshaping of mindsets that have been accustomed to a set machinery and distribution of power. These steps to scale up the interventions, however reflect the possibility of bringing a systemic change that values the collaborative approach to decision making, by prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable users. The interest of the city to facilitate this decentralized approach, indirectly shapes this into a coordinated decentralized system, taking the best of both systems.
As a country that has shaped through over seventy years of democratic politics, there is an inherent need to see citizenship as something that is as dynamic as a space itself. Urbanist Luigi Maza speaks of the dual nature of citizenship, one that is not just a bundle of rights and obligations, but a dynamic social process of the citizens contributing to the production of spaces, redesigning its rules and obligations. As the city adopts new ways of decision making, the citizens also have to start thinking outside the walls of the homes they have built and see the entire city as their home and contribute towards improving it. After all, as Jane Jacobs rightly put it, ‘Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody’.
Written by AV Venugopal
Edited by Kashmira Dubash
With a spring in their step and a song in their heart, elated school children walk along a vibrant walkway and cross over the new zebra crossing to reach their school. Thanks to the efforts of the Chennai Traffic Police, Greater Chennai Corporation, civic action groups Thiruveedhi Amman Koil Street Residents Association (TAKSRA) and Karam Korpom, Chennai High School (Mandaveli), and ITDP India Programme, Sringeri Mutt Road in Chennai has been given a fresh lease of life.The quick tactical urbanism intervention, using temporary measures such as paints and traffic cones, has helped reclaim the street for pedestrians, especially the children who use this street to access the seven schools in the neighbourhood, providing them with a safe and lively walking experience.
The menace that was
The school authorities further shared that a majority of the students walk to school. However, the adjoining footpath is uneven and dotted with obstructions that force pedestrians to spill over onto the road and into the swarm of motorists, putting them at even further risk.
Even the residents echoed much of the same concerns regarding safety. With abandoned vehicles and unauthorised parking lining the stretch along the canal, the dead space had become a breeding hub for anti-social activities. A survey among the street users, conducted by the ITDP India Programme, indicated that two out of three users felt unsafe to walk down the Sringeri Mutt Road after sunset.
Tired of living in the fear of using their own street, resident associations came forward to kindle a new approach to driving change.
The transformation brought about by TAKSRA along with ‘Karam Korpom – Stop Abusing Public Spaces’, a group that reclaims public spaces through art, displays the power of community-driven initiatives. Their work has inspired neighbouring groups and other communities in Chennai to take up the mantle for reclaiming their streets. The makeover of Sringeri Mutt Road is yet another instance of residents rolling up their sleeves to revive a desolate area into a vibrant community space.
Turning over a new leaf
In the first step towards Sringeri Mutt Road’s makeover, abandoned vehicles were towed off by the Chennai Traffic Police. To liven the dead space, the walls on both sides were given a fresh coat of paint. Following which, students, volunteers, and even excited traffic officials were given paint cans and brushes to let their imaginations run wild on these blank canvases. Next, a quick, impromptu tactical urbanism intervention was conducted.
Within a matter of days, the stretch that once instilled fear was transformed into a safe and colourful walkway. Post-intervention surveys show that over 90% of the users now feel safer in using the street.
Tamil Nadu has constantly hit the headlines for the dubious distinction of leading the country’s road fatality figures. In 2017 itself, the state recorded an abhorrent 3,500 pedestrian deaths in traffic accidents. The traffic police, therefore, is resolute in taking steps towards improving road safety for all users – most importantly, children. Measures like tactical urbanism interventions are significant in helping the cause and hence, public support for such movements are imperative for scaling this up successfully to more areas.
The case of the Sringeri Mutt Road makeover is an encouraging example of citizens shaping their public spaces and doing their bit to make streets safer. These small-scale initiatives feed into the ongoing work of creating a city-wide network of streets that facilitate safe walking and cycling for all. With over 1,500 anganwadis in the city, the Chennai Corporation envisions to improve the mobility to all anganwadis and schools, thereby making a leap towards child-friendly cities.
Let’s hope that the transformation witnessed along Sringeri Mutt Road sets the ball rolling for more community-driven initiatives. Such quick, low-cost, and scalable interventions are bound to catalyze long-term changes across the city.
Written by: Aishwarya Soni; A V Venugopal
Edited by: Nashwa Naushad; Rohit James
Video Credits : Santhosh Loganaathan, Aishwarya Soni and TD Achuthan
Having successfully created over 100 km of Complete Streets with wide and vibrant footpaths, Chennai is now expanding its efforts! The city aims to create a master plan for a city-wide network of streets for walking and cycling, along with adopting Street Design Guidelines to guide all future projects.
“The engineering team in Chennai has already been involved in many street redesign projects and has a lot of ideas. The stage is set, now we just need to scale up the work and transform Chennai with a Non-Motorised Transport master plan,” said the newly appointed Commissioner of Greater Chennai Corporation G Prakash, IAS, at an internal kick-off workshop on 8 March, 2019.
The day-long workshop, held by the Greater Chennai Corporation with technical support from the ITDP India Programme, was set with a dual agenda. Firstly, it aimed to establish the vision for Chennai to create a Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) master plan and to identify the process to develop the same. Secondly, it aimed at the dissemination of information from the design guidelines to the engineers and officials from various departments of the city.
Through a hands-on and participatory exercise, participants were able to give feedback to improvise the guidelines. The workshop brought together over 60 participants, comprising of engineers and officials from different departments of the Greater Chennai Corporation.
All global metropolitans, including Indian ones, are waking to the realisation that it is imperative to prioritise walking and cycling while planning cities. To quote placemaking pioneer Fred Kent, “If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.”
“With over 100 km of streets reclaimed for pedestrians and cyclists, Chennai is certainly on the right track of prioritising people over motorised transport,” said L Nandakumar, chief engineer of the Greater Chennai Corporation, while presenting various street transformations and laurels the city has achieved over the years.
The need for an NMT master plan was highlighted by Aswathy Dilip, Senior Programme Manager at the ITDP India Programme, who spoke of the requirement for bringing a network approach in the planning of projects in the city. This will help scale up the existing projects, ensuring the street transformations are not scattered and instead done in a holistic manner. An NMT master plan will ensure the promotion of environmentally friendly modes that encourage healthy lifestyles. It will also contribute to social equity by improving accessibility to work and home for all cross sections of the society.
The proposed approach for the Chennai NMT master plan is in line with the Tamil Nadu Mega Streets Programme, that plans to redesign 1,600 km of roads across ten corporations in the state.
Chennai Street Design Guidelines
Over the past few years, Chennai has been taking great efforts to create safe, walkable, and livable streets that cater to all user groups. Known as Complete Streets, these are designed with wide and continuous footpaths, safe pedestrian crossings, dedicated cycle tracks (where applicable), conveniently placed bus stops, clearly designated on-street parking, organised street vending, and properly-scaled carriageways.
With many more streets in the pipeline to be redesigned by the Greater Chennai Corporation, the NMT master plan looks to drive this vision through with a set of guidelines to direct the design and implementation process. The main focus being to improve the user experience and ensure seamless connectivity. As a result, the state is planning to adopt the Chennai Street Design Guidelines—which draws from various Indian Roads Congress guidelines and also from the city’s own learnings from its street design experience.
The guidelines aim to create streets for all users. It is intended for urban designers and most importantly, government officials and citizens who look to inhabit better quality urban environment and bring back life into our city streets. For this purpose, the design guide identifies the different functions of streets and emphasises the need for complete streets that accommodates all.
Besides the step-by-step design process chart, the guidelines offer designers a checklist of information to be collected prior to designing the street. It also highlights the various elements that form a complete street. Through street and intersection templates, one can get a sense of how different elements come together to create different types and sizes of streets.
To better understand the concept of Complete Streets, the engineers, at the workshop, were engaged through a hands on exercise to use the guidelines to redesign a city stretch. As interest grew in the exercise so did the valuable feedbacks, which have been noted and the ITDP India Programme will work to improve suitably.
In 2014, Chennai set an example for the rest of the country by adopting the non-motorised transport (NMT) policy. It sent out a clear message: Chennai prioritised its people over cars. By creating a master plan for a city-wide Complete Streets network and adopting the Street Design Guidelines, the city is adding more feathers to its already illustrious cap. These moves reflect Chennai’s commitment to create safe streets that consider the needs of all users.
Written by A V Venugopal
Edited by Rohit James and Kashmira Medhora Dubash
Chennaites’ love story with Pondy Bazaar is one which spans across many generations, long before shopping malls sprouted across the city. It continues to weave its charm, attracting people from all walks of life across the world to be a part of this unique shopping experience. “Since my childhood I have been coming here for shopping. The experience of walking from shop to shop with my parents is a fond memory, which I am reliving now with my kids,” said Mr.Balaji, a 46-year old shopper. For him and many others, Pondy Bazaar is not just a space, but an emotion. To further enhance this feeling and the overall experience, Chennai Smart City Ltd. and Greater Chennai Corporation with design support from Darashaw and Studio R+R is implementing the much-awaited pedestrian plaza along Thyagaraya Road, the 1.4 km stretch of Pondy Bazaar between Panagal Park and Mount Road.
While the city is eagerly anticipating the plaza, local shopkeepers are concerned that the removal of cars and parking from Thyagaraya road might affect their sales. To understand the ground reality and possible solutions to address their concerns, the ITDP India Programme conducted a public opinion survey. Results show that only 25% of the shoppers visiting Pondy Bazaar park on Thyagaraya Road. These vehicles can be accommodated in the side streets and around Panagal Park, which is already preferred due to the availability of parking. The shoppers are eagerly looking forward to the vibrant pedestrian plaza, expressing their preference for an unhindered shopping space over cars!
Over the years, cars have gradually been dominating the street space, making life difficult for the shoppers. “I take fifteen minutes to cross this road! Accidents! Pollution! There is no peace of mind, and it’s because of the traffic,” said a survey respondent. Pondy Bazaar has become vehicle centric, taking space away from the public.
The pedestrian plaza planned by the city with support from the ITDP India Programme, is envisioned as an attractive public space for shoppers. With continuous pedestrian walkways, ample opportunity for seating, comfortable tree cover, and colourful play elements, the plaza will be easily accessible for women, children, senior citizens and people with disabilities.
The project aims at transforming the street to encourage more people to walk, shop and wander, without the fear of accidents. It will enhance pedestrian and cyclist safety, foster community interaction, and boost local businesses. Once implemented, the Thyagaraya Road will prioritise public transport and cars will not be allowed. By transforming the shopping street from a car-centric to a people-centric space, the pedestrian plaza will result in better air quality, health, and wellbeing of the users.
The citizens had a glimpse of the new Pondy Bazaar experience during the trial runs held in November 2016 and February 2017. With cars stopped from entering Thyagaraya Road, traffic progressed smoothly and shoppers had more room for walking and other fun activities and games. The space was filled with laughter, smiles, and a new-found energy, showing the impact the proposal could have on the users, for generations to come.
Despite the excitement for this project, the local shopkeepers have raised concerns about the impact of pedestrianisation on their revenue. With the proposed multi-level car park still under construction, the shopkeepers are worried that shoppers would drive away to other destinations with better parking facilities. To understand the actual travel needs of the shoppers, the ITDP India Programme conducted an on-ground survey of over 500 shoppers, in collaboration with the RVS School of Architecture.
The survey showed that over half of the shoppers reach Pondy Bazaar by means of public transport, walking or cycling. Amongst the private motor vehicle users, more than half already park on the side streets and at Panagal Park. While Thyagaraya Road has a capacity of roughly 200 vehicles, the side streets which are currently under-utilised for parking, can accommodate nearly 500 parked vehicles.
Therefore, one possible and feasible solution is to shift parking from Thyagaraya Road to the side streets, through an effective parking management system. Demand-based parking fees combined with strong enforcement will ensure that cars are not irresponsibly parked in front of residence gates or on footpaths. This will also help shoppers find parking spots more conveniently through their phones, saving time, and fuel.
When asked about accessing Thyagaraya Road from the side streets, 78 percent of the users felt it was easy to park on the side streets and walk to the shops. A whopping 94 percent of the shoppers expressed how they were looking forward to a Pondy Bazaar, free of cars and designed for the pedestrians.
Pondy Bazaar has always been and will continue to remain a strong evergreen sentiment. By prioritising pedestrians, especially children, elderly and other vulnerable users over vehicles in the Pedestrian Plaza, Chennai is opening up new ways of experiencing the space. The people and their interactions make a city. The Pedestrian Plaza is bound to attract more locals and foreigners, boost the economy and above all, enhance the identity of this shopping hub.
Written by AV Venugopal
Edited by Kashmira Medhora Dubash
In the 1970s when Joni Mitchell crooned “Big Yellow Taxi”, not many realised the clairvoyance and the forewarning that the song’s lyrics expressed. Though every bit of the lyric has its own essence and social messaging, the starting couplet is resounding. The verse—“They paved paradise, And put up a parking lot”—held a mirror up to society, and here we are four decades later, perplexed and baffled as to how we got here.
Automobiles are the scourge that drive up emission levels and other environmental issues, yet their numbers continue to rise unabashed. As per a report by the Centre for Science and Environment (Delhi), it took India 60 years (1951-2008) to cross the mark of 105 million registered vehicles. The same number of vehicles were added in a mere six years (2009 – 2015) thereafter!
But when you throw ill-conceived parking systems into this mix, it is like taking gasoline to a firefight. The backlash of this self-inflicted problem is found in every nook and corner of our cities, in all sorts of positions (angular, parallel, perpendicular) and scales (on-street, multi-level, automated).
In India, the conversation surrounding parking management is kindled every now and then, only to be impounded with plans of creating more parking spaces. Or even worse, buried six-foot deep with a parking lot as a symbolical headstone. Irony at its best.
So, why is it that dialogues on parking and its management generate public ire, whereas implausible measures—such as unchecked on-street free parking and multi-level parking—venerated. The answer lies in the psyche of vehicle owners and commuters in general, who lay fodder to a whole bunch of myths regarding parking management.
Now, what are these myths and how do the arguments hold; well, not as solid as the ground their vehicles are parked on.
Let’s deduce this argument with the adage, “Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins”. A citizen has the liberty to own a vehicle, but it doesn’t entitle them to occupy a public space of their fancy. Furthermore, no text, context, and subtext of a right allows for the infringement of someone else’s right. Whereas, parking poses as an obstruction for someone to use that common public space from walking or cycling.
Clearly, parking is not a right or an entitlement, but a privilege which needs to be charged and heavily at that. A parking fee must be charged proportional to demand, factoring in criteria such as location, time of day, duration of parking, and category of vehicle (defined by size and type).
Take the case of Ranchi, where a pilot parking management project on the arterial MG Road stretch led to a 12-fold increase in parking revenue. Even the state of Jharkhand, spurred by the revenue spike at Ranchi’s pilot parking management project, invested efforts to regulate parking as a statewide policy. According to reports, Greater Chennai Corporation stands to gain Rs 55 crore per year in revenue from the pricing of about 12,000 ECS (equivalent car spaces) of parking in Chennai: a whopping 110 times increase in revenue from what it presently earns.
Cities can innovatively use parking revenue to encourage sustainable modes of transport. For example, Bicing—the public cycle-sharing program in Barcelona—is financed by its parking revenue. London’s Freedom Pass, which allows elderly (60+) and disabled residents to use public transport for free, is funded by the parking fees collected in many boroughs. You can find more about these cases and other best practices in ITDP’s publication, Europe’s Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation.
As per Dalia Research, the average global commute time per workday is 1 hour 9 minutes, India’s commute estimate hovers around 1 hour 31 minutes. That figure helps us to the third spot in the global list, behind only Israel and the UAE. So does the solution of offering more parking space offer a concession on congestion, the answer is and has always been in the negative.
An analogy often used while talking about urban commute is “Travel time was so much lesser when there were lesser vehicle!”. Hence, parking is to private vehicles, what flame is to moths. More parking only begets more private vehicles to hit the road.
An excessive supply of parking will only encourage people to use personal motor vehicles—even when good public transport is available. Cities, therefore, need to limit total parking supply, including off-street and on-street parking. Based on the capacity of the road network, cities must set caps on the total quantum of parking available in each zone.
Most cities invest in developing multi-level car parks to resolve parking woes. But examples, from across the world and India, clearly indicate that it is a myopic attempt. Over time such infrastructures only turn into ‘big white elephants’.
Take the example of Bengaluru’s 11 multi-storeyed parking complexes—Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Company (BMTC) owns nine and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) owns two. According to a Bangalore Mirror report, these “ghost storey” parking lots barely have 20-30% occupancy, reason being parking on roads or pavements is easier, since it is free and the safer.
“Multi-level car parking doesn’t solve parking woes, better on-street management does. Multi-level parking structures remain empty while people continue to park on the streets as long as it remains free and unenforced,” said Shreya Gadepalli, ITDP India Programme Lead. Thus, cities must manage and enforce on-street parking effectively before building any off-street parking facilities, public, or private.
In 2009, Janette Sadik-Khan, the then transportation commissioner of New York City, envisioned Times Square to be a car-free zone. That is, the hub would be less of a conduit for vehicles and an urban space where people could freely walk, sightsee, dine, and take in the magnanimity that is New York. Though there were initial reservations, the results were quite remarkable and by 2010 the changes were made permanent. Citylab reported that “business for merchants in the area was booming, and travel times for cars actually went down”.
There are plenty of such examples be it Hong Kong—where demand for commercial establishments rose post pedestrianisation, Copenhagen—a pilot pedestrian project from 1962 has since reclaimed 100,000 sq.m of motorised transit. Here in India, the Mall Road in Shimla, Temple Street in Madurai, and Heritage Street in Amritsar are examples of how reinventing urban design to focus on pedestrianisation does not affect commercial establishment as feared.
People over parking: regulations allows better streets, better cities, better lives
In conclusion, the need of the hour is to regulate parking, not to take it off the table. Policies which focus on parking management not only help in easing congestion, emissions, and travel time, but also are a feasible revenue generation model for a city. A robust management system clearly defines parking zones, pegs user fee to demand, and uses an IT-based mechanism for information, payment, and enforcement—discussed at length in ITDP’s Parking Basics.
The conversation revolving around parking management has been catching up, with ITDP India Programme offering plausible solutions to cities. Leading the conversation is Pune, which is on the verge of implementing a parking management policy—a demand-based parking system that smoothens traffic movement.
Multiple studies allude that personal cars and two-wheelers occupy most of our street space, yet serve less than a fourth of all trips. They also sit idle for 95 per cent of the time—consuming over a third of street space that could be used more effectively as footpaths, cycle tracks, and bus rapid transit (BRT). The discourse over urban mobility shouldn’t revolve around parking, rather the onus must be on transit-oriented development. Wherein, last-mile connectivity and rapid system of transit ensure movement of people and not just vehicles. As cities evolve, there is an urgent need to step away from an oblivious “man proposes and parking disposes” mentality.
More resources from ITDP on parking management and reforms: