Special: On the road: Whose space is it anyway?

In a city running terribly short of parking space in all public spaces including shopping centres, anyone would have welcomed a pay and park facility.
But the move to regulate chaotic conditions on roads by implementing a parking policy formulated by Directorate of Urban Land Transport, has ignited fears that things may go terribly wrong with the parking mafia regaining its stranglehold over residents and fleecing them.
Prakruti Koratagere examines the pros and cons of the proposed policy.
Finding a solution to the city’s parking troubles has never been easy. The parking mafia, fake parking slots, harassment for tendering of right change, and collection of excess fee succeeded in ousting the city’s ‘Pay and park’ scheme in 2005.
Unfazed, the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) has bravely announced another scheme for the city: An ABC zone parking policy covering as many as 85 major roads.
Motorists, used to going round in circles to find a parking slot in  the busy Central Business District (CBD) of the city and nearby areas, are not overjoyed.
While agreeing that ‘pay and park’ may be a sound policy in principle, they feel it doesn’t make sense for the BBMP to charge people without providing them proper parking facilities.
“Nothing about the BBMP’s actions in the past concerning Brigade Road gives us the confidence that this scheme will proceed as smoothly as it is making it seem,” says civic expert, V. Ravichander.  
The concept of paid parking is being re-introduced in the city based on the results of a study conducted by the DULT, which revealed there was a demand for parking of 4,800 cars and 10,000 two-wheelers in the area concerned and it would only increase in years to come. 
The solution was paid parking, it said. And so has begun the latest ‘Bengaluru initiative for parking,’ with the BBMP specifying that the parking contracts will last for five years and parking fee collected though a fully automated system to reduce chances of tampering.
A voluntary group, the ‘Save Bengaluru Committee’, fighting to solve many of the civic problems confronting the city, sees it as an ‘anti-people move’.
Its convener, V. N. Raja Shekhar, says the Rs 80 crore which the BBMP is hoping to earn as revenue from the parking fee, is paltry compared to the amount that will actually be collected and go unaccounted for.
“A major chunk of this amount will go to the contractors and not really increase the BBMP’s revenue,” he contends, lamenting the civic body giving in to the 'contractors’ lobby'.
But entrepreneur and political leader, R. K. Misra, feels that if you have a car, you should  be able to afford a parking fee. “The reality is that the BBMP is bankrupt, so this is a good way to help decongest the city’s roads and also generate revenue. To make sure the parking mafia doesn’t step in, the tender should not be given to local corporators, but to private and professional companies,” he suggests.
Will electronic meters solve the problem?
Bengalureans are being squeezed to the hilt: petrol prices have gone up by Rs 8 in the last one year, milk prices have been revised twice, guidance values have been modified, vegetable prices have skyrocketed and now a parking fee that will leave motorists short of at least Rs 800 to Rs 1,000 a month is in the offing.
Explaining the scheme, the BBMP says electronic meters will be installed to collect the parking fee via swipe cards, mobile applications and RFID in every zone.
Each road will be equipped with an electronic display to show the availability of parking slots and CCTV cameras installed in zones will capture improper parking and violations. The meters, electronic displays and CCTV will be centralized and monitored from a control room.
Students however, are not too keen on the rates. Says 20-year-old Sneha D, “I normally travel to Brigade Road, MG Road and Indiranagar almost every weekend. The parking fee is  exorbitant and will definitely burn a hole in our pockets. But carpooling with my friends could help solve the problem as we could split the fee. My main hesitation in using public transport is that the buses are sometimes unreliable and I don’t always feel as safe in them as I do in my own vehicle.”
Businessman K. Prakash (58), who has to travel back and forth between his office in Vijaynagar and different parts of the CBD, is more positive about the scheme. “As long as there are fully automated parking meters installed in all the zones, I wouldn’t mind paying on an hourly basis. At least this policy will help increase the likelihood of finding parking spaces on busy, commercial roads and save precious time,” he says. 
What’s in store?
DULT has proposed three parking packages— A, B and C. While A is meant for premium parking, B is for business zones and C for other areas.
Drivers of four-wheelers will have to pay Rs 30, Rs 20, and Rs 15 per hour in A, B, and C areas respectively.
Two-wheeler riders, on the other hand, will have to pay Rs 15, Rs 10, and Rs 5 in the same areas. DULT has suggested that only half the amount be charged if vehicles are parked for half an hour and bicycle riders be exempted from paying a fee. 
School and mini-buses should be charged 50 per cent more than cars for parking and trucks and buses banned from parking on crowded roads, it says.

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