Mumbai: If you own a car or a bike, you know that parking space does not come easy in this city. And if you have been in a parking row, you know that the aforesaid is a galling understatement. Finding one is like winning a battle, often more than once, every day. And why shouldn't it be? For the nearly 20 lakh vehicles plying on the city's roads, we have less than 150 legal lots operated by Government agencies, Municipal Corporation, Railways, the MMRDA and the MSRDC all put together.
The disparity, which has vastly jacked up parking charges, has also established parking scuffles as routine phenomena among citizens and parking attendants, even as authorities seem to be looking the other way.
The number of vehicles has gone up from 17.68 lakh in March 2010 to 19.9 lakh up to December 2011. "With the addition of vehicles from Thane and Navi Mumbai, the number has drastically increased. Parking is one of the most important problems. One wrongly parked vehicle can take up an entire lane," said Brijesh Singh, joint commissioner of police (traffic).
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has allotted 2,11,467 sq m of space for cars and 3,195 sq m for two-wheelers. The figure may seem large what with the dearth of space, but a closer look reveals it is woefully inadequate to accommodate the parking needs of so many citizens. Incidentally, these parking lots yield revenue close to Rs 11 crore.
As per the BMC's calculations, a car or jeep would require a slot of 13.75 sq m space for parking, while a two-wheeler would need 2.88 sq m. This would mean that there is space available for not more than 15,380 four-wheelers and 1,109 two-wheelers in the lots provided by the corporation.
The parking lots available with the railways, Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) and the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) within Mumbai's precincts are not enough to solve the problem.
The MMRDA that owns clutches of land around the city has allotted space for 800 vehicles to be parked at the business hub of Bandra-Kurla Complex, 850 vehicles at Nariman Point and 50 at Oshiwara.
MMRDA Joint Project Director Dilip Kawatkar said, "We have provided ample parking space in the areas where we are the special planning authority. There are multilevel car-parkings at BKC and Nariman Point. Other than that, it is the job of other agencies to create parking spaces."
The MSRDC has lots at 17 different locations, like Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road, Sion, Chheda Nagar, Elphinstone Road and Vikhroli, mainly below flyovers.
"These agencies can create premium parking spaces on prime roads like SV Road, Link Road, LBS Road and the two express highways. They can have designated spaces where presently vehicles are illegally parked or charged exorbitantly," said Jagdeep Desai, member, Forum for Improving Quality of Life in Mumbai and Suburbs. There are around 15 parking lots provided by both Western and Central Railways in Greater Mumbai, up to Dahisar and Mulund stations. The railways provide parking beyond the suburbs as well, right up to Dahanu road (WR) and Khopoli and Panvel (CR).
The earnings of the railways are just about Rs 3 crore from parking lots.
Railway officials claim that the parking lots are housed on the railway land and mainly provide respite to owners of two-wheelers who generally park outside stations.
As per available figures, there are three stations in Mumbai - Kurla LTT, Mulund and Mankhurd - where the CR has allotted around 1,700 sq m of land for parking. The remaining lots go beyond Thane and Vashi on Central Main and Harbour lines.
"The high market rate of land makes it difficult for us to identify contractors who would start parking lots on railway land in the city," said a railway official on condition of anonymity.
A host of factors has contributed to the situation that now faces the city.
Transport experts claim that there has been negligible development as far as underground or multilevel parking lots are concerned. "It's been so many years, yet the government hasn't provided sufficient number of multilevel parking lots. When they collect so much tax on vehicles, they should also provide infrastructure for parking," said Nitin Dossa of Western India Automobile Association.
A senior government official on condition of anonymity said that the state government should think of broadening the scope of multi-storey parking, as it is happening half-heartedly in selective areas. "The government should look at giving additional floor space index (FSI) for buildings so they can build multilevel parking. Taxes for parking should also be hiked officially," said a senior government official.
The pitiable condition of public transport has made sure that more private vehicles are piled on to the existing numbers. The overcrowded railways carrying 70 lakh commuters have seen several glitches of late. The fragile fleet of BEST buses, which carries 39 lakh passengers, has witnessed more accidents recently than it has breakdowns, which are frequent. The taxis and auto rickshaws may be slightly better, but the drivers, ill-renowned for their arrogant, fleecing and whimsical ways, make up for what little credit may be given to them.
As such, the public modes of transport provide little incentive to citizens to give up private vehicles. "Residential complexes can come together to pool in for valet drivers who can park at selective locations. Also there is a need for improving mass transport projects. Options of car-pooling should also be seriously considered," said Beena Balkrishanan, transport expert, who had prepared a detailed report on parking issues in the city.
Need for disincentives
Some say that parking rates and penalties should be hiked at premium locations and prime business districts. This would not only reduce the scope for illegal parking but also rake in more revenues for the government. RTO officials claim that this could also help in improving the practice of car-pooling in the city.
Apart from this, it would also eradicate the practice of illegally overcharging followed by contractors. There are different rates applicable at different locations around the city. Rajesh Dalvi, an officegoer at Malad, said, "The contractor charges Rs 50 as the minimum charge for parking on the open road, which is sky-high."
As a deterrent for potential car buyers, the government has hiked the cost of vehicles. Petrol vehicles priced at less than Rs 10 lakh will attract 9 per cent tax. Those priced between Rs 10-20 lakh will attract 10 per cent tax. And vehicles costing more than Rs 20 lakh will attract 11 per cent tax.
The number of vehicles on Mumbai's roads till Dec 2011
Space allotted (in square metres) by the BMC for car parking
Space allotted (in square metres) by BMC to park two-wheelers
Spots of bother for motorists
Location: Rasraj Nullah, near Mithibai College, Vile Parle (West)
I find it extremely difficult to find parking on this road during evening hours and weekends. On an average, I have to drive around for 15 minutes till I find a spot for my car. Since there are restaurants on these roads, most of the space is usurped by them for valet parking. Moreover, there is a bus stop on the road, making it impossible for car owners to park within a few metres of it. I have to drive till the MGCM's pay-and-park facility nearby or the Juhu Scheme. In spite of a parking lot available here, there is constant fear that vehicles may be towed away. Hence, one person has to sit in the car; we can't leave the vehicle vacant.
Dweep Mehta, 24, Chartered Accountant
A lot of luxury buses are parked around Mithibai College, thus leaving very little space for cars. Today I saw authorities towing away parked bikes of students who had gone in the college to appear for their law examination. I went and interrupted them saying that there was no board of 'no parking' in the area and hence it was unacceptable of them to tow the vehicles. Such is the sad state of affairs here.
Swati Gala, lawyer
It is very difficult to find parking on this road during peak hours and weekends. One has to keep driving up and down for a long time till one finds parking space.
Dhriti Kundalia, 23, law student
Location: Balraj Sahani Marg, Juhu
Parking area at Balraj Sahani Marg is mainly used by people visiting the beach or tourists coming to posh hotels and restaurants nearby.
We charge according to the number of hours the vehicles are parked. Otherwise, we charge Rs 65 for a four-wheeler and Rs 35 for a two-wheeler for a day.
Manoj Pandey, parking in-charge
There is hardly any place inside the hotel so we park vehicles on the road.
Jayant Sarkar, owner of a tourist car
In the morning, it is really difficult to find a place to park.
Joaquim Lobo, driver of a tourist car
Location: New Prabhadevi Road, near Marathi Bhavan
This is the only parking lot near Siddhivinayak temple. Devotees park their vehicles here and walk all the way to the temple. Buildings and corporate offices adjacent to it do not have parking spaces on their premises, so residents and employees also leave their vehicles here.
I have no problem parking my car on the road. I don't want to blame anyone because the building has been constructed in such a way that there is hardly any space for parking. My car is safe and very well sheltered by the parking in-charge.
Sunny Puthran, resident
We charge Rs 50 per day while the monthly fee is Rs 1,500 per vehicle.
Vijay Varadkar, parking in-charge
There is no parking inside our building. So I have to park my vehicle on the road. Apart from parking fees, I have to wait at least 20 minutes to search for space for my car.
Shashikaran Kadam, resident of Raj Cooperative Society
Location: Churchgate, Regal Cinema
It is virtually impossible to find parking space in South Mumbai during peak hours. People fortunate enough to have drivers are spared the taxing chore.
Others are forced to park a kilometer away from their destination.
Adding to the frustration is the high parking rates. In busy areas outside the Taj Hotel and Breach Candy, parking rates are Rs 20 per hour. In Colaba, though it is supposed to be Rs 10 per hour in peak hours, drivers are charged Rs 30 per.
Roads A, B, C, D and E in front of Churchgate station provide free parking for several vehicles.
I had to fight with parking attendants (outside Regal Cinema) to bring the charge down to Rs 20 when they said I had to pay Rs 30 per hour.
Dinesh Lad, driver
The parking places around the High Court are always congested. Finding a place here is like a miracle.
Vijay Tiwari, driver
I had parked my car next to Phoenix Mills in Mahalaxmi and when I returned later, I noticed several scratches on my car.
Srinivas Sharma, employee in a private company at Mahalaxmi
Parking on any one of these (Roads A, B, C, D and E) is convenient for me but nothing is certain. There are times when it took me more than an hour to find a parking spot here.
Anil Kumar Mandal, driver
Recently, my bike got towed from Road A as I wasn't aware that parking wasn't allowed here. The no-parking signs are not in clear sight; they are hidden behind trees.
Vivek Yadav, college student
Location: MHADA office, Kalanagar, Bandra (East)
Considering that we have parking space for 50 cars and 100 two wheelers, managing vehicles is not an issue.
BMC parking attendant
Being a frequent visitor at the MHADA office, whenever I come here, I always face parking problems. At times I have to wait for over 30 minutes to get a parking space, as the BMC pay and park area is packed to capacity in the mornings. I feel that there should be a proper parking arrangement in the area, as parking vehicles at other places increases the risk of theft.
Parag Bhargav, motorist
At times these attendants charge us extra. When we ask for a receipt, they tell us that there is no parking space left in the a