Is free parking on Indian public roads necessary?

Free Parking

The Central Government’s 2011 National Transport Development Policy Committee (NTDPC) report states that parking is not a right but a privilege. A user must pay the full cost of the parking facility based on the land opportunity cost, capital cost, O&M costs and temporal demand. However, this is something that many car owners in India don’t understand.

Rise in income, increase in vehicular demand and the aspirational value attached to owing a car has lead to a shortage of parking spaces. In a country like India, where it took 60 years to acquire 100 million vehicles but added another 100 million in just the next ten years, free parking has become both a serious urban planning and public health issue. Lack of parking spaces and the ever-increasing traffic jams are mainly due to haphazard parkings, which is the result of not putting a price on using up public space. One must realise that just as we pay taxes on fuel and vehicles, the state is not obliged to offer a free parking on public roads, as vehicles are private goods and not public.

According to experts when vehicles are parked on public roads, it is simply an act of privatising public space. When the government provides parking for free, it is actually subsidising the storage of private goods. But since vehicles need to be driven around to be productive, the government may oblige their owners by providing storage spaces at the right price. Gradually, the paid parking policy should be applied to all major roads, for paid parking is the best way to tackle the problem of haphazard parking. In a paid parking regime, people will have to either park at designated spaces or make different commuting choices, experts added.

Kshitij Batra and Rohan Shridhar, Policy Researchers, IDFC Institute, Mumbai further mention, “Many Indian cities require developers to build a car park for each apartment, regardless of whether the occupant can afford a car or if the building is situated near a mass transit system. The current master plan for Delhi (2021) stipulates a minimum of two parking slots per 100 sq m of residential construction for housing across the city and three for commercial areas. The National Building Code, 2016 also recommends two parking spaces per 100 sq m of residential group and the cluster housing constructed across the country. Through such rules, municipalities are essentially pricing out families relying on public transport from cities. Even investments in public transportation cannot fully undo the negative effects of these rules.”

In the National Transport Development Policy Committee (NTDPC) report, published by the Union Ministry of Urban Development in 2011, similar suggestions against free or low-cost parking are made. The following are some of the salient points:

1) All parking should be off-street. There should be no conflict between motorised vehicles and those who want to walk or bicycle. Walking and using a bicycle should become the favoured and most common mode of urban transport.

2) The National Urban Transport Policy has advocated the levying of high parking fee that represents the value of land occupied and to allocate parking space to public transport and non-motorised transport on priority.

3) Private vehicles must be parked on a fully-paid, rented or owned space. Proof of the same must be furnished before registering a private vehicle.

4) Parking management is to be used as a demand management tool to decrease theuse of private vehicles and thus, reduce the overall demand for parking, and shift travel to public transport, para-transport and non-motorised modes.

Many studies have proven that reduction in traffic congestion and limiting the dependency on private vehicles will be observed if only charging on street parking on major roads in a transparent manner is implemented and using the generated revenue to better design and manage the roads.