Dec 02 - 15, 2002

The district governments under the elected Nazims have taken over many civic administration responsibilities in Karachi, Lahore and other places. Cities and towns were facing a host of civic problems because of the past neglect. The Nazims and their teams comprising elected representatives and the government officials have already started concrete actions to make the cities and towns more livable. Large-scale activities for repairing roads; improving sanitation and some other civic projects are being completed at fast pace and the results are now becoming visible. However, the scope and full impact of their efforts is predicated to resource availability and the priority accorded to a particular function in a given locality. This paper offers certain suggestions to the authorities for easing parking situation in the city, for reducing congestion and accident hazards on roads and thus improving quality of life of the people.

Vehicles, the means of transport for goods, are very important for facilitating all economic and commercial activities the world over. The types of vehicles plying on Karachi roads include trucks, tankers, buses, cars, taxis, rickshaws, vans, and so on. In addition there are animal driven carts such as camel carts, donkey carts, horse buggies, and bullock carts. In Karachi, the number of motor vehicles is in hundreds of thousands, and is fast increasing. Position is more or less similar in Lahore and other big cities. These days even the towns have considerable population of motorized vehicles though, there the proportion of animal driven carts is higher. During day we often see traffic congestions on the roads, which mostly are in poor condition. Traffic and parking muddle is worse in and around commercial areas in all cities. Numerous potholes on the roads make driving slow, difficult and dangerous, particularly when the available road space is reduced due to the parking of vehicles, often on both sides. A large part of the blame for the situation is attributed to the lack of proper parking places.

KMC has initiated charged car parking on the roads in Karachi. This provides some solace in that due to the vehicles are parked in an organized manner. However, as additional parking spaces have not been developed, beyond that it does not help much and the traffic flow is slow and irregular. Wide shoulders on the roads can be used for parking but there are not many roads of this type. In Karachi, there is shortage of safe parking space. Traffic flow can be improved and accident hazards reduced if more parking lots are developed at suitable places. Both the public and private sectors can contribute in the construction and operation of proper parking lots.

Secure parking is the dream of every vehicle owner. All vehicles need some sort of parking space in and around commercial areas, business centers, railway stations, schools, colleges, universities and so many other establishments. Persons using personal cars for coming to office are mostly obliged to park the vehicles on the road-side as the office blocks or commercial buildings provide limited parking slots, which are mostly reserved for senior officers or the owners. The shopkeepers mostly park near or in front of their shops. The pedestrians and the customers, particularly the families with children are inconvenienced. The position is particularly critical near hospitals and schools. Due to parking on the roadside the flow of traffic is at snail's pace. The pedestrians feel more uncomfortable as they are forced to walk in the middle of the roads, the footpaths being usurped by the vendors. The situation calls for urgent corrective measures.

Design of policy for developing proper parking lots and its implementation calls for careful thought. Most of the policies and methods used in one city may be duplicated in other cities with ease, but some provision may be kept for the exceptions. Each civic authority has to decide on how best to develop the facilities and to operate them at reasonable cost to vehicle owners. Depending upon the need and the particular location, open parking lots may be developed. Alternately, covered multi-storey car parks may be constructed in particularly congested areas. The city government might decide on other matters such as involvement of the private sector in construction and management of the vehicle parks, level of fees to be collected for the facilities in different areas, restrictions on flow of traffic in business or high commercial areas, etc. This may be determined in the light of total population of vehicles, types and sizes, public and private ownership as well as the resources the civic authorities wish to commit each year for building and / or developing the infrastructure. The arrangements that are fair and equitable to all parties involved are generally more durable and may be opted in the democratic society.

It is a big challenge to build proper parking facilities in large cities, such as Karachi and Lahore, which are densely populated, have large and varied population of vehicles, but where only limited open spaces space is available near commercial areas. The situation may not be so complex in other areas. Therefore, the parking facilities may be developed or provided as per the situation on ground at each location. The following type of parking facilities might be considered for Karachi:

Parking and repair yards for extra-long and long trailers near the Karachi Port and the Bin Qasim Port as well as similar yards on the Super Highway near Toll Plaza. Now that the Northern By-pass is also being constructed proper space along it may be provided for developing similar facilities there.

Parking and repair yards for oil tankers near refineries and adjacent to the petrol pumps, powerhouses and industrial units consuming large amount of petroleum products or chemicals. Separate parking and repair yards may be developed for water tankers, trucks, buses, coaches, mini-buses and vans.

New terminals with parking space may be encouraged for buses, mini-buses, coaches, taxis, rickshaws and vans. Existing terminals in Karachi mostly lack many facilities and the number of the terminals is also not adequate. More terminals particularly for out-stations vehicles need to be developed. If private sector is associated, they can share the function with the city government and make some profit in the process.

Open and covered parking spaces for cars, taxis, vans and motorcycles are needed. In addition, roadside space for parking may be selectively developed for cars, taxis, vans and motorcycles for short duration stays. Parking space is also needed for cars, rickshaws, motorcycles, etc. near hospitals, children schools, colleges and other similar institutions.

Terminal and parking lots for animal-driven carts in different parts of the city are required in locations, where population of such carts is significant.

All public vehicles that ply on roads during daytime require proper parking space during night. This is true for trucks, buses, vans, cars and other mechanical modes of transport. Specific parking space may be developed for large vehicles, the driving of which to residential areas may not be allowed for parking on the streets.

The parking facilities mentioned above will provide big relief in the flow of traffic and convenience to the people. However, a number of other steps are also simultaneously required to be taken by the civic authorities. The owners of commercial and other buildings, etc. may be obliged to make provision for parking spaces for own employees as well as the customers and visitors. The vehicle owners may also be asked to find adequate parking space and should not encroach upon the roads. Commercial vehicles now are generally parked in the streets and are repaired during day and often during night as well. Roadside repairs of vehicles are a big inconvenience for the residents of the surrounding areas. Denting of vehicles produces noise, which is an undesirable pollution of which eventually all cities are to be cleaned.

An inventory of the different parking lots and terminals may be undertaken along with a review of the rules and regulations pertaining to parking space and vehicle terminals. If need be new and improved regulations may be adopted and enforced. The operation of the existing parking lots and the terminals may be improved. KMC or other concerned civic authorities may attempt to build / provide parking lot / vehicle terminals themselves. However, in these days when many of the functions of the government are being privatized, it will be a better if the private sector is involved in all such new projects. This way it may be easier and quicker. Participation with the private sector in such projects may take many forms, such as:

The civic authority may lease out its own plots of land to the private sector to develop into vehicle terminals or parking lots or both. The private sector to collect reasonable fee for the facility. The private sector to pay part of the fee to the civic authority as rental for the land. This process has to be transparent. Suitable terms of lease may be developed / standardized and published for public knowledge so that there is more competition and the public gets the facility at a lower rate.

The civic authority may choose to itself construct multi-storey parking lot on plots of land owned by it and subsequently lease it to private sector. The banks may be willing to finance construction of such a building against acceptable securities. Presently IDBP has the charters to finance projects sponsored by the local authorities. The commercial banks may also like to participate in financing of these projects. The lenders would naturally want to carefully see the arrangement for lease of the facility to the private sector. If properly structured and managed, the rentals should be enough to service the loans and after a few years the project will become a source of regular income for the civic authority.

In case civic authorities do not have suitable plots of land at designated locations, they may invite the private sector, through open bids, to develop and operate parking lots / vehicle terminals at the given locations against the right to collect appropriate fee from the vehicles which use the facilities. The authority for the collection of fee by the private sector and other arrangements including any fee to be recovered by the civic authorities for itself from the private sector shall have to be properly approved by the governing bodies and later reflected in the documentation with the private party authorized to build / arrange the facility.

Private owners usually have open plots available for construction of commercial building at a later date. The civic authority may notify the rules for temporarily use of such plot for parking of cars and other small vehicles. The owners to notify the civic authority of the proposed use of the plots. Such owners to have the right to collect reasonable fee from users of the facility.

Taxis, rickshaws, cars, vans etc. are also parked at service stations / petrol pumps or nearby repair shops for the night. Small repairs are sometimes carried out at night. Some sort of regularization of this informal arrangement may also be considered.

The civic authorities are considered responsible for providing parking space for public transport, and they have been to a large extent doing it in the past. To be able to provide such facilities to people and make their cities and towns better livable, some of the points to be kept in view include: (1) fees collected for use of parking space should not be excessive as the contractor assumes no responsibility for theft or damage to the vehicle or for pilferages, (2) dealing with the private sector must be fair and transparent and all proposals may be invited through press advertisement and rules governing the proposal may be publicly announced, and (3) the civic authority may seek expert help in developing participatory deals with the private sector, with the realization that the private sector is the normally the best negotiator of deals and documents.