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ENVIRONMENT PARKING LOTS FOR SMOOTH TRAFFIC AND PEACEFUL LIVING

 

PARKING LOTS FOR SMOOTH TRAFFIC AND PEACEFUL LIVING

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By MUHAMMAD BASHIR CHAUDHRY
Mar 17 - 23, 2003
 
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Taking notice of complaints of the residents a few days ago, Jamshed Town municipal officers reportedly visited the affected area in Karachi and ordered issuance of notices on water tanker owners to remove their vehicles within three days, informing them of strict action if they failed to comply. Illegal parking of water tankers caused hardships to the residents and passers-by; and damaged the road. The residents had complained that a large number of tankers remained parked in the street throughout the day and blocked main gates of the houses, making the lives of the residents miserable. Action by the municipal officers is a step in the right direction and the authorities are expected to take measures to overcome this menace. This article briefly presents parking situation in cities and offer suggestions for government consideration.

COMMON COMPLAINTS: Wrong or illegal parking is not restricted to Jamshed Town; it is common to most Towns in Karachi. Residents and pedestrians in other large towns are facing similar problems. Trucks, buses, vans and taxis are parked in residential areas during night. In addition to powered-vehicles, there are animal driven carts such as camel carts, donkey carts, horse buggies, and bullock carts. Vehicle owners live in the vicinity but mostly they do not own or manage to have proper parking for their vehicles. This causes inconvenience to other residents. Sometimes vehicle repairs or painting, denting etc. are attempted during night. This produces unpleasant loud noise, which is undesirable pollution and must be checked. Peace of the area is disturbed and sometimes situation turns ugly. It is unsafe particularly for children. Vehicles generally move out at early dawn for work, again disturbing peace.

In Karachi, number of vehicles is in hundreds of thousands. People using personal cars for coming to office mostly park the vehicles on the road-side as office blocks or commercial buildings provide limited parking slots, which are reserved for senior officers or the owners. The shopkeepers park near or in front of their shops. Position is particularly critical near hospitals and schools. The pedestrians are forced to walk in the middle of the roads, the footpaths being usurped by the vendors. Due to wrong parking of vehicles during day, there are traffic congestions on the roads, which mostly are in poor condition. Situation is particularly bad in and around busy commercial areas. Numerous potholes on the roads make driving difficult and dangerous. It becomes more cumbersome when available space is reduced due to parking of vehicles, often on both sides of the road. Taxis and rikhshaws use particular corner spots as terminal. The pedestrians suffer most and are involved in accidents.

Vehicular congestion and traffic jams are also caused due to uneven distribution of traffic during morning and evening rush hours. In Karachi, reputed commercial centres, wholesale markets, government offices, the courts and the Karachi Port are located in one particular area of the city. During morning, majority of the vehicular traffic is moving towards this area. Position is reversed during afternoon. Due to this peculiarity, there are wrong parking everywhere most of the time of the day. Situation improves after evening rush hours. Construction of the Northern By-pass may benefit, as heavy traffic from Karachi Port will be diverted to it.

VEHICLES IN OUR LIFE: Trucks, large trailers, water tankers, oil tankers, buses, vans, taxis and rikshaws are important means of transport for goods and people. Trucks and trailers bring exportable goods to the port, fruits and vegetables to the wholesale market, buses transport passengers from different points in the city to the other, taxis and other vehicles provide specified services. Imported goods are cleared out of the port using these same vehicles for transporting to upcountry destinations. Without these vehicles, life in Karachi or any other place will be very difficult. In short, the vehicles are essential for modern life and they contribute a lot to the economic prosperity of the country and its people. Through proper planning the problems and inconveniences due to illegal parking can be easily overcome. In spite of usefulness of vehicles for the economy, the authorities must not tolerate their illegal parking during day or night in places not clearly marked for purpose of the specified types of vehicles.

 

 

WHO CAN HELP?: The Nazims, under the devolution of power, have taken over civic administration in Karachi, Lahore and in other cities and towns, of which facing a host of civic problems due to neglect and mismanagement in the past. All civic issues are important and the newly inducted civic authorities have started rehabilitation projects. Without constructing new parking lots, the municipal authorities have allowed charged parking on different roads in Karachi. This provides some solace but as parking spaces have been earmarked sides of existing roads, it not very conducive for the smooth flow of traffic. However, these are inadequate as there are no proper parking lots or terminals in sufficient numbers for different modes of transport. The traffic police are there to see that the traffic flow is smooth and that the rules-violating drivers are taken to task.

STRATEGY AND PLANS FOR PARKING LOTS: To cope with shortage of parking space and congestion on roads, the matter might be tackled systematically. To begin with, inventory of different parking lots and terminals may be undertaken along with a review of applicable rules and regulations. The City, District and Town authorities are urged for proper steps for day and night parking of the vehicles in the residential areas as well as busy streets. The civic authorities may consider developing additional parking and terminal facilities on commercial considerations, preferably in partnership with the private sector.

IMPLEMENTATION OF CORRECTIVE MEASURES: Building or developing proper public parking facilities in large cities such as Karachi and Lahore, which are densely populated, have large and varied population of vehicles, but there being limited open spaces, devising and implementing proper parking facilities is a big challenge. The situation will not be so complex in other areas. Therefore, the parking facilities may be developed or provided as per the situation on ground.

NEW PARKING LOTS AND TERMINALS: For large cities like Karachi, parking arrangements may include (1) 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; (2) parking and repair yards for oil tankers near refineries; (3) parking and repair yards separately for water tankers, trucks, buses, coaches, mini-buses and vans; (4) terminals for buses, mini-buses, coaches, taxis, rikshaws and vans; (5) open and covered parking spaces for cars, taxis, vans and motorcycles; (6) road-side parking spaces for cars, taxis, vans and motorcycles; (7) terminal and parking lots for animal-driven carts; and (8) parking space for cars, rikshaws, motorcycles, etc. near hospitals and children schools.

LEASING OF PUBLIC PLOTS: 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.

PUBLIC SECTOR PARKING LOTS: Civic authority may choose to construct multi-storey parking lot on plots of land owned by it and subsequently lease its operation to private sector. The banks may be willing to finance construction of such a building against acceptable securities. The lenders would naturally carefully see the arrangement for lease of the facility to the private sector. If properly structured and managed, the loans may be serviced from rental and after a few years when the loan is repaid, it will be a source of regular income for the civic authority for many years to come.

PRIVATE SECTOR PARKING LOTS: 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 arrangements may be transparent and formalized by an agreement.

OTHER MEASURES: Civic authorities may require owners of commercial and other buildings to have adequate provision for parking space within the buildings for them their employees and customers. Vehicle owners may be asked to arrange adequate parking space and should not encroach upon the roads. Parking of heavy vehicles in residential areas may be prohibited. Denting and painting of the vehicles in the streets may be prohibited and checked for compliance.

 

 

ISSUE OF RELEVANT RULES: Private owners usually have open plots available for construction, at a later date, of commercial building. The civic authority may notify the rules for temporarily use of such plots for charged parking of cars and small vehicles during daytime. The owners would collect reasonable fee for the parking facility.

REGULATING PARKING ON PUBLIC PLACES: Taxis, rikshaws, 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 for security considerations.

SUSTAINABILITY OF THE SYSTEM AND ITS CONTINUED IMPROVEMENT: 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. With growth in population and number of public and private vehicles, problem has become complex and claims time and effort for management. The following points may be helpful with regard to proper arrangements for the purpose:

PARKING FEE STRUCTURE: Parking fees should not be excessive and may be kept low to encourage people to become used to the paid-parking. Presently fee charged for the first hour for cars considered high, especially as the contractor assumes no responsibility for theft or damage to the car or for pilferages. The rule of thumb can be used for determining full day fee (i.e. eight hour fee) at two times of the fee for the first hour.

TRANSPARENCY AND FAIRNESS: The dealing with the private sector must be fair and transparent. All proposals may be invited through press advertisement and rules governing the proposal may be publicly announced. Necessary approvals to the rules and the proposals may be obtained from competent authority prior to the announcement.

PREPARING FOR NEGOTIATION: Private sector is the best negotiator of deals and documents. The civic authorities to seek expert help in developing deals with the private sector. Service of legal expert may be used for documentation and perfection of security interest.

MONITORING OF PROJECTS: The civic authority to develop system of project monitoring and collection of lease rentals on timely basis. Suitable staff may be hired and trained for the job. The staff may be paid well but immediately taken to task if they make mistakes.

CONCLUSION: The things done in Karachi may be duplicated and adapted for other cities. Each civic authority has to decide on matters such as development of open parking lots, covered multi-storey car parks, 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, rush-hour restrictions on flow of traffic in business or high commercial areas, etc. This will be predicated to number of vehicles, types and sizes, public and private ownership as well as financial resources the civic authority wishes to commit for improvement each year. Arrangements that are fair and equitable to all parties particularly the private sector are generally more durable and may be opted for welfare of society.