Syed Mehdi Momin
With the easing of ‘lockdown’, traffic jams have returned and tailbacks have yet again become a permanent feature in this megapolis. Another unwelcome phenomenon that has returned is the problem of illegal parking. Markets, restaurants and offices are all open and the absence of adequate parking facilities make life difficult for both motorists and pedestrians.
According to media reports, illegally parked vehicles occupy as much as 30 per cent of Dhaka’s streets and naturally is seriously hampering normal traffic flow. Obviously, this also is a nuisance to pedestrians. With the ever-increasing population, popping up of new commercial areas and influx of rural population in search of a better life, what is needed is a multi-dimensional approach with creative solutions to successfully address the city’s huge parking issues.
By engaging independent, interested parties to build and operate parking facilities, this ever-compounding problem could be addressed to meet future requirements. The problem, however, is not limited to commercial areas. Schools, hospitals and other institutions also face similar issues. Parking often proves difficult than the actual assignment or activity you visit an area for; you will have to keep in mind car theft if your vehicle is unattended or parked far away.
Experts have repeatedly said lack of monitoring, as well as inadequate parking facilities and weaknesses in traffic management, are responsible for growing illegal parking. In absence of car parking facilities, vehicles are being randomly parked on the streets adjacent to shopping malls, schools, financial institutions, business establishments and government and private offices. Both the criminal elements and unscrupulous cops are minting money through extortion from these illegally parked vehicles.
On certain occasions, like the Police Week, for instance, we see traffic cops being extra active and resorting to towing illegally parked vehicles. However, after a few days after the Week, the status quo returns.
Parking obviously is a necessary factor of any city's transport system. Parking is needed to allow for the safekeeping of vehicles while they are not in use and enables its riders to undertake their intended activity at their destination. It forms an interface between the road network and other land uses.
When designing a structure, the engineers and planners have to determine the number of parking spaces needed to fulfil the parking requirements of the visitors and/or residents of that structure. One of the methods used to determine the appropriate supply of parking for a structure is known as the “Supply Based on a Forecast of Actual Demand.”
In this method, the supply of parking is determined by conducting parking demand surveys at the site under investigation or at other sites that exhibit similar characteristics such as similar type of development with similar transportation facilities and that would be visited by people with similar socio-economic characteristics.
In all busy areas of the capital, car parking is a major hassle due to the administrators’ lack of vision and people’s indiscipline. In a city where owning a car is now a necessity rather than being a luxury, there are few authorised multi-stories car parks (which, too, are not being properly utilised), when their numbers should have been in the scores. The traffic police have failed miserably to remove the illegal parking, which seems to be a major cause of traffic jams. A significant number of illegal parking spaces have sprung up in various areas of the city not only causing hurdle in the smooth flow of traffic blocking the pavements of main thoroughfares but are also a liability on the revenue source of the government.
Urban planners say that there is no discipline in car parking in Dhaka. Most drivers and vehicles’ owners seemed to be oblivious of the parking rules and regulations, and they just parked their vehicles on roads according to their own sweet will. Most shopping malls lack enough parking lots and shoppers very often leave their cars parked either in front of them or on both sides of the road, being least concerned about a free and smooth movement of other vehicles. This goes on under the very nose of traffic police.
In most countries, prior to building a multi-story development or any large commercial, residential or multi-purpose development, engineers and planners have to submit their parking study for that development as part of their Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) study to the city authorities. If the city authorities feel that the building has not provided adequate parking space, then it requests the designers to revise their design to do so.
Dhaka is a fast-growing city and one of the most congested in the world. New high-rise structures are sprouting throughout the city quickly. To ensure that traffic in Dhaka does not continue to worsen due to illegal parking, the city authorities may consider making it mandatory for every multi-story and large-scale structures to provide their parking study to the city authorities as part of their design plan. The city authorities should also rigorously study the parking plan to ensure that adequate parking has been provided.
It seems that the parking study for most of the multi-storied and large-scale buildings in Dhaka and other big cities in Bangladesh has not been done correctly as most of these do not provide adequate parking space for their visitors and residents.
Although the cost of car parking space is a huge expense to a developer, in a city like Dhaka where most developments do not provide adequate parking space, parking space adds value to the development because it would attract more clients.
Syed Mehdi Momin is Senior Assistant Editor at The Business Post