By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD
It was heartening to read in yesterday’s Star of Mysore the good news that after more than a decade of dilly-dallying, our City Corporation is going to introduce the ‘Pay and Park’ system on some of our city roads, very soon. But, how soon this is going to happen, is open to debate. I’m saying this because this arrangement, that has been working very well in many other large cities across the country and even in Bengaluru, has constantly been stuck in rough weather, here in our relatively small city.
More than ten years ago, we had been told, more than once, that our City Corporation had already acquired the requisite equipment to implement this system of paid parking, but it was somehow never made operational. Whether that was the truth or not, is open to question, as it usually is in the case of most sarkari utterances. But, if it indeed was the truth, the bigger question that arises is whether this equipment will be functional now, after having languished for so long in disuse.
There have been two very clear and strong lobbies for and against paid parking in our city. On one side, we have the exasperated citizens who have now been driven up the wall, while driving around in circles, sometimes endlessly, trying to find a place to park, just for a brief moment. And, on the other side, we have the shop-keepers, who being the earliest to arrive on the scene, take up all the available parking space for their own vehicles, all day long!
Addressing the very legitimate interests of both these parties successfully, has been the stumbling block all these years and it is very likely to remain so even in the days to come too. I say this because it is certainly not an easy issue to resolve. While citizens have to necessarily go out for shopping from time to time, finding a place to park, close to the areas they have to visit, has not been an easy thing to do over the past few years, here in our city.
And this problem is not just during what you can call the peak hours, because the entire day becomes the peak hour, six days a week, in most parts of the central business district, here in Mysuru. The only time when you can begin to find parking space is when all the shops begin pulling down their shutters, when you are visiting any shopping area, will be of no use whatsoever!
On many occasions, these days, like most other citizens, I have to drop my family members at the shopping destinations of their choice and pick them up once they are done. On one occasion, because it was raining, I had to park my car a short distance away and take an autorickshaw to a shop on Devaraj Urs Road.
When I did the same on my return trip, the second auto driver, noticing my difficulty in traversing the short distance to my car on foot, refused to accept payment for his service, saying that we should help each other, free of cost, in times of dire need. It was only after a great deal of persuasion that he finally accepted the minimum fare from me, but it was certainly not before I learnt my lesson from this humble soul, on how kind-heartedly I should look at others in distress!
While it is the legitimate right of tax-paying citizens to expect the civic authorities to provide parking space for their vehicles in commercial areas, it is not a very easy thing for the latter to do. This is because, in the older parts of any city, the built-up areas would not have been planned taking into consideration the huge and completely unforeseen modern-day influx of private vehicles. So, reserving whatever scarce space is available and making it available only upon payment, is the only option and this is something that we all have to expect and accept.
It is a very small price we have to pay for a very big convenience and we should understand that this is the only way of discouraging people from parking their vehicles, day-long, in busy areas, without any purpose, just because parking space comes free of cost. Going by its announcement on Friday, the parking fee that our City Corporation proposes to fix seems very reasonable and it is on par with what is being charged in the upmarket areas of Bengaluru, like the Brigade Road and Commercial Street. Once this arrangement becomes operational, it is very likely to decongest the most congested and most visited commercial areas of our city and make our shopping trips immensely comfortable and convenient, let alone less frustrating.
Now comes the second and most difficult part of how we should handle the problem of providing parking space for the vehicles of shop-keepers who too need it, just as much as their customers do. They too need to use their vehicles to come to work, each passing day and they cannot be treated differently, like second class citizens! It is true that in most of the areas where paid parking is now going to come into force, they used to park their vehicles, as far as possible, in front of their shops, leaving almost no place for their customers’ vehicles.
It was actually this unavoidable problem that sparked off the movement for bringing in paid parking, in the first place. And, this will remain the unavoidable problem even afterwards. That is, unless they too agree to pay the prescribed parking fee, which although seemingly very reasonable for brief periods, is going to become whoppingly high, at the end of the day!
But, as an act of justified compassion, if we provide concessional rates for them, they will just not mind the nominal cost and again end up buying all the available space for the whole day! A real Catch 22 situation, if not a complete comedy of errors!
The only way out seems to lie in providing reserved parking space for their vehicles at a much lesser cost, preferably on a monthly basis. If the Town Hall multi-level parking lot is reserved exclusively for shop owners, it is very likely to suffice for them and yet leave enough paid space, over brief periods, for their customers, all through the day. That seems like not just the best but the only solution, until we reach the era of complete e-commerce, sans shops, in the near future. But that is not how shopping should be, if it has to be the pain and pleasure it now is and that is certainly not how I would like to do my shopping, now or anytime in the future too! Do think about it!
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