Parking is often the most pressing task of the day for city residents but is there a solution?
erhaps every motorist on Lahore’s roads experiences this feeling every day: they feel lucky when they find a free parking spot in front of a convenience store, a mosque, a hangout and so on. Otherwise, no matter what time of day it is, they must drive extra yards or even a full kilometre in search of an open parking spot. The parking space comes at the expense of costly fuel, clogged traffic and polluted air.
Parking is often the most pressing task of the day for city residents. Tambkeen Bukhari, a resident of Gulberg II, recalls the times when her family would frequently make the short trip to the nearby Gulberg Main Market every other night to buy household goods.
Not any longer.
“Now,” she says, “we always have to organise a trip to the grocery store.”
The years-long drill has taught them when to visit the market to avoid on-street parking-related worries.
“We must assume that if we arrive there early in the day, we will be able to find a parking space. Well, it’s not just the trip to the grocery store. We constantly worry about parking whenever we leave the house.”
The lack of parking has become a problem for the government as it searches for answers to the harmful air quality in urban areas, in addition to the mental exhaustion it causes for motorists. Lahore has periodically made international news recently for hazardous air quality readings.
While hearing numerous petitions on various environmental issues, Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court – who is leading the court’s efforts to advance climate justice – suggested increasing the fine for parking violations on the city’s major thoroughfares like The Mall, Jail Road and Ferozepur Road to Rs 5,000. In addition, the judge instructed the traffic officers to consider confiscating tyres for illegal parking.
The general public sees a slight improvement in parking woes, even if the ticket is hefty.
Syed Ali Javed Naqvi runs a publishing house at Shadman Market.
“Up until the opening of a franchise of a well-known department store in the lane where my office is located, our life was free from parking-related difficulties,” he says.
“Every available place in the parking lot in front of our unit has been taken up by supermarket customers ever since the store opened. The relentless development and lack of regulation of companies interacting with the general public are the major issues creating parking problems, not unlawful parking.”
Naqvi says that now is the appropriate moment for the city district government to pass legislation requiring businesses to consider parking issues before starting up or expanding. He suggests charging market rates for parking permits in some of the city’s busiest areas.
The government sees the solution to parking-related concerns in the formation of the Lahore Parking Company (LPC), also called LePark. To improve motorist safety and respect, manage parking fee collection, build parking plazas in high-traffic areas, and lessen traffic congestion, the LPC updated the city’s parking lots in 2011. Since its inception, the company has operated 244 parking lots in the city. Of the 244 parking spaces in the city, 170 are functioning, 22 are in illegal use and 13 essential staff positions have been vacant for a long time, according to LPC sources.
Abid Mir, the chairman of the board of directors of LePark, says that right now the parking lots are manned by its workers. He says the company is working on smart parking lots. He says that automating the company’s five parking lots is a part of the plan. These places include the Liberty, Ittefaq Hospital, Moon and Karim Block Markets in Allama Iqbal Town, and Hafeez Centre. The Children’s Hospital, Ichhra, HKB on Noor Jahan Road, Shaikh Zayed Hospital, Mayo Hospital, Services Hospital, Old Secretariat, Doongi Ground and Ganda Nala at Bhati would all be modernised as part of the project’s second phase.
According to the BoD chairman, the automated sites will have swipe card entry points, electronic ticketing, electronic barriers, marked parking bays, CCTV cameras at entry/ exit points and staff equipped to check vehicles, digital advertisements, car wash stations, rotary parking and digital meter parking.
The LePark, however, needs to speed up the work. Earlier this week, the office of Punjab Local Government and Community Development Minister Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed said the LPC had been given four months by the government to perform better or prepare for a shutdown. At a meeting convened here to assess the functioning of the company, the minister cautioned the authorities, “If you fail to do so, we will have no choice but to close it.”
If the LPC fails, the parking lots will likely be outsourced to contractors. Due to an increase in incidences of contractors and their workers mistreating motorists, the system had failed the last time it was tried.
No matter how many parking lots are constructed, according to town planner Qaswar Abbas, automobiles will continue to compete for every square inch of available space. He advises limiting the number of new vehicles entering the city.
“The authorities should arrange mass transit in the city. The only way to encourage people to leave their homes on foot and take public transportation is to do so,” he says, adding that city officials should survey the entire city to determine the need for parking places.
Locals compete for parking spots on weekends when they frequent popular eateries and shopping malls around the town.
The discussion on parking solutions is endless, but there’s hardly any space for parking.
The writer takes interest in urban planning and transport issues