The CDGL has been working on 11 odd parking plazas. Endless delays have raised the cost of the projects besides adding to the citizens’ woes
arking is a perennial issue that’s making mobility in the metropolitan city of Lahore increasingly difficult for its citizens. To address the issue, in recent years, the city district government of Lahore (CDGL) has proposed constructing parking plazas. However, progress in this direction has been far from swift.
Reportedly, the CDGL has been working on 11 odd parking plazas, but endless delays have raised the cost of the projects from Rs 3 billion to Rs 18 billion.
The working papers reveal several pending projects. These include a 10-storey parking plaza on 3 kanals and 6 marlas at the Data Darbar site; a two-storey plaza on 20 kanals at Sheranwala Gate; and a seven-storey plaza on 2 kanals and 7 marlas on Hall Road. At another site on Hall Road, on 8 kanals and 5 marlas, a three-storey parking plaza is waiting to get off the ground.
In Barkat Market, a two-storey structure for parking, on a plot measuring 7 kanals and 4 marlas, remains unfinished. The fate of a two-storey parking plaza to be built on 4 kanals and 3 marlas of land on Ferozepur Road; a four-storey plaza on 8 kanals and 4 marlas in the vicinity of the Lahore High Court; and one to be constructed on 31 kanals at Akbari Gate, is unknown.
Additionally, five parking plazas for the MCL — two on Auqaf Department land, another two on PHA land, and one each on LDA and liquidation land — are in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, the citizens’ woes persist. Journalist Hassan Naqvi relates how some of his friends park their vehicles in a vacant plot next to his house, every time they visit him. “If the plot weren’t there, they’d have no option but to park on the congested road,” he says.
He stresses the need for “innovative solutions” to the perennial problem of parking in the city.
Parking issues lead to a multitude of traffic-related problems. Naveed Deerath, a civil servant, points out that people often park on the roadsides without realising that they will obstruct the flow of traffic, particularly near schools, markets and offices. “In such a situation, some impatient drivers often take it upon themselves to act as ‘traffic wardens.’ They disregard the need for exercising patience, and resort to driving in the wrong lanes, thereby blocking the traffic completely.”
As the government seems to have failed to deliver, private companies and individuals have come forward with some unique ideas. Along Ferozepur Road, near Kalma Chowk, a peculiar steel structure catches the eyes of the passersby. It’s a set of three multi-storied car lifts, installed by a construction company. It can accommodate up to 12, 30 and 32 cars at various levels.
An official of the company says the system is not too costly. Also, he says, it allows for larger numbers of vehicles than a regular parking plaza does.
Recently, Barrister Syed Azfar Ali Nasir, the minister for housing, urban development and public health engineering in the Punjab caretaker government; and Commissioner Muhammad Ali Randhawa held a joint press conference at the commissioner’s office to announce that measures would be taken to ensure compliance on the approved parking spaces in all commercial buildings across Lahore.
They also stated that strict action would be taken against those who park in no-parking zones. A major operation is scheduled to start immediately after Eid-ul Azha to clean up encroachments in the provincial capital. In the initial phase of the operation, registered plazas, buildings, shops, showrooms and other commercial establishments where parking spaces are encroached upon, will be targetted.
Next, the concerned traders’ associations will be asked to pay security deposits and fines before reclaiming the parking areas occupied by them. Business owners have been granted time until the Eid to fix the parking situation at shopping malls and other commercial centres. After Eid, a citywide crackdown will commence, leading to the sealing of properties and other penalties over non-compliance.
The CDGL is hoping to address the issue using the parking plazas. However, Advocate Ahmed Rafay Alam, who is also an environmentalist and urban planner, suggests a more unconventional approach.
Talking to TNS, Alam says that the parking problem could be resolved by charging significant parking fees, expanding public transportation options and discouraging the use of private automobiles, particularly four-wheelers, through congestion charging and taxation.
He says that automobile parking in the city currently provides a substantial subsidy to those who can afford cars. The value of real estate occupied by parked cars far exceeds the minimal parking fees currently charged and collected. To address this issue, he suggests “a shift in mindset, recognising car parking as a privilege rather than an inherent right.”
He identifies two main factors: suburban sprawl and rigid land-use classification. The conversion of agricultural land into expansive housing societies on the outskirts of cities leads to vast distances that are primarily traversed by automobiles. Additionally, inflexible land-use classifications contribute to longer distances that make car use more favourable. This results in a large number of automobiles travelling long distances to reach the city centre, leading to congestion, air pollution and increased safety risks.
To tackle these challenges, Alam highlights the need for “comprehensive strategies that encompass urban planning, transportation policies and a shift in public perception. By promoting sustainable transportation alternatives, discouraging excessive private automobile usage, and adopting more flexible land-use classifications, Lahore can effectively address its parking issues while mitigating congestion, pollution and safety concerns.”
The writer is a media veteran interested in politics, consumer rights and entrepreneurship