Spanner on Mumbai's free floor space project

Builders exploit civic administration's plan, make fortunes

 
By Arushi Mittal
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

parkingThe Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) project to provide free floor space index (FSI) to builders creating public parking slots has gone all wrong. The builders are exploiting the project to fill their coffers.

They are using the free area provided by the BMC in the land-starved Mumbai to construct buildings, and culling out public parking space from parking area earmarked for visitors and residents. An investigation has been launched into the case while the Maharashtra government has put on hold any further approval for parking FSI in the island city region of Mumbai.

island cityThe FSI scheme was launched in Mumbai in April 2009 by the civic authority to cater to the parking demands of the rapidly growing fleet of vehicles. Projects creating public parking slots could earn an extra FSI equivalent to 50 per cent of the area used for the purpose. FSI is the ratio of built-up area to the plot area and is controlled to contain the external costs imposed by high rise buildings on their surroundings. The builders were to construct a minimum of 50 parking spaces and hand them over to the BMC free of cost to earn free FSI. Other eligibility criteria were minimum plot size and proximity to the main road.

An expert committee set up by the state government reviewed 60 proposals fulfilling these requirements and passed 31 in just 18 months based on their “suitability”. Most of the parking spaces are concentrated in the city’s mill land area of Lower Parel-Worli region creating 20,000 parking slots in a small area.

What other cities are doing:
 
 
  • Portland, Oregon: An overall cap of 40,000 parking spaces downtown increased public transport usage from 20-25 per cent in the 1970s to 48 per cent in mid 1990s.
  • Boston: Parking requirements frozen at 10 per cent higher than the 1973 levels has helped meet the federal clean air standards.
  • Shenzhen: Hike in parking fees during peak hours lead to 30 per cent drop in the parking demand.
  • Tokyo: Despite high car ownership Tokyo provides less parking slots-only 0.5 slots per 100 sq meters in commercial buildings.
  • Bremen: No free parking in city centre. Parking charges higher than public transport cost.
  • Bengaluru: Variable parking price with higher rates during peak hours and lower prices during off-peak hours.
 
 
 
But the committee’s suitability evaluation is clearly oblivious to the traffic flow induced on roads due to these approved projects. For instance, in absence of composite traffic studies and sufficient road infrastructure in the mill land area, how does the committee propose to accommodate additional volume of vehicles approaching 20,000 parking spaces and leaving the high rise residential complexes? “The parking will make no sense if the roads outside are choked with cars,” said Ashok Datar, a transport expert in Mumbai. Usually, not more than 10 public parking spaces are required in a building. So the minimum requirement of 50 spaces to earn FSI is, therefore, a tool to eliminate smaller players, he added.

“The FSI scheme enjoys great interest from the real estate development community and the situation regarding abolition of the scheme is very unclear,” said Mumbai housing expert Chandrashekhar Prabhu. “It is difficult to say whether it is a government rethink or just another developer pull to gain monopoly through extra FSI ,” he noted.

On-street parking chaos

The authorities do not have a roadmap to solve the nightmarish parking situation in Mumbai, a city where 1.4 million vehicles ply on roads daily and only 8,000 dedicated parking spaces exist. This dearth results in indiscriminate on-street parking which further increases the traffic woes of an already congested city.

Several multi-level parking lots have been created in Mumbai but their occupancy remains as low as 10 per cent at INOX in Nariman Point. The major reason for this underutilisation is presence of cheaper on-street parking facilities around the area. The recent BMC masterplan addresses this issue and has called for a ban on on-street parking within a 500-metre radius of all the proposed parking lots in the city.

The way out

Solving the parking crisis in Mumbai requires a composite parking policy based on parking demand analysis, pricing methodologies and enforcement techniques.

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Regulated parking supply has been prescribed as a transport demand management (TDM) tool by both National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) and Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). Bengaluru and Delhi have already drafted parking policies based on TDM principles.

Anumita Roychowdhary, associate director, Centre for Science and Environment believes parking can be the most effective first generation TDM measure. International experience proves that sites may transform from parking deficit to surplus through proper planning and design. Mumbai, like New York, can use high parking fees and limited parking supply to ease the growth rate of vehicles. The present FSI for parking scheme can be continued, if in accordance to a comprehensive parking plan for the city. Also, strict patrolling and penalty for illegal surface parking are essential to leverage the capacity of various multi-level car parks across the city.

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