Why is it a good thing to raise parking charges on Thyagaraya Road


The story so far…

The Chennai Corporation has passed a resolution during its Council meeting to increase the parking rate for four-wheelers on Thyagaraya Road in T. Nagar alone to ₹60, and for two wheelers, to ₹15. Parking at the Corporation’s Multi Level Car Park (MLCP) in the area would cost only ₹20, the Council resolved. The hike in parking rates is an attempt to get more people to use the facility and ensure that people do not park their vehicles randomly on the main road, or interior roads in T. Nagar.

Why an MLCP in this area?

The Corporation came up with the idea of developing a pedestrian plaza after the 2015 flood. The work to create a new experience was painstaking and meticulous. A study done to understand how people used it found that during peak hours, nearly 5,000 people gathered in a short 700 m stretch of Pondy Bazaar which had an assortment of shops selling everything from safety pins to wedding trousseau, restaurants and even a vintage hair saloon. In fact shopping in Pondy Bazaar completed a visit to Chennai. The stretch remained clogged preventing easy movement of vehicles as well.

This necessitated the construction of a multilevel car park (MLCP) facility in the area to take care of the huge footfall, and the vehicles that come in, in the area.

The pedestrian plaza was inaugurated on November 14, 2019, with much fanfare by the then Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and his Cabinet colleagues. However, the commissioning of MLCP was delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic. The parking system was to arrive from Wuhan in China in November 2019 but was delayed as that country shut borders owing to the pandemic. It arrived sometime in early 2020 but the technicians to install the equipment could not come. Work on the installation began in July 2020 and it was thrown open for public use on February 27, 2021.

What is MLCP?

The multilevel car park at the junction of Thanikachalam Road and Thyagaraya Road that is intended to serve people visiting Pondy Bazaar is a seven-storeyed structure. The complex was built at a cost of ₹40.79 crore to accommodate over 200 cars and 500 two-wheelers and has separate entry and exit gates with boom barriers. It is open from 9 a.m. till 9 p.m. each day. To park, vehicles must enter the complex from Lakshmikanthan Street off Thyagaraya Road and exit from Thanikachalam Road. The entire parking process is automated and controlled by sensors. It is monitored by 56 cameras. No individual can enter the MLCP, including its employees. In case of malfunction only a trained technician can enter.

Once a car enters the fully automated facility the driver dismounts, hands over the vehicle’s key to a parking attendant. An SMS alert is sent to the driver’s mobile phone with details of time and the parking slot allotted. The driver can track the movement of the vehicle on the video inside the console at the entrance to the MLCP.

Meanwhile the parking attendant drives the car, swipes an access card so that the lift doors open. The car is eased in to the lift console and the driver disembarks. As soon as he emerges from the console the lift is operated. The car key is returned to the vehicle owner. It takes 90 seconds for the entire process — from the time the owner disembarks to the moment the vehicle is parked in its allotted slot. When the owner returns to retrieve the vehicle it is brought down through the lift as soon as the fee is paid. The parking attendant brings it out of the lift.

There are three bays for cars. Two are used to park and one for exit.

There is a separate entry for two-wheeler parking. Two-wheeler users provide their mobile number to which an SMS alert is sent. The user is then allowed to enter the facility and park the vehicle. Before retrieving the vehicle user pays the parking fee and takes possession of the vehicle. People can install an app on their phone and register for a slot as they enter the plaza.

A car owner pays ₹20 per hour while a two-wheeler owner pays ₹5 per hour.

Why do people continue to park on the street?

Given the volume of vehicles entering Pondy Bazaar a conscious decision was made to allow on-street parking as well. However, the cost of on-street parking is higher to encourage people to use the MLCP. The aim was to make people voluntarily use the facility. The on-street parking charges was fixed at ₹20 for cars and ₹5 for two-wheelers initially. Subsequently it was increased to ₹40 but permitting people to park at any vacant slot only for two hours. On Tuesday the civic body announced that it had raised the price to 60. For two-wheelers it is now ₹15.

Employees in the shops say the cost of parking in the MLCP is steep and would make a sizable dent in their monthly budget. The Corporation, the MLCP contractor and traders’ organisations held several rounds of meetings to come up with a feasible alternative such as a monthly pass but nothing has emerged yet. Most people say it is convenient to park on-street, get their work done and leave. But the new price structure may force them to use the MLCP.

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