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Smart Parking gets City Corp windfall of Rs 14.78 Cr. But Let It Not Be Just a Tag

After witnessing months of chaos in paid parking lots across the City because of cancellation of individual contracts, a Smart City in the making finally goes for ‘Smart Parking’. Will it really work this time? Or will it remain a mere expensive tag? Residents are watching. Cash-deficient Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh (MCC), looking for means to bolster its developmental funds, should be mindful that the citizens will be on a short fuse. Having to pay more, they will expect a lot more. Convenience has to replace inconvenience as the new buzzword. Nothing more, nothing less !!

The office hours had just begun when I drove into Sector 17 the other day, and found, to my pleasant surprise, abundant parking space on the top deck of the old multi-level parking, opposite Krishna Carpets. Having parked my car in a proper slot I went about my work unmindful of the trouble which was to befall.

When I returned late afternoon, not surprisingly, I found a car parked right behind, and perpendicular to mine. As is the practice, I tried to nudge the car out of the way, but, to my consternation, it would not budge. The owner had apparently pulled the handbrake, without realising the consequences. I looked, and asked around, but found no clues.

Smart Parking gets City Corp windfall of Rs 14.78 Cr. But Let It Not Be Just a Tag, Lifeinchd

Photos By: Life in Chandigarh

On a hot summer day patience is also at a premium. Having waited 15 long sweating minutes I called up a DSP (traffic) landline number, I had, seeking assistance on priority for removing the obstructing car. A tow away van would be coming soon, I as assured. Two reminders, and half an hour later, there was no tow away van in sight and my anger meter was running high. But mercifully the owner came trudging along, with a woman in tow. Expecting an apology out of courtesy, I was in for a rude shock. “It can’t be that I left the handbrake activated, it must be my peon who came to collect something from the car,” he ventured. “Had you not come another few minutes, your car would have been towed away,” I told him firmly. “Don’t give me that,” he said curtly, and as I suppressed an urge to punch the man on his face he just got into the car with the woman and drove away, leaving me high and dry.

So what do you do in such circumstances when the MCC has abdicated its responsibility of maintaining the paid parking lots by not deploying staff in the absence of a contractor, and the traffic police theirs of ensuring that the vehicles are not parked improperly and do not cause inconvenience to others.

Thankfully, the worst could be over, with the Corporation striking a goldmine in the award of a single contract for its smart parking project, involving the existing 25 paid parking lots as also the new showcase multi-level parking in Sector 17, for Rs 14.78 crore.

The bidding process, the stay on which had recently been vacated by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, had ended in a tie with two contractors quoting the exact same price of Rs 7.96 crore against a reserve price of Rs 4 crore fixed by the MC. Resorting to a tie-breaker, the MCC, invited both companies to submit their respective revised quotation over and above the previously quoted price in a sealed envelope. The highest big was an astounding Rs 14.78 crore from M/s Arya Toll Infra Limited, almost double the previous quote, MCC Joint Commissioner-cum-Secretary Manoj Khatri, who oversees parking issues, told late on Friday evening.

Smart Parking gets City Corp windfall of Rs 14.78 Cr. But Let It Not Be Just a Tag, Lifeinchd

The company engaged for three years (extendable to 5 years) is expected to start manning the paid parking lots within a week, and all parking lots are contracted to be made smart within a span of three months. Three months after the smart parking lots become operative, the contractor will be allowed to charge enhanced hourly rates of Rs 20 for first four hours in case of four-wheelers and Rs 10 for the first four hours in case of two-wheelers.

While the contractor will be allowed to keep the entire ticketing collection for all the 25 paid parking lots in the city, in case of the new multi-level parking the ticketing money collected by the contractor will go to the MCC and the contractor will be allowed to generate revenue by leasing out designated advertising space allotted in the basement parking area.

Besides automated boom barriers with e-ticketing, CCTV cameras, parking attendants at every 50 metres, the smart parking project entails real time monitoring of individual parking slots to enable online booking for a specified period.

Khatri said with smart parking, all malpractices, like overcharging, under deployment of staff and over parking, are expected to be taken care of as the contractor will be required to share all data with the Corporation. Stringent checks and balances have also been imposed on the contractor and repeat violation of terms of the contract will lead its cancellation, he added.

Smart Parking gets City Corp windfall of Rs 14.78 Cr. But Let It Not Be Just a Tag, Lifeinchd

Khatri admitted that the earlier rates of Rs 5 for four wheelers and Rs 2 for two wheelers were unrealistic and financially unviable for the contractors, who were resorting to all kinds of malpractices to generate profits. With the revised rates,  the single contractor will be in a position to make the contract financially sustainable, and the stringent penalties will be a big deterrent for him against indulging in malpractices, he said.

The municipal corporation, desperately looking to increase its revenues to speed up development works, can also expect a four-fold increase in income from paid parking lots, from the less than Rs 2 crore it was earning before cancelling the contracts for individual parking lots. A single contract is also expected to provide seamless connectivity in all 25 paid parking lots and the multi-level parking.

The MCC is also considering gradually extending the facility of paid parking to some of the remaining 60-odd small and medium parking lots in the city which may be found to be financially viable. Currently some of these parking lots are unmanned and chaotic and others are being managed by traders associations.

By seeking to increase its own revenues, with such seemingly unpopular measures like increasing parking fee, the municipal corporation under the new dispensation appears to be making a strong pitch for getting enhanced grant-in-aid from the Union Territory of Chandigarh Administration. Speeding up developmental works appears to be on top of the agenda of the ruling BJP as it looks to consolidate its position for the future.

Residents may well have to shell out more for other services in the coming months, but then customer satisfaction will be the key to the success of all such harsh measures. It’s a tough call for the BJP-run MCC, but they may not have much of an option with all central grants linked to revenue generation.

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