The decision of the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) to fall back on the pay parking system that had earlier proved to be a major failure raises quite a few questions.
Not only had the pay-parking system not alleviated the parking problems or eased the traffic flow in the city, but it had been riddled with controversy and even led to a loss to the CCP. Yet, the corporation is now raring to reintroduce it, two years after the earlier contract was terminated.
In the first place the offer to take up the contract had met with no response. When the contract was finally awarded, the contractors failed to make a payment of Rs 24 lakh to the corporation. The firm that had taken up the contract claimed that they had been unable to earn as had been expected since the corporation had failed to demarcate the parking areas with clear signages. On the ground, vehicular traffic flow in the city had shown no improvement during the period when the pay parking was in place. The traffic snarls had continued and the chaos on the streets was the same as before. How then does the CCP decide to restart the pay-parking system after this failure and two years after it was discontinued?
Ironically, the reason being given for reintroducing the pay parking is that the free parking is a loss of revenue to the corporation. Haven’t any lessons been learnt from the failure of one experiment, that the corporation is ready to re-introduce the system that did not give it any returns?
Though the pay-parking system is being projected as a temporary move, until the traffic management plan being drafted by Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Ltd (IPSCDL) is ready and implemented, it still calls for a re-look at starting the pay-parking. Before the system of paying for parking on the streets is taken up again, the CCP should chalk out a plan to ensure that the new contract is not reduced to a failure like its predecessor.
Interestingly, the CCP Commissioner has raised doubts over the time being taken by the Smart City team to draft their traffic management plan and get it implemented. This is not surprising as IPSCDL had proposed to create and manage 4,000 parking spaces between Old Goa and Dona Paula using the latest available technology, almost a year back. However, nothing of the project has been heard of since then. Given that the Smart City team is working to improve the quality of life in the State capital, some amount of coordination between them and the city corporation should take place. The two bodies cannot be working at cross purposes.
The city already has a white elephant of a multi-storied parking facility at Patto, Panjim, that is hardly used by visitors to Panjim. The facility gets utilised a little only during the evening hours by the tourists who take a ride on the river cruise boats. During the rest of the day the facility remains almost always empty. This is a classic case of setting up infrastructure without proper planning on utilisation. If the authorities expect the multi-storied parking facility to be used, then there should have been constant flow of public buses from the Patto area to the city and back, so that those parking at the entrance of the city would have mobility options in the city. This was not done.
The suddenness of the decision to restart the pay-parking in Panjim has shades of it being taken on an ad hoc basis, where CCP is looking at increasing the corporation’s funds. If at all the city corporation does go ahead with the decision, it would need to first ensure that there is no repeat of what has happened in the past. The system should not fail again.