Parking in the City: motorists’ Dilemma | Sunday Observer

Parking in the City: motorists’ Dilemma

Finding a parking slot in Colombo can be a daunting task, leaving motorists to drive around looking for a vacant spot in the city. But, with only a small number of parking slots available compared to the influx of vehicles entering the city on a daily basis, the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) is unable to meet the required demand. According to the CMC, parking slots have now reached saturation point making it a serious issue as the numbers entering the city are set to increase in the future.

Even now, parked vehicles on pavements are a common site while some streets are lined with vehicles parked illegally. The issue often comes to head during weekdays and the festive season becoming a problem to not only the motorists but the CMC and the Police as well.

While the CMC has done its utmost to increase the number of parking spaces, experts however say alternatives to street parking should now be looked at to resolve the issue as any further street parking additions are near impossible.

Parking in Colombo

According to the CMC, Colombo has a daily influx of almost 300,000 vehicles, for which the authorities are able to provide only a mere 7,000 parking slots within the city, which earns the Council an annual revenue of Rs.120 million.

“We have only what is called on-street parking available” says, Deputy Director, Colombo Municipal Council Traffic Division, Champa Ganepola. As explained by her the CMC currently provides on-street parking in the city and has only two CMC controlled off-street parking lots. “These off-street parking lots are located in the Wellawatta and Colpetty areas adjacent to the Municipal Markets” she said, pointing out that, however these are not enough to cater to the demand for parking in the city.

“Considering the number of vehicles that enter the Colombo city, the street parking capacity is just not enough” she said.

Despite reaching saturation point, the CMC has attempted to increase the existing parking lots. “When constructing roads we try to add more parking spaces despite difficulties” she said, adding that however, the expansion of roads are now difficult due to the high costs of land acquisition.

While the CMC has not estimated the required parking spaces within the city, the current factors prove that solutions are needed for the present day problem.

Alternative solutions

With the CMC now unable to increase roadside parking slots Ganepola points out, there is a severe issue with parking in towns such as Borella, Maradana and the Fort.

According to her, although off street parking should be provided in these congested areas the CMC has no capability to do so. “The government should look into its possibility” she said adding that the CMC has no vacant land for such a major project. Ganepola says this is the main obstacle faced by the Council.

“All currently vacant government land don’t belong to the CMC” Ganepola said. According to her, therefore, the CMC has requested the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development to allocate land for off street parking lots to curb the issues caused due to the lack of parking spaces.

Meanwhile, she stresses that the influx of vehicles into the city has to be reduced. “Traffic during rush hours are severe” she pointed out adding that it can only be controlled by allowing a certain number of vehicles to enter the city.

However, speaking to the Sunday Observer, Traffic Engineer of the CMC, Manjula Kularatne said in order to take such steps the public transport system should be improved.

“When new systems such as, light rails, new buses, park and ride systems are introduced, we can limit the vehicles in many ways, such as, by increasing the parking charges” Kularatne said adding that the CMC already has plans to increase charges in the future.

“We need off street parking places where people can park vehicles in an appropriate place and use public transport, and this should be the future mechanism” Ganepola said.

Positive steps

However, positive steps have already been taken in some departments with the Urban Development Authority (UDA) strictly enforcing building regulations which require business premises to provide necessary parking within the building itself.

According to Ganepola the CMC also offers their observations in this regard while a special Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) team from the UDA observes the building plans. “There is a guideline now and it cannot be violated” she said.

However, problems in parking affecting traffic continues, due to certain businesses being given approval in the past which do not have ample parking space to this day.

“Some are homes converted to businesses who have got permits in the past to operate without any consideration for parking spaces” she pointed out.

One vehicle using a parking slot during the whole day is yet another issue faced by the CMC in providing enough parking for those entering the city.

“When you go to certain places you can observe the same vehicle there from around 7 am - 7 pm in the day” Kularatne said. As pointed out by him some motorists have struck up deals with parking wardens leaving their vehicles in the same spot throughout the day as they work in a nearby office. “Not only do they pay less for parking according to the deal, they also take up a spot that could be used by another motorist,” he emphasized.

However, with parking meters in place and future plans to introduce time limited parking in Colombo, this would not be allowed anymore, Kularatne said.

Meanwhile, the Western Province Megapolis Transport Master Plan too has suggested that a pricing mechanism for parking should be put in place to reduce traffic inflow.

It has proposed that adequate on street parking should be made available to curb parking on pedestrian walkways, with time limited parking, allowing only a maximum of 30 minutes for a vehicle to be parked on a slot, introduced immediately. Towing off of vehicles which have been parked in an unauthorized manner is also set to be put in place.

“When this plan comes into place we are confidant the issues revolving around parking within the city could be resolved” Kularatne opined. 

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