Colombo needs better managed parking | Sunday Observer

Colombo needs better managed parking

15 July, 2018
Parking meter
Parking meter

According to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, by 2017 the vehicle population in Sri Lanka was 7,247,122 as compared to 6,795,469 vehicles in 2016. Over 500,000 vehicles reportedly enter Colombo daily and there is a serious shortage for most of these vehicles to find parking in the city.

Colombo is in need of better, managed parking as the city continues to grapple with congestion on the streets.

According to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, by 2017 the vehicle population in Sri Lanka was 7,247,122 as compared to 6,795,469 vehicles in 2016. Over 500,000 vehicles reportedly enter Colombo daily and there is a serious shortage for most of these vehicles to find parking in the city.

The failure by the authorities to meet the demand for more parking spaces through a proper city plan has contributed to traffic jams in most parts of Colombo.

Currently, there are two types of parking. On-street and off-street parking. On-street parking involves using the lanes designated for parking along the main roads in Colombo. Off-street parking involves using either private or public car parks.One immediate solution to partially resolve city parking congestion is to manage existing parking spaces, particularly with street parking.

Head of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Moratuwa, Professor J.M.S.J (Saman) Bandara said that existing parking spaces are not being managed properly.He noted that in some places,drivers occupy on-street parking for longer hours and this prevents very short time parking.

Professor Bandara elaborated on the need for different rates and parking systems based on the location, as opposed to one uniform system all over. For example, Professor Bandara is of the opinion that parking near schools should be for short durations so parents can drop their children and leave while there should be on-street parking slots of longer duration at other locations.

According to him,a survey carried out by Moratuwa University identified the ‘hot spots’ for parking and the analysis was handed over to the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC).

The analysis identifies locations where people park the most and on average, it has been found that people park for approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Professor Bandara further added that proper information should be disseminated to the public. Available technology on smart phones should be used for drivers to identify available parking.

“Otherwise, traffic builds up when people drive around slowly looking for parking,” he noted.

Need for proper awareness

Dr. Dimantha De Silva of the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Moratuwa, stated that proper awareness on the need for better managed and paid parking was essential.

“People perceive parking as a separate cost than the out of pocket cost they have to pay for their fuel consumption or ticket price. It is a big onus to them. Paying Rs. 50 to go 2 km by car as against paying Rs. 50 for parking, it is two different perceptions. That’s why always when you don’t have this in the system, it is difficult to enforce it initially,” he said.

In evolved countries systems exist where the ‘pay to park’ concept ensures the authorities can restrict unwanted people entering the city during peak hours.

“A separate parking cost mechanism can be established in the city with short, long or medium term parking passes. Your pricing mechanism will dictate how you can control parking. For example, if you want certain people to park only for a very short time, then like in other parts of the world, only 30 minutes of parking should be provided. Levy a charge for parking beyond 30 minutes. For example, bank or post office transactions generally doesn’t take more than 30 minutes. Thus, locations near these institutions can be identified and declared 30 minute parking zones. Thus, we restrict people parking for 5 hours on that spot. So, we can this location for different people and also use the space productively. We are aware of mechanisms and systems to do this and it’s a matter of how we enforce this,” he said.

Switch to off-street parking

Dr. De Silva also opined that off-street parking is not being made use of effectively.

“Ideally, on-street parking should be decreased little by little. Because what happens is if there are two or three lanes on a road, if there is a parking lane on the left-side, the vehicle movement capacity is reduced on the left-most lane because of these few vehicles coming into the parking bay and coming out.

These are the issues with on-street parking. Even though some may suggest removal of on-street parking it will be impractical and unworkable if there is no off-street parking. There are UDA lands which won’t be used for another 3-4 years. In the short term, we need to use these as parking lots. We have been requesting authorities to identify such lands. It will take some time to arrive at a complete solution - it will be only when we can move to off-street parking. Regarding cost-effectiveness, we can’t do with this with a charge of Rs. 30. When we increase the price, the private sector can come in and provide more supply. The private sector cannot come in because they can’t make money to compensate for their investment,” he said.

Dr De Silva said that the proposal for paid parking was included in the Megapolis master plan and the CMC was encouraged to go ahead with the project. Smart parking using parking meters has been introduced by the CMC in partnership with the private sector. Though the project has been launched some problematic areas have arisen.These should have been looked into before it was launched.

“There are minimum requirements before starting a project which needs to be looked into. On the payment front, I feel the cash option, credit card option and a mobile application should be there,” he said.

Dr. De Silva noted that the CMC system has the capability of a mobile application, but lack of public awareness resulted in the system not being made proper use of. The other issue is the distance between the parking meters. Dr. De Silva says there needs to be a minimum distance at which the machines are available. “You know the typical distance people would walk is 200m. That is why we have the bus halts at 400 m intervals. Anyone who goes in the middle can walk to either side to get the ticket. Basically, you can have a ticketing machine every 400 meters. Such methods will provide flexibility to the system.These must be the criteria the company managing parking must have

Better enforcement

On the enforcement side, Dr. De Silva says there needs to be a better mechanism to ensure good and effective enforcement.

“At the moment I feel the pricing is too low. However, we need to start somewhere. Fines should have a maximum cap. There may be people who might be manipulating the system. With the current system of enforcement a motorist can park for three hours and when they get caught they might pay the fine. With a fee of Rs.30 an hour, someone gets a Rs.90 fine, he will not get charged for 3 hours, so he only gets charged Rs. 60 so he’s still making money. We need to have a mechanism for that kind of loophole. As it’s a digital system, you will know who the frequent violators are. You also need to have the legal system in place to do that. It is not to inconvenience the people, it is to enforce the system,” he said.

In the end, educating the public on the need for better parking is key. Once the public fall into the system everything else will fall in place.

“From the people’s point of view, we must educate them on why we are doing this. You know, there is a shortage of supply to provide everybody the service, so we want more people to use this.

“So by paying a parking fee, what we are doing is limiting the volume of unwanted parking”, De Silva said.

[Tenaga’s PPP with CMC]

Tenaga Car Parks with an investment of Rs. 250 Million commissioned 100 solar powered parking meters in Colombo in a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) with Colombo Municipal Council.

The parking meters have a system where once a car occupies a parking spot, owners must pay the parking fee before departing.

Owing to a recent issue on a fine, Colombo Mayor Rosy Senanayake ordered the suspension of Tenaga from collecting/imposing fines while the normal function of collecting the parking fee continues.


the CMC is the biggest and most fraudulent culprit the sathutu uyana was built in the elie house park premises there is no other park in colombo like this but there is no parking the corrupt CMC officials pocketed 75% of the cost of building sathutu uyana now they have taken the rest of the park for parking only ignorant idiots would take a park and make a parking cutting valuable trees and making furniture for their homes

I believed Sri Lanka is a developed country! not a third world country like USA or UK where parking meters ,and traffic wardens harass people. Meters are mega money spinners for capitalist. ALL car parking meters are owned in the UK by a few billionaires who get money from fines and enforcement.