One might argue, especially if they use a car, that it is rather harsh if the police fined them for unauthorised on-street parking when city authorities cannot ensure adequate legitimate parking spaces in Dhaka to begin with. But if authorities legalise on-street parking on specific roads, a move that is already in the making, it could intensify traffic congestion even further. It is a catch-22 between providing solutions for a few by possibly multiplying problems for many.
Md Sirajul Islam, chief town planner of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), who also served in the same capacity for the undivided Dhaka City Corporation, told the Dhaka Tribune that the city corporation and the traffic division of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) are jointly working to legalise on-street parking on specific roads in Dhaka.
“The engineering department of DSCC is working on a project to mark parking spots on a number of roads in commercial and business areas. We will officially disclose those parking spots very soon,” Sirajul said on Sunday.
DSCC Mayor Sayeed Khokon had also mentioned to reporters earlier this month that DSCC was soon going to launch an on-street parking system that would permit parking cars at designated spots in exchange of a fee.
Sirajul added that the decision of legalising on-street parking was made to curb the problem of unorganised street parking, evident almost everywhere in the city. This move would discipline the city roads, he said.
Albeit this proposed system is much like the metered on-street parking system available in many major western cities of the world, it works for them because their infrastructure is way more developed than that in Bangladesh.
Reasat E Noor, a civil engineer who majored in transportation engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), has researched extensively on capacity loss of Dhaka city roads. He said most developed cities in the world are planned in such a way that 25% of the total area of a city consists of roads. But so far, Dhaka uses only 9% of its total area for roads.
“We are not being able to utilise even the mere 9% roadways available as several issues such as on-street parking, on-street dustbin and potholes due to poor maintenance eat away from the width of our roads,” Reasat said.
Reasat co-authored a research paper published on an international journal last year which found that on-street parking already reduced more than 10% of road capacities in Dhaka.
“If on-street parking is legalised, even if only on specific roads, the capacity loss would hike significantly. Such a policy will increase traffic congestion manifold,” Reasat added.
Reasat, along with Mohiuddin Imran and Imran Hossain, both graduates of Buet and co-authors of the paper, had calculated capacity loss of different roads of Dhaka for their research. They found that the Motijheel Road had a capacity loss of 23.1% due to on-street parking last year. Panthapath and Green Road lost 10.6% and 10.3% of width respectively because of on-street parking.
“Roads of metropolitan cities should be designed with the target of accommodating the projected traffic demand to occur 10-15 years later; legalising fared on-street parking might generate some cash, but it will have disastrous implications on traffic congestion,” he added.
According to Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), there are 341,915 registered cars in Dhaka city. Alarmingly, 27,396 cars were registered in 2016 alone. So, what would the numbers look like in five years? How would loss of road width due to on-street parking affect traffic congestion, with the growing number of vehicles? These remain hard questions for the policymakers to answer.
DSCC Chief Town Planner Sirajul Islam, however, told the Dhaka Tribune that the government is also considering introducing automated parking system (APS), much like the fared parking system in Tokyo.
APS operates as a multi-storey parking lot that aims to maximise the number of parking spaces available for limited land resources.
Sirajul said that he thinks introducing APS and increasing the number of on-street parking spots is the answer.