Parking in Dhaka poses a serious challenge to the vehicle owners for there is a huge lack of parking facilities across this concrete jungle. This only leads to illegal parking on the streets, intensifying thereby the already aggravated traffic gridlock on the city roads.
Transport and urban development experts said that by facilitating comfortable public transport and making need-based multi-storey parking facilities in busy areas were among the solutions to the haphazard parking.
They asked the government agencies, including Dhaka South and North City Corporation, Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority, traffic department of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha and Bangladesh Road Transport Authority to work together to solve the problem.
A city which has been subject to rapid urbanisation over the last thirty years has little to offer in terms of necessary infrastructure. The most urgent among the infrastructure services is adequate roads and parking spaces. Due to an acute crisis of parking space in the city, Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority has approved 64 parking spots for both North and South Dhaka on a temporary basis at DTCA’s 13th board meeting held on December 1, 2019.
Of the 64 on-street parking spaces, 31 spots fall under Dhaka North City Corporation area and 33 are under Dhaka South.
Bangladesh Institute of Planners president Akter Mahmud said that on-street parking for private cars was not a sustainable solution to the problem of parking in a densely populated city like Dhaka.
His argument is logical enough. ‘Control the number of private cars and facilitate mass transport to ease traffic jam in Dhaka,’ he said.
Without increasing on-street parking for private cars urban planners asked the government to reclaim parking spaces at all residential and commercial buildings under the Dhaka Building Construction Rules 2008 and promote public transport.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader presided over the meeting held fifteen days into the enforcement of Road Transport Act 2018 on 1 November. According to the act, no vehicle is allowed to park and load or offload goods or pick up and drop off passengers at any place not designated for the purpose.
Violators would be fined Tk 5,000 for breaching of this law.
The parking spaces included Tejgaon, Gulshan roads 4, 8, 62, 63, 75, 86 and 103, Banani roads 17 and 19/A, Uttara AB Market and Amir Complex, Bailey Road, Elephant Road, Satmasjid Road and Chiriakhana Roads, Shapla Chattar, Rajuk crossing, Dayaganj crossing, Kamalapur Pirjangi Shrine, Naya Paltan and Notre Dame College areas.
Dhaka city had on-street parking facilities for 423 vehicles at New Market, Baitul Mukarram Gold Market, Polwel Market, Palashi, Motijheel Ideal School, and Holy Family Hospital areas and off-street parking facilities for a mere 326 vehicles at City Centre in Motijheel.
Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority officials however could not say how many cars could be parked there and did not fix the rate of parking fees immediately.
The real scenario is that only a handful of residential and commercial buildings in the city have parking spaces while yearly 15,000 private cars getting registration for the lack of public transport and other reasons.
Due to parking of vehicles on road and footpath, pedestrians are forced to walk on the road. This causes a serious safety concern for the pedestrians as they risk themselves being hit by approaching vehicles. In addition, pedestrians walking on the road leads to road capacity being reduced even more, causing traffic chaos and congestion. Inadequate footpaths and encroachment of footpaths only exacerbate the situation.
Designated parking spaces are few and far between. Dhaka city neither has any parking space nor adequate bay areas for a huge number of public transports, including buses, human haulers, ridesharing motorbikes for 17 million city people. The increasing number of private cars only complicates the matter. Therefore, many vehicles remain parked on roads, causing congestions.
Accident Research Institute assistant professor Kazi Md Shifun Newaz said that illegal parking of vehicles on road was behind the congestions on road while the movement of both slow- and fast-moving vehicles on the same roads, inadequate road network, public transport plying the road without stopping at designated bus stoppages and lack of enforcement of laws were major reasons behind the unruly traffic and gridlocks on roads.
According to the survey-based World Traffic Index-2020, implemented and published in January by a research organisation called NUMBEO, Dhaka has ranked 10th in terms of worst traffic among the world’s 228 cities studied.
A World Bank analysis published in July 2017 revealed that the average traffic speed in the capital, over the past 10 years, dropped from 21 kilometres per hour to just 7 kilometres, slightly above the average walking speed.
According to a study of Accident Research Institute of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, currently the average traffic speed in Dhaka is five to six kilometres per hour.
Each of the previous mayors of two Dhaka city corporations made a lot of commitment to the city dwellers. They promised to solve traffic jams but none of them took any pragmatic actions while the prime ministers also assured the people that their road woes would be solved.
SM Saleh Uddin, transport expert and former executive director of Dhaka Transport Coordination Board, said that the government should control the spiralling number of private cars by ensuring safe, adequate and comfortable public buses and other forms of public transport.
He said that public transport was cheap, environment-friendly and suitable for overpopulated city where only 10 per cent space is dedicated to transportation.
According to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority, around 41 cars and eight buses were registered each day in 2019 in Dhaka.
Amid total standoff of traffic as well as continuous tailbacks on roads in Dhaka, city mayors were given the responsibilities to free Dhaka from congestions and make it a passenger- and pedestrian-friendly city. This they were supposed to accomplish by bringing all buses under a number of companies and freeing roads and footpaths from mindless competition and occupation.
Obaidul Quader, finally, on June 19, 2019, had formed a committee with the immediate past Dhaka South City mayor, Sayeed Khokon, as its head to ease the capital’s traffic congestions, stop the movement of all illegal vehicles and illegal parking and recover its footpaths within the next two months.
The committee formed to ease Dhaka’s traffic congestion in two months with Dhaka South city mayor Sayeed Khokon as head went ineffective midway after its formation in June last year.
But, in reality, commuters still have to remain stuck in prolonged and nagging vehicle gridlocks throughout the capital while citizens also suffer due to acute shortage of public transports.
July 3, the committee restricted movement of rickshaws from Sunday July 7 on Gabtoli-Asad Gate-Science Lab-New Market-Azimpur route and Kuril Biswa Road-Rampura-Malibagh-Khilgaon-Saydabad route. In reality plying of rickshaws on these roads are rampant as always.
Both city mayors conducted drives against hawkers who grabbed city footpaths and roads but the street vendors have never ceased to make re-appearance, nor have there been a plan on the part of the authority to rehabilitate the hawkers in order to keep them off the roads and footpaths.
Dhaka South city mayor Mohammad Sayeed Khokon refused to make any comment on why he failed to stop on-street illegal parking.
The DTCA executive director Khandakar Rakibur Rahman told New Age that that they were still working on the drafted parking policy for Dhaka.
He hoped that if the policy could be finalised and properly implemented, it would have given commuters a huge relief. It has been more than a year that the policy on parking remained trapped in limbo.
When visiting someone’s house in Dhaka by personal vehicle, city people often find themselves in an awkward situation as they realise that the residence does not allow visitors parking. People often face similar situation while visiting shopping malls, markets, offices, educational institutions, financial institutions and hospitals with personal vehicles as most of these places in Dhaka do not have any designated parking space for visitors or in some cases do not provide any parking facilities for visitors.
Although most people realise and understand that illegal parking on the road or on the footpath causes traffic mayhem, when they go to a place with their vehicle which does not offer parking space, they have no choice but to park their vehicles illegally on the road.
Ridwan Quaium, a transportation engineer based in Australia, thought that illegal parking on the road causes traffic chaos and even congestion, especially in a city like Dhaka, where road space is severely inadequate compared to the demand. Illegal parking on the road makes the traffic situation even worse as it reduces the road capacity even more.
He said that parking was a necessary component of any city’s transport system. It is needed to allow for the safe storage of vehicles while they are not in use and enables its riders to undertake their intended activity at their destination. It forms an interface between the road network and other land uses.
Urban planners viewed that to address the existing parking issue, the city authorities might consider developing multi-storey parking areas in major economic activity centres such as in Motijheel, Dhanmondi and Gulshan.
This would definitely help to improve the traffic flow and walking conditions in these areas, which would also improve the city’s liveability, they said.
Planners said that many busy and populated mega cities like Dhaka have app-based parking with high charge to discourage private cars.
As part of the solution, they also urged the government to shift inter-district bus terminals from the city to outskirts and build more inter-city bus depots for city buses.
Three inter-district bus terminals — Gabtoli, Mohakali and Sayedabad — are situated inside the city while the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation has four bus depots at Mirpur, Joarsahara, Kalyanpur and Kamlapur. The city bus operators park their vehicles on the roads in areas such as Gulistan, Phulbaria, Motijheel, Jatrabari, Mohakhali, Tejgaon, Pallabi, Mirpur, Agargaon, Banasree, Azimpur, Khilgaon and Mohammadpur, causing major traffic congestion. City bus operators blamed the authorities for not allocating any designated spot for parking their buses. The plan to turn the inter-district bus terminals into city bus terminals as per the Revised Strategic Transport Plan and a decade-long proposal for a new terminal at Nimtali are yet to get off the ground.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from In Focus