For the last many years, Lahore has witnessed a boom in construction – new flyovers, roads, commercial plazas, markets and business zones. But, as the roads are getting wider and congested and commercial centres busy, one problem is getting worse – that of parking.
Parking was earlier an irritant, an inconvenience, but now as the number of motor vehicles on Lahore roads has multiplied, more are fighting for fewer spaces — that come with a hefty charge of up to Rs30 for a car and Rs20 for a motorbike.
The trend of paid parking seemingly has caught on like wild fire – for some of the private offices are also charging parking fee from visitors, which is an illegal act.
Most of the parking stands encroach on service lanes, roads and green belts.
In a rather innovative gesture, back in 2012, the Punjab leadership launched the Lahore Parking Company or LePark, an autonomous wing of the City District Government Lahore (CDGL) that has been entrusted to operate over 114 parking stands in the city.
According to sources, the Lahore Parking Company has paid Rs52,552,906 to CDGL for three quarters of the year (2013-14). The company is officially charging Rs20 per car and Rs10 per motorcycle but, on ground, the situation is different – it is charging up to Rs30 per car and Rs20 at various posh localities, such as Gulberg, Liberty, The Mall and Jail Road.
But in the last two years, the company has only served part of the problem, because other than the authorised parking stands, dozens of unauthorised ones are operating freely in the city.
And, as if taking cue from the Lahore Parking Company, the private and unauthorised contractors are charging as much too — Rs30 per car and Rs20 per motorcycle.
Violating the rules, none of the parking contractors have installed signboards that notify the approved parking fee. The installation of signboards was a significant part of terms and conditions for awarding of contracts for parking stands.
Lahore’s commuters are losing patience with the parking contractors. They say it’s a nuisance. For, Mrs Sajid, a resident of Faisal Town, the charge of Rs60 per hour outside Pace on Main Boulevard is insane. When she refused to pay the charge without seeing a notification, “a very well-built, scantily dressed man got up from a seat, approached me, and said, ‘if you want to park your car here you have to pay this rate’. Petrified, I abided by his orders,” she says.
Also, there is a common perception in the city that an influential family owns the Lahore Parking Company, for despite repeated complaints no action is taken against the malpractices of the parking contractors.
The major problematic areas in the city where overcharging at parking stands is reported include Main Boulevard Gulberg, The Mall, Jail Road, Abid Market, Sabzazar, Moon Market Allama Iqbal Town, Hafeez Centre, Liberty Market, Shahalam Market, Qaddafi Stadium, Gulberg Main Market, Barkat Market, Temple Road, Mozang Road, Lawrence Road, Ichra, Circular Road, Link Road Model Town, M.M. Alam Road, Railway Station, Garhi Shahu and Egerton Road.
Parking contractors charge a particularly high rate outside Ramazan bazaars, district courts and other government offices.
On the other hand, Director General Lahore Development Authority (LDA), Ahad Khan Cheema, says LDA is vigorously working to resolve the parking problem in the provincial capital.
He says a parking plaza in Shahalam Market and a parking plaza on Main Boulevard in Gulberg is also operative. “The Authority,” he says, “is planning to construct more parking plazas in the city.”
Cheema adds that the Moon Market Parking Plaza in Allama Iqbal Town will have space for 400 cars, which will likely resolve the parking problems for commuters of the area. The plaza will provide modern facilities, like lifts and ramps to encourage people to park their vehicles in the plaza. It is expected to open for parking after the auction of some shops.
LDA DG, however, admits that the Lahore Parking Company has failed to discourage illegal parking around the parking plazas.