The Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) office has brought forth a provision of free parking for vehicles in the valley since 27th of December, 2013. As encouraging as the move might have sounded to many, the following turn of events made quite a different story altogether. It almost seems like the aftermath was not duly anticipated by the office prior to making the decision. Haphazard parking, long term parking, traffic jams and discomfort for the general public have made it to the news, all thanks the move. Although, parking spaces have always been a problem, with our without the free parking provisions, from what we have seen so far, the problem has only escalated after the move.
The parking spaces, once made free means that the human resource that managed the vehicles prior to the move have been sent packing and free willed individuals can pretty much park their vehicles where they want and how they want. The Metropolitan office had plans to operate 20 legal parking spaces but neither did they plan it properly infrastructure-wise nor did they appoint adequate staff. This eventually resulted in the problems. Prior to the office’s decision of creating free parking spaces these spaces were managed by private individuals who provided services that were contracted by same office. Private parties managed the parking spaces in return for a small parking fee of NRs. 5-10 and such had created hassle free parking for the general public.
Given the scenario, KMC firstly there needs to develop infrastructure (the process prolonged due to bureaucratic hassles). Secondly, the office has to deploy their staff in the parking lots to manage the vehicles. Thirdly, a monitoring team needs to be set up to check on the staff and illegal parking.
In a city with 12 million registered vehicles, management of parking spaces is a lucrative business (even if NRs. 10 were to be charged per vehicle). Owing to the intensity of money that is transacted during the process the government, KMC, private individuals and even youth wings of political parties eye the piece of pie. When tenders for parking lots are opened by KMC there is a fierce competition among political parties, employee and local goons and hence controversies have always emerged on issues like corruption, favoritism and nepotism.
The core problem lies not in KMC or the contractor but in the inability of the government to hold local elections for more than a decade. In the absence, local bodies have been occupied by politically appointed bureaucrats and local members of all major political parties. The national vigilance report also states “Mismanagement, corruption and misallocation of resources are a common practice among the local bodies”. If local elections were to appoint representatives, this would give the representatives direct access to parking spaces in their area which they can contract out to private parties. Both private parties and the local elected bodies would directly be accountable to the local people hence reducing corruption and foul play.
As of now, the problem with parking spaces will hardly get any better with KMC’s involvement. The government and KMC are forgetting one essential component in the process i.e. the incentive structure. When a private party manages a parking space they do it because they have incentives to manage the parking and get as many bikes as possible which in turn would help them earn more. Such is not true for a KMC employee who would not be interested in managing the parking because he has no incentive to do so.
One of the easiest ways to manage the parking spaces while collecting the revenues and reducing traffic jams is by contracting it to private parties through competitive bidding. The KMC office should instead invest manpower and resources in monitoring and evaluation of the performance of private parties and such would be a win-win for all the parties involved.