Saturday, February 4, 2017

Uberisation of Parking

By Madhu S*

Parking has posed several predicaments that never cease to ease for the Government of India. Government after government has tried to fix the problem using various strategies –building more parking spaces, imposing congestion taxes, investing in parking infrastructure etc. However, they fail because policies fails, as the strategies are neither linked with the outcomes nor do they learn from market models. This may also happen to Venkaiah Naidu, the Minister for Urban Development, if his ministry’s proposal to show proof of parking while buying a new vehicle[1] is implemented. The intention is right and countries like Japan have tasted success. The proposal is neither new to India as the states of Sikkim and Mizoram [2] have already implemented it. The issue here is that the government still assumes ownership and responsibility of providing parking. Citizens are still happy to ask (or demand) for room space to fit their air conditioners. The government need to understand the market system better, if itneeds to tackle (or disown) the parking issue.
Experts like Donald Shoup of the University of California (UCLA) and Paul Barter of the National University of Singapore (NUS) stress the need to treat parking space as a valuable space, which is killed by cars. Should we give free space for a private car or should we use the space for, say, housing for the poor or generating state revenue by leasing prime space or giving employment to a tea seller? The question of priority and productive utilisation of space assumes significance in this context. The National Urban Housing Policy mentions that 25 square metre to 30 square metre of land space is required to provide housing for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in India[3]. On average, a car takes up 25 square-metre space.How do we justify the use of public spaces for car parking? We have to free public spaces from car parking and bring Uber-model innovations to tackle parking or traffic issues.

What to learn from Uber?
Uberisation has become a synonym for effective utilisation with minimum cost. By connecting cars/taxis with people through technology and utilising it, Uber-like systems have brought a new dimension to the concept of space utilisation. This is exactly what we need to learn from them. First, Uber has killed idle time. Cars no longer need to stop dead, as trip volumes increased in relation to decrease in waiting time. Long-term parking is equal to unproductive utilisation of space. Uber-like systems have reduced the need for parking. Something that cities like New Jersey[4] and Colorado adopted when they decided to subsidise Uber than invest in building parking infrastructure. The ‘roundabout time’, a critical issue of cars hovering around in cities to find parking space, will be an issue of the past, if technology could be integrated to identify vacant parking lots. Google Maps help Uber track its customers and ideally, cars should find the vacant spots.
Second, Uber revolutionalised the concept of ride sharing through pooling and incentivising people to share. Majority of the parking spaces are left vacant at some part of the day, which could have been better utilised. Why not ‘legally’convert a parking space for food vending at night? Shared economy benefits have been considered as the future and so need to be seriously considered.
Third, demand pricing for parking is favoured by experts like Paul Barter, as it makes people realise the value of peak time.Recently, the Central Government proposed to limit surge pricing, and the debate is still on whether it is the right strategy. Parking prices in the form of fees should reflect the realities and the real estate value of the land. Dynamic pricing is a good market proposition working well for innovations and private players. Let cars pay more for parking on prime land at peak time.This will influence people’s decision to use cars and benefit increased usage of public transport.
Fourth, customising for local conditions has been a hallmark of Uber and hence it was able to adapt better in new areas. There is no concept of a universal parking fee or a universal solution for parking issues. The local conditions influence strategies and hence proof of parking should be a choice for local governments to implement based on studies and findings.
Uber-like systems incentivised people to leave their private cars and use taxis for riding to office or market. Governments have started to realise their importance, as the burden to provide parking has been relieved. Yet, the question of congestion remains unanswered and needs further assessment. However, it has helped us understand the benefits of market on public issues like mobility and transport.
Finally, Uber has helped us realise the power of technology and this is exactly what parking management systems require. Technology is currently confined to automation of multilayer parking and needs space for innovation. Parking spaces are still boring and cars are dead items when parked. Smart solutions require effective utilisation of space and meeting the requirements of the passengers. We are still waiting for that innovation, which can only happen through a right parking policy strategy that encourages innovation and limits government intervention. Maybe, the next Uberisation could be in parking!
            Madhu S is Director (Research & Projects ) at CPPR. Views expressed by the author is personal and does not reflect that of CPPR.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Land Value Capture for Infrastructure Financing

By Abhishek Das

The concept of Land Value Capture is gaining significance as governments across the world are looking for sustainable modes for financing infrastructure projects. The basic principle behind Land Value Capture is that legitimately created value belongs to its creator. So, if it is evident that there is a rise in the value of immovable properties,due to infrastructure investment by government, the government has the right to capture this increased value.
The requirement of government investment in infrastructure development is rising steadily.More so,in developing countries, which are experiencing massive urban expansion. In the case of India, the budget outlay for infrastructure for the financial year 2016–17 was 2200 billion rupees ($32 billion). The projects include construction of new airports, metro rails and expansion of road networks. This will result in the escalation of land prices in the vicinity of these projects. At present, private developers make use of the benefits of land value increment. The urban local bodies in India are yet to capture this rise in land value.
Land value capture is done in two steps:
  • Value creation (and)
  • Value recovery

Betterment taxes, land pooling, sale of development rights, land readjustment and formation of special assessment districts are some of these practises. The success of the system is dependent on three stages of implementation.
  • Identification of the benefactor
  • Quantification of the increase in property value (and)
  • Collection of the increased value (or a part of the value)

The city of Bogota in Columbia has been successfully implementing Contribucion de Valorizacion – a form of betterment taxation –for almost a century now. Many of the infrastructure projects in the city are financed by this revenue. Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTRC) of Hong Kong has also implemented the LVC concept successfully. MTRC operates without government subsidy and is highly profitable. Around 80 per cent of the total income of MTRC come from property business.
In Gujarat, betterment tax can be collected by the Gujarat Town Planning Scheme if there is an increment in land value after implementing Town planning Scheme in an area. But this provision in not utilised and no such tax is collected. The local administration of some Indian cities increased the stamp duty to capture the addition in land value. For example, in the case of Nagpur Metro, an additional stamp duty of one percent is to be levied for 25 years on all property transactions. The problem here is that the additional stamp duty falls on the entire residents of Nagpur, whereas,people who have property near the metro corridors are the only benefactors. The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has prepared a land-pooling scheme, which was approved by the Ministry of Urban Development in 2015.But DDA is yet to implement the scheme.
The urban local bodies in India find it difficult to implement LVC mechanisms because of the lack of capacity to do so. Development activities in Indian cities are carried out by different development authorities of central and state governments. For large projects, such as metro rails, special bodies are created.These special bodies do not have the power to impose tax on land, and often do not coordinate with the urban local bodies. Consecutively, the urban local bodies do not capture the additional land value because the project is not implemented by them. Even if the urban local bodies attempt to do so, the fundamental idea of LVC is questioned, because it is not the developer entity that captures the benefits of the development. What is the solution to this dilemma? The solution is to make the urban local bodies capable of implementing the infrastructure projects. Empower them so that they can implement financing mechanisms and strategies to capture the increment in land value.

Abhishek Das is Research Associate at CPPR- Centre for Urban Studies. Views expressed by the author is personal and does not represent that of CPPR.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The fakeness (stupidity?) of the Vyttila junction traffic arrangement

By D Dhanuraj*

In the last few weeks, experiments with the Vyttila junction traffic arrangement have grown to the level of utter chaos and stupidity. It is no surprise as the busiest junction in Kerala never received the attention it deserves. Often, it tends to fall in prey for the ad-hoc arrangements suggested by non- experts reflecting the total failure of the administrative system. With the experiments continue, the citizens have a tough time crossing the Vyttila junction.

I am not sure how these latest changes have been arrived at. Media reports that a sitting judge has a say in the most recent changes. It exposes the lack of robust mechanisms and capacity build up for a major element like public transport in a city like Kochi. How come a judge or a police officer could usurp the role of a public transport expert? How do they arrive at the decision and what data they have to conclude? Did they conduct any simulation exercises before they implemented their decision? As far as I know about the city traffic and transport management system, it lacks the authentic data and updated information till recently. Even the biggest investments in Kochi’s public transport sector lacked the updated information on the commuters’ volume and their whereabouts. Again, it is not surprising as there too many cooks to spoil the party.

I would not have been alive to write this blog if I didn’t have that miraculous escape at the U-Turn (on the way from Elamkulam to Tripunithura) on the other day. The issue at the U-Turn on the northern side of Vyttila is that it conjoins S A Road, Palarivattom – Thammanam road and Subhash Chandra Bose Road. U-turn, in fact, cramps the line traffic. On the southern side, U-Turn is ahead of the junction that gives enough lead time for the traffic from Tripunithura to ease down. But there again, the lack of turning radius and curvature stops the vehicles from Aroor side abruptly that adds chaos to the whole lane traffic from there onwards heading Palarivattom. Now the situation is grimmer with the vehicles are caught up in the traffic jam starting from Thycoodam underpass onwards. Assess the oil burnt out in the vehicles joining from the different routes compared to the one-way traffic in the earlier version. Who cares and who is benefited?

The other impact of the traffic jam at the Vyttila junction are the implications it has on the other roads connecting Vyttila. Held up in a traffic jam at Vyttila, both private and public vehicles tend to increase their speed once they emerge out of the Kochi city to compensate the time they have already in the traffic jam. It leads to increase in the accidents and casualties in the other outskirts of Kochi. It is common practice in this part of the world to alter the traffic management arrangements every time when a new police officer or a district collector assumes office in the city. They fail to understand that even altering or shifting busy traffic from one end of the road to another end will have socio-economic impacts. Fake arrangements will not stand the test of the times and more importantly will make the commuters unsafe on the roads.

*D Dhanuraj is Chairman of CPPR. Views expressed by the authors are personal and does not represent that of CPPR