Whoever thought about retail therapy as a panacea to many illnesses didn’t really factor in the parking torture. Weather and parking are topics that can get any conversation started, or should I say even blogs.
Last weekend we had driven to Phoenix Mills, the upmarket shopping destination at Parel. The crowd at Phoenix is a good indication that India is shining like never before and India’s consumption story is still intact. All eating joints were full and shows were sold out at the multiplex. They have a six- storey parking lot, which, of course, was House Full. It was a traffic jam of people and honking vehicles, both trying to get in and out of the mall. Those who have experienced watching even football or cricket match in any stadium abroad would have noticed how the entire crowd disburses in 15 minutes flat without any traffic jam or honking.
In India unfortunately, we are just not able to manage the parking. In spite of knowing that the parking lot is full, cars were allowed to enter, worsening the situation. The entry and exit ramps are the same / next to each other and you have to take an extremely sharp U turn to get on to the exit. A better design could have reduced the woes. The agony increases if there is a big car – like I said earlier, India is shining so big cars too are aplenty - the best of steering does not allow you to do a sharp U turn. You have to do it the traditional way of two steps forward, one step backward and then move. And here lies another problem, reversing with another harried car sticking to your bumper requires you to be an expert at dumb charades, making signs from inside your car.
Given the car fall which is equivalent of footfall, the malls can look at putting up stalls in the parking lots too. In any case we have walking salespersons hounding you to push their credit card seeing your trolley near the cash counter. So perhaps McDonald’s, which anyways have driveways in many places could open more counters along the parking way. Eat, drink (cold drinks) and make merry while you find a place to park. Did someone say the journey is more important than the destination!
Given the current policy regarding parking, Parel could well become a parking center and 50 years from now social scientists as well as urban planners will write on how the entire social revolution took place because of the parking lots in Parel. This is similar to the way sociologists have written articles on the impact of the highways and large malls built outside the cities and how they changed the urban American thought.
Builders are setting up large scale parking lots; more for FSI benefits rather than being of help. It could take 40 minutes to get in and 40 minutes to get out of a parking lot. So if a person drives all the way from Virar, he will have to park at one of the available parking lots, which could take him an additional 40 minutes and then look for a taxi to ferry him to his meeting place. Given the condition of the narrow Tulsipipe Road and assuming the problems of finding a cab for close distance will continue, many may choose substitute their treadmill routine for a quick walk only to reach drenched (if not rains then sweat) for the meeting.
On the positive side, some can come in their track suits and take a quick shower and change at the office and make themselves presentable for the meeting. The other simple alternative is like the way we do even today, have your driver who has his cellphone on, and get dropped preferably on the opposite side of the road (because a U turn ahead is another jam usually). Then give a discreet buzz as your meeting nears its end so that he has completed his U turn and is back at the gate to pick you up to start a similar journey all over again.
So when parents take their kids out for an evening, park, will now have a new connotation. I won’t be surprised if there would be more space for parking than for parks in future. Remember how instantly people team up for a game of cricket or football on holidays when the parking lots are empty. So parking lots will have to be converted into more of an amusement place with billiard tables and many of the screen based games which require even less space. High end air cooling and air purifying systems will have to be installed so that people don’t mind waiting longer.
A side thought - I read an interesting article in the Economist, which mentions that the way real estate prices have gone up in Hong Kong, there is an acute shortage of permanent parking places - not enough land to provide the six-feet required for burial. In Mumbai, some of the high rise buildings are situated near the burial grounds. Fortunately, the Hindus believe in burning and immersing the ashes in the Bay of Bengal or Arabian Sea. But other religions like Christianity and Islam, still choose to bury. In Hong Kong, there is Happy Valley residential area. Earlier, it was a burial ground and is a location of six cemeteries of various religions. Something similar, is expected to happen in Mumbai also given the prime location of burial grounds.
Looks like the topic of parking has brought us to a Dead–end. So I’ll stop for now.