Parking Woes in Kolkata
The chaotic streets of Kolkata. Photo by Frisse82

The chaotic streets of Kolkata. Photo by Frisse82

India’s megacity of Kolkata, the world’s eighth largest, struggles with a number of issues related to a lack of regulation in the transit industry and a seemingly out-of-control transportation culture.

The blog, Reinventing Parking, wrote recently about exorbitant parking rates in the city during peak times. According to an article in The Telegraph, “extortion rackets thrive in broad daylight across the city in the name of car parking. The rackets — run by cooperatives issued licenses by the civic body, in collusion with police and local goons — force car owners to shell out exorbitant sums…”  In three studied parking zones in the city, owners pay between Rs 20 and Rs 50 per hour for parking their cars when hourly rates are fixed by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation at Rs 7 for cars and Rs 5 for motorcycles.

Here’s one account of dealing with parking in the city from The Telegraph:

The men demanded Rs 200 for my Maruti Omni that was parked for three hours and 15 minutes. They threatened me when I asked them to show the civic body-approved rate card,” said Rashbehari Dutta, a resident of Uttarpara. “When I asked for a receipt, they scribbled Rs 200 on a piece of paper.”

The city doesn’t have parking meters and instead cooperatives are licensed by what the article calls “civic bodies.” These cooperatives have illegally raised the price of parking and they often pay local police some of their earnings.

Kolkata is located in West Bengal, an Indian state with the longest running democratically elected communist government and one of the poorest and least developed states in India.  The city is connected to the rest of India through a rail system and has its own suburban rail network. Calcutta Tramways runs bus and trams throughout the city and private companies also run bus services in the city. Kolkata is also the site of India’s first underground railway system, although it is not an extensive system.

Despite its myriad transit services, Kolkata lacks an integrated and organized way of getting around. What has been your experience of mobility in the city? And how do you think it can be improved?

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  • http://www.rangwalaassoc.com Kaizer Rangwala

    I had similar experience in Mumbai.

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  • http://www.reinventingparking.org Paul Barter

    Thanks for linking to Reinventing Parking. But just to be clear, I think that one view of the problem here is that the official prices are too low.

    The corrupt raising of prices by the contractors (with collusion by local police apparently) indicates that the market prices in these busy locations are higher than the official ones for long periods of the day. It is just too tempting when it is clear that motorists are willing to pay more than Rs7 per hour.

    I wonder if raising the official prices would be politically possible in this case? After all, motorists parking in these areas are ALREADY paying between Rs20 and Rs50 per hour during the busiest periods.