Parking or road encroachment?


Despite having carried out anti-encroachment operations in different areas of the city, the City District Government Lahore (CDGL) has given free rein to the Lahore Parking Company (LPC) to encroach onto roads and footpaths.

A subsidiary of the CDGL, the Lahore Parking Company was formed in August 2012 with the aim of providing adequate parking facilities to the city’s motorists and therefore reducing traffic congestion by coming up with alternatives to parking on the road.

The LPC initiated its first project in collaboration with a Turkish company UCS Park at Liberty Market, where the company introduced an automated system for the issuance of parking tickets and collection revenue. The automated system consisted of automatic ticketing machines, loop detectors, CCTV cameras, automatic barriers, and many other types of equipment.

An automated parking management system (APMS) was also established for managing parking at 21 Ramazan Bazaars and metro bus stations, and a control room was set up at Race Course Park for surveillance.

Other than these few instances of automation, modern parking facilities for Lahore’s population of 10 million remain a fantasy, and despite the passage of more than four years since the company’s inception, motorists continue to face parking problems which seem to be escalating with each passing day.

In an appreciable move, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif recently sacked all 11 board members of the company over poor management and gave the company three months to set itself aright.

According to a survey by Pakistan Today, most of the service roads near commercial areas have been handed over to the LPC to be used for parking, and the company’s subcontractors are not shy about using footpaths as parking stands to accommodate motorcycles in areas where little space is available.

An anonymous official of the public facility department told this scribe that the purpose of service roads is to facilitate moving vehicles and that they must not be blocked by any person or department. “The LPC was aimed at facilitating the public through secure and computerised parking systems but has failed to fulfil its duties,” he said.

Advocate Azhar Siddique while talking to Pakistan Today said that the government was violating its own laws in its pursuit to encroach onto roads and hand them over to the parking company. “Service roads and footpaths cannot be allowed for parking purposes because road blockage is obviously a criminal act,” Azhar said, adding that according to local government acts 187 and 188, any person or any authority will be committing a crime in case of placing anything or parking any vehicles on roads, service roads and footpaths. The lawyer claimed that cases should be registered against LPC officials.

“Due to a lack of coordination between different departments of the Punjab government, several parking projects remain limited to paperwork only,” the public facility department official said. A former board member of the LPC corroborated the claim, telling Pakistan Today that the delay in construction of new parking plazas was due to an absence of funds.

Additionally, despite claiming a parking fee from motorists, the company does not take any responsibility in case the vehicle is stolen or damaged, with tickets clearly stating that motorists “park at own risk.”

Advocate Azhar Siddique also said that according to the quid-pro-quo rule, the parking company is responsible for protecting vehicles as it receives money for its services.

Many traders operating on Mall Road are angry over the recent move of the CDGL against encroachments. They think that the move is aimed at facilitating LPC’s subcontractors by providing them more space for parking.

Usama, a shopkeeper, told Pakistan Today that the government had allowed the LPC to use one side of the service road for parking, but contractors are letting motorists park their vehicles on both sides. “It seems that the government is indifferent to traders,” he said.

An official of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), on condition of anonymity, said that the LDA had constructed two parking plazas in the city; one at Liberty Market and another at Moon Market. “Initially, the LDA was responsible for operating the plazas, but they were later handed over to the LPC,” he said, adding that the LDA was no longer involved in managing the city’s parking.