Mismanagement and overcharging puncture city’s smart parking ideaMetropolis spokesperson Ishwor Man Dangol says Kathmandu plans to ban roadside parking at New Road and build a multi-storey parking facility.
In May 2019, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City came up with a novel idea of ‘smart digital parking’ at New Road. Everyone appreciated the initiative because traffic jams are a perennial problem in downtown Kathmandu and the new system allowed people to book a parking space through their smartphones from the comfort of their homes.
But two years later, locals, business people and everyday visitors say the New Road parking lots are not smart but more of a nuisance now.
“The parking system is totally disorganised, and this has hugely affected my business. People even park on the pavement, blocking my shopfront,” said Rajesh Deshar, 40, who owns Kathmandu Bakery and Burger Shop at New Road.
“Sometimes, I can’t even enter my shop or get out because vehicles, especially motorbikes, are parked right in front of the shop,” complained Deshar. He said this is a problem experienced by all businesses in the New Road area.
Two years ago, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, in collaboration with a private firm named Wheels Truly Yours, had launched the ‘smart parking’ system under a public-private partnership model purportedly to ‘solve the parking problem’ in the area.
Initially, only one side of the road was allocated for parking and the parking space was separated by yellow paint to allow enough space between vehicles. But now, motorcycles are parked on both sides of the road, causing huge traffic congestion, and the vehicles are parked tightly, with two motorcycles being crammed into spaces that were originally meant for one.
Through the ‘Park KTM’ app, people could book parking spaces for 700 two-wheelers and over 200 four-wheelers at a given time through android phones, but the app does not work now.
“Now that the app does not work, you can’t book space through your smartphone,” said one of the employees of Wheels Truly, preferring anonymity. “I don’t know why the app does not work now.”
These days, in the name of smart parking, the sides of all major roads in downtown Kathmandu have been encroached. They claim to charge Rs25 per hour and Rs15 per half-hour for motorbikes and Rs60 per hour for four-wheelers but the rates vary.
“I was pretty excited when they started digital parking in 2019, but it does not work anymore,” said Dipendra Adhikari, 47, one of the service users.
“I had parked my bike for just over an hour in New Road and they charged me Rs40. That’s too expensive,” he complained. “They charge Rs25 if you park here for 20 minutes.”
The only visible thing left of the smart parking lot are the LED screens that had been installed in several areas of New Road. Initially, those LED screens were put up to give information on the parking space available but these days, they show messages related to Covid-19.
“It seems that the KMC is making money in the name of smart parking,” said Adhikari, who owns a mobile shop in Bhaktapur. “I need to come here frequently to get goods for my shop, and I have to spend a lot of money on parking.”
A month after smart digital parking came into operation, the Post had published a story on how people were unhappy with the higher parking charges in the New Road area. The fifth Municipal Assembly meeting of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City had then revised the parking fees. As per the revision, the City had announced to charge two-wheelers Rs15 for up to 30 minutes of parking and Rs25 for an hour. For four-wheelers, the cost was revised to Rs50 for 30 minutes of parking and Rs60 per hour. But that decision was never implemented.
Asked about the mismanagement and high parking charges in the area, KMC spokesperson Ishwor Man Dangol said he was not aware of the problem.
“We have not followed the issue closely. I will inquire about it and let you know,” Dangol told the Post.
He also said that the KMC will soon scrap the smart parking project for New Road. “Because it was our pilot project, we did not realise that it was so difficult to make space for parking in such a busy road section without causing traffic congestion and other problems,” said Dangol.
“The metropolis plans to remove all roadside parking lots from the New Road area as we are working to build a parking facility with a lift system,” said Dangol.
Although Bidya Sundar Shakya, soon after being elected mayor in 2017, had announced plans to construct a multi-storey parking lot at New Road, the idea never took off. Shakya’s five-year term ends in a few months. Before this, in 2016, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City had announced plans to build an automated parking lot in the area with enough space to park 400 vehicles.