ABU DHABI // It’s not much, 0.27g. But it can be the difference between a parking space and a deeply frustrating experience.
Mawaqif machines accept only old Dh1 coins, which weigh 6.44g, and not the shiny new ones, which weigh 6.17g.
Residents depended on local corner shops for parking cards and friendly grocers would often swap new coins for old, but since the closure of many small groceries, that is more difficult.
“We’re in a bit of a spot now,” says Joyce Hijazi, who has to fiddle with coins every evening after finding a parking spot near her building on the Corniche.
The Department of Transport said yesterday they were aware of the problem. “Mawaqif is working on configuring all of its payment machines to accept coins recently circulated,” a spokesman said, but it will take time because of the large number of machines and their wide distribution.
Two months ago, a Mawaqif inspector told Ms Hijazi that the meters did not accept the new coins because the weather was humid.
“I think the explanation is likely to be that the new coins are of a slightly different weight from the old ones and the machines do not recognise the new weight,” she said.
Naeem Akhtar, a taxi driver, tried to put four new, shiny Dh1 coins into the meter but the coins kept popping back.
“I need to park for two hours,” he said. “They should do something about the machine.”
Parmod Kumar, 28, parked near Al Shamsy Grocery on Al Falah Street and walked to a parking meter. The machine rejected his Dh1 coin so he returned to his van to check if he had other coins in his wallet. He was lucky, and found one.
Others rely on Al Shamsy Grocery, which closed on December 31 and re-opened on January 8, for their coins.
“Too many people are coming here every day to exchange their new coins,” said Ashraf P A, a shopkeeper. “Too much problem.”
A Mawaqif inspector was in the area, and Mr Kumar showed his ticket before putting it on the dashboard. The inspector said he had received many complaints from people who were unable to pay for their parking using the new coins.
He said the new coins were lighter so the meters rejected them, but he did not know when Mawaqif would upgrade the machines.
“Maybe in two to three months,” he said.
The machines should be recalibrated to accept the new coins, Ms Hijazi said.
“The machines should recognise the new coins, which will be in circulation for a long time.”
On Electra Street, a Mawaqif inspector said the upgrade may take three to four months. He offered an alternative: “They can go to the supermarket for the coins,” he said, pointing to Al Safa Supermarket on the same block.
Since November, about 20 to 25 customers visit the supermarket daily to exchange their coins, said Sajjad Hoq, 29, the supervisor.
“Sometimes they are upset when we don’t have enough coins.”
Drivers can buy parking cards at Mawaqif customer service centres on Muroor, Al Falah and Khalifa streets, behind Marina Mall and at Lulu International Exchange.
They can also pay using their mobile phones by sending an SMS to 3009 and providing their vehicle registration number, the parking area type – premium or standard – and the number of hours. The fees will be deducted from customers’ mobile phone credit, whether by Etisalat or du.
Registered vehicles in Abu Dhabi can use the service without prior registration, while an m-Mawaqif account must be created for vehicles registered elsewhere.
Standard parking marked by turquoise and black kerbs costs Dh2 an hour or Dh15 a day. Premium parking, marked by turquoise and white kerbs, costs Dh3 an hour and has a four-hour limit.
* With additional reporting by Anwar Ahmad