ABU DHABI // Drivers who use the cover of night to flout parking laws will soon find notices of fines posted to their windscreens. The municipal Department of Transport (DoT) yesterday that it would enforce parking laws 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in lots governed by the Mawaqif scheme beginning on Sunday. Cars that park in the middle of the road and along non-designated kerbs will be targeted.
Motorists who park in legal spaces marked by kerbs painted either blue and black, or blue and white, can still park for free after 9pm and on Fridays. The transport department said the stricter enforcement was to prevent roads being blocked during emergencies. During a fire on Hamdan Street in the Tourist Club area in December, two residents of an apartment block died after emergency personnel had to wait for residents to move their illegally parked vehicles before they could reach the burning building.
Last year the Mawaqif system began charging for parking in city blocks stretching along Hamdan Street, between Baniyas Street and Airport Road. "The DoT is mandated to implement the parking law - We urge the public to make proper use of the available surface and underground parking facilities and not park illegally. Specifically in the spaces allocated for special needs or near a fire hydrant," said Najib al Zarooni, general manager of the transport department's parking programme.
The department said underground parking is often 25 to 30 per cent empty - and the rate is higher at night. Under the Mawaqif system, drivers in paid zones are charged between Dh2 and Dh3 per hour. Residents must buy a Dh800 (US$215) annual permit. The department is rolling out the Mawaqif system to most sections of the city in phases, and said the programme will add 75,000 spaces over two years. There are also plans to add multi-storey car parks to some of the city's busiest areas.
The strategy has come under fire from local residents who say the pay scheme has merely shifted the downtown core's daytime parking problem to sections of the city where parking is still free. Meanwhile, at night, they say they still face a dearth of legal spaces. "It makes no sense to fine people, because at the end of the day you have no choice but to park illegally. The problem is that there are too many cars and not enough available parking," said Mohamed Hussein, 35, an Egyptian science teacher. "Few buildings offer underground parking."
He said he did park his car in the paid zone illegally. "Especially at night. I'll take my chances." Mohamed Farhan, 39, a bank worker from Sri Lanka, said he lived just outside the paid parking zone and therefore did not qualify for the resident's permit. "I still have to park in the municipality parking but it's expensive. It costs more than 400 [dirhams per month]. It used to be 350." He said he agreed with fining people who parked in the middle of the road, as they block traffic.
"But I do understand the plight of people, because parking is difficult." Even people with resident's permits have a difficult time, said Prestina Carvalho, 38, a shipping company employee from India. "Those who do have a resident's permit have to go elsewhere and then they find a space but are charged to park." Resident's permits are for lots closest to the driver's home. firstname.lastname@example.org