ABU DHABI // The second phase of the city's paid parking programme is operational, officials said yesterday, and residents should soon notice the effects on their streets and in their pockets. Under the programme, landlords must provide free parking for their tenants. The owners of new buildings must offer adequate parking or pay the Government Dh160,000 (US$43,000) for each car space they cannot provide.
Meanwhile, parking charges - at Dh2 to Dh3 per hour, already higher than neighbouring emirates - will continue to increase as more public transport becomes available. Najib al Zarooni, the general manager of parking at Abu Dhabi's Department of Transport, outlined the measures for Abu Dhabi's more congested sections while showing that the first stage of the paid parking programme had rapidly eased many of the problems it was designed to address.
He showed delegates at the Middle East Parking Symposium in Abu Dhabi yesterday a series of before-and-after photographs taken in a two-block segment, bounded by Hamdan, Najda, Khalifa and Liwa streets, where the Mawaqif meter system was introduced five weeks ago. After an amnesty lasting until late October, Dh200 fines are now being imposed on drivers who park illegally or without displaying their permits.
"Since the introduction of Mawaqif, parking is easily available," he said. "We started out with these two sectors and we found we didn't require any improvements like multi-storey car parks or even temporary ones." Car rental companies that had been parking their fleet on the street complained about the charges but were told they would have to find other places to park. "They're in business," Mr al Zarooni said. "They need to find a solution for themselves."
He cited the case in which a business owner had parked a truck outside his workplace, using it as free extra storage and to advertise his business. Transport Department planners also discovered that people living in high-rise flats often were not using their basement car parks. "Most buildings have private parking underneath the building itself," Mr al Zarooni said. He said a survey found that people did not want to park underground because it would mean paying additional rent for the space.
"If you rent an apartment or an office for Dh50,000, in addition the parking space can cost Dh5,000 up to Dh50,000 in some areas," he said. "For them, it's extra income. For us as the Government, there are more problems on the surface. It's a cost to us as the Government to build extra multi-storey car parks. We said 'no'. Now with the new law, this will need enforcing." Parts of Abu Dhabi have up to 30,000 residents per square kilometre, but Mr al Zarooni said plans to roll out the Mawaqif scheme to other areas renowned for bad parking, such as the Tourist Club area, were on hold until capacity for 2,000 more cars was built.
The Transport Department was ready to go with two "robotic" multi-storey car parks, in which mechanical aids are used to transport cars from the street. Another two conventional multi-storey car parks are about to be put out to tender. In total, 17 are planned for Abu Dhabi to increase its parking capacity. Mr al Zarooni said the Government would go ahead with the first two robotic structures as soon as possible.
"Thirty companies came to us and said they can build these for us," he said. "They can build 17 or 20 or 30. We were surprised. I just came from a meeting today. They said 'Why only two? We can build 17 at once.' They're a UK company. They want to start now." The symposium was told that hi-tech car parks, with mechanical systems to retrieve cars from shafts up to 80m deep and with the capacity to hold hundreds of cars, cost around $50,000 (Dh184,000) for each space, more than the Dh160,000 charged per space for failing to provide adequate parking.
Mr al Zarooni said planners applied a complex formula for how many car spaces were required for each development.
"We've taken international standards and local standards, which are available for Abu Dhabi Municipality and we came up with a new ratio that we're implementing," he said.
"How many depends on the use. A hotel is different to commercial and residential."