8eb343239aa58210VgnVCM100000e56411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2009-Q4Paid parking fits nicely with locals7eb343239aa58210VgnVCM100000e56411ac____Paid parking fits nicely with localsTwo weeks on from system's introduction, some streets in central Abu Dhabi are heavily congested on one side and empty on the other.<p>ABU DHABI // It took months for paid parking in the city centre to be rolled out, as delays, setbacks and limited enforcement were overcome. But just two weeks after it started, residents and business owners within the metered area say it has worked almost immediately.</p>
<p>In Khalifa Street yesterday, the boundary between metered and unmetered parking was stark.
On the Capital Park side of the road, there was an empty row of spaces next to a ticket machine.
On the opposite side, cars were double parked while other vehicles circled, their drivers looking for people leaving.
Antoine Tawil, the general manager of Assyaha Holidays and Travels, which has an office just inside the metered zone, said there had been a dramatic improvement in parking.</p>
<p>"I've been here five years and parking has always been a problem," he said.
"Our clients were always complaining they were unable to find parking. When they started charging, half the parking emptied. I was surprised."
Meters were installed a year ago in the zone bounded by Hamdan, Khalifa, Liwa and Najda streets, where paid parking has been implemented as a trial before the scheme is extended to other densely populated sections of Abu Dhabi.</p>
<p>Enforcement of the parking fees, which was scheduled to begin on October 10 after a one-week amnesty, was put back another fortnight because of teething problems, including residents finding that they could not get annual parking permits.
Within days of the start of enforcement late last month, with Dh200 (US$55) fines issued to offenders, there was a sudden change in behaviour, and drivers began parking legally or leaving their cars elsewhere.</p>
<p>Mr Tawil said that, in effect, there had always been paid parking in the area, with staff and customers having to pay in time and convenience by hunting for spaces, parking far from their destination or by paying for taxis because they had given up on finding a slot.
For his clients, charges of Dh2 or Dh3 were insignificant compared with the convenience of knowing that they could park near the office, Mr Tawil said.</p>
<p>Previously, some cars would be parked for up to three days at a time but these were no longer to be found in the metered zone.
Lynne Evans, an English teacher who has been in Abu Dhabi for four years and lives within the zone, said: "It's working really well. It's never been easier to park since we've had this system.
"I used to have to walk for miles and it was practically impossible to park.
"I used to complain about parking all the time. It was a nightmare, but since I've got this permit it's been easy. People are parking where they should be or they're fined. It's definitely improved."</p>
<p>Mrs Evans said it took about 11 days for her resident's parking permit to be issued by Mawaqif, the agency that runs the system.
Some people had complained about the Dh800 cost of the annual permit to park where they had once left their cars for free, but Mrs Evans said the improved availability of spaces was worth it.
"I don't understand why people complain about Dh800. It works out at about Dh15 a week," she said.</p>
<p>Another resident inside the zone, George Mathew, from India, has been in Abu Dhabi since the late 1990s.
He said there had been a dramatic improvement with the introduction of paid parking, but it had not solved all the problems.
"It's much better than before but if you're not early, you won't get parking," he said.
"The underground car parks are full, too."
There were fears that the paid-parking zone would increase congestion elsewhere.</p>
<p>But Yaqood al Dosari, the branch manager of Noor Islamic Bank on the other side of Khalifa Street from the metered parking area, said the area had always been heavily congested.
"The paid parking is empty," he said. "I think it's Dh3 an hour, which is more expensive than in the other emirates.
"It hasn't changed [outside the pay parking zone], it's the same thing. People are double parking and putting their mobile numbers on their dashboards."</p>
<p>Mr al Dosari said the price was only one factor in people's reluctance to pay for their parking spots. There was also the inconvenience of having to feed coins into the machine.
"It's not about money," he said. "They don't go to the machines and pay coins. It's about effort and inconvenience." He believed that a mix of paid short-term parking and free parking would best suit the area, allowing customers to visit the bank.</p>
<p>Nadim Akhtar, a Pakistani businessman who has been based in Abu Dhabi for seven years, said he was in favour of paid parking.
He parked in an approved space for a meeting at the Millennium Hotel yesterday, only to find himself blocked in by another car.
Mr Akhtar said he had called the police to deal with the double-parked car, but, after sitting in his vehicle for more than 20 minutes, there was still no sign of them.</p>
<p>"This is normal," he said.
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