x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Dearth of parking needs a remedy

Mawaqif is solving a problem in the capital, but creating another one. People simply must have places to park.

The steady expansion of Mawaqif, Abu Dhabi's parking-control system, has brought many benefits to the capital. But not everyone is cheering, as regular readers of our Letters to the editor feature will have noted.

Much of the densely-populated Tourist Club area has just been brought under the purview of Mawaqif, and the howls of complaint are echoing loud and long. One letter writer lamented that anyone paying an evening social visit has no hope of parking. Others say that even residents who have paid for permits can't find spots.

The same complaints were heard a year ago when Mawaqif came to Khalidiyah, and other neighbourhoods too have faced the same issues. The furore subsides but the frustration, we believe, remains.

Parking is, for many people, almost as essential as air conditioning. Abui Dhabi's bus service, still only a few years old, has grown steadily more robust, but the reality of any big city is that private cars - to say nothing of commercial vehicles - cannot be vanquished.

Mawaqif has, to be sure, alleviated many of the problems of urban driving: our streets have more lanes, now that parking-in-the-middle is disappearing. And the revenue from the system can help pay for road maintenance and improvements.

But people simply must have parking. They need places near their homes. They need, too, places near where they shop, and the limit on spaces must be hard on retail businesses, including restaurants, in areas where even residents can't find spaces. We are far from convinced that it is a social good to send ever more shoppers to the malls, with their free parking, while pushing high-street retailers to the edge. (And spare a thought in particular for Salam Street retailers, just getting back on their feet after years of business lost to the tunnel project, and now afflicted by the new difficulties of customer parking.)

A partial solution to all of this was identified and promised more than 18 months ago: in October 2010 eight multi-storey car parks were announced for the capital; the first two were to cost a combined Dh331million.

Eight such buildings, or even 80, would not assure everyone of a spot near home or office, to say nothing of places for visitors. But unless Mawaqif provides many more spots, and speedily, it risks being widely perceived as doing more harm than good in some neighbourhoods.