x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Paid parking is still a work in progress

Paid parking has eased congestion in many residential areas, which just a few years ago were clogged with cars parked on every available centimetre of space.

Many drivers would agree that parking in Abu Dhabi was one of the most frustrating challenges. Indeed, the number of vehicles in the capital increased by 20 per cent in 2012 to more than 830,000, leading to an inevitable spike in the demand for spaces.

The Department of Transport responded with several programmes to tackle the issue, the most obvious of which was the paid-parking system in the most congested parts of the city. Motorists may gripe, but paid parking is a simple reality of urban life in most cities - the key is how it is implemented.

In late 2009, Abu Dhabi's parking authority, Mawaqif, was launched to manage parking in the emirate. It introduced a prepaid system that expanded to more than 70,000 spaces last year. Ever since, Mawaqif inspectors have been issuing dozens of tickets - many for Dh500 - every day and drivers have struggled to adapt to a new system that involves both new permits and new penalties.

Some have complained about being fined because they did not know about the programme. A notable point of confusion came after the introduction of new dirham coins, weighing 6.17 grams, which Mawaqif ticket-vending machines rejected and had to be reprogrammed to accept.

As The National reports today, Mawaqif has announced a new awareness campaign to educate the public about its services. The move came after many complaints, with some suggesting that more parking spaces should have been allocated before the fee structure was implemented.

The new paid parking system has affected many people, particularly in residential areas in the city centre. Many residents report that finding parking spaces after 9pm is almost impossible. Even some of those who have paid for resident permits are frustrated.

But despite the inconvenience, paid parking is here to stay. Indeed, part of the point of paid parking in any city is to encourage alternative modes of transport. The naysayers may still be sceptical, but there is little doubt that congestion has eased in many residential areas, which just a few years ago were clogged with cars parked on every available centimetre of space. Less congestion, in turn, has improved the quality of life for motorists and non-motorists alike.