Abu Dhabi residents complain it is impossible to find legal parking spots, as officials promise new sectors for the Mawaqif scheme.
Drivers have permits but nowhere to park
ABU DHABI // Every evening, James Buckingham makes his daily rounds on the hunt for a parking spot near his building.
Despite purchasing a resident parking permit under the Mawaqif scheme, Mr Buckingham said he was often forced to park on rough ground or above the pavement.
"Finding a legal parking spot after 7.30pm is impossible," he said. "If I'm going out after this time, I must take my 4x4 because I know I will have to park in a place that cannot be reached with my sedan."
Purchase of a permit allows a resident to park in their area at any time, if a parking spot is available.
After he received two tickets for illegal parking, Mr Buckingham, an instructor at Zayed University, asked a Mawaqif officer where to park.
"The officer directed me to a villa area in the middle of our zone and told me to park anywhere. I eventually parked in an empty spot I found in the dirt and the officer confirmed it was OK. So basically, I'm in the same situation I would have been without my permit."
While some residents complained that they received tickets when they parked illegally, others said many drivers who obstructed cars when parking were not being penalised.
Ahmad Khatib said the new parking management system in his area had made a bad situation worse.
"Leaving my building is a nightmare," he said. "Drivers illegally park on the side of what's supposed to be a two-way road, blocking traffic. None of these vehicles are fined and it's repeated daily.
"How can they be getting away with this while we pay good money to entitle us to a parking spot that's not even guaranteed?"
Officials from the Department of Transport (DoT), the authority that runs Mawaqif, said that customers could contact the police to remove any cars that blocked their way, and added that "new sectors are planned in the near future and will be announced in due date".
The Mawaqif parking management programme is active across 19 areas in Abu Dhabi, with approximately 30,000 parking bays.
"Mawaqif is doing the studies and analysis based on surveys for each sector to determine the actual requirements, including all types of parking users," said Najib al Zarooni, the general manager of parking at the DoT.
Mr al Zarooni said that studies were determined through surveys based on demand, rather than the number of flats in an area, in order to consider such factors as illegal residential sharing and buildings with no underground parking.
"As per the Mawaqif master plan we have many projects in the pipeline, which will provide more public parking spaces such as rerouting of internal streets to provide more spaces and temporary structured parking in addition to the construction of multistory car parks," Mr al Zarooni said.
Those who attempted to park legally also had complaints. Younghee Kwun received a Dh300 ticket after parking at a blue and white kerb near the Abu Dhabi New Medical Centre.
"We parked in the designated paid parking area for two hours and paid the proper fee of Dh6," she said. "We were told by one of the Mawaqif employees that even though a person parks in the blue and white zone, if there are no white parking lines ... it is considered a violation."
Ms Kwun said the officer informed her that this held true even if a driver parallel parked on a kerb bearing the blue and white paint. However, Ms Kwun said there was no such explanation on the meter. "If we're not supposed to park in that area, why does Mawaqif paint the blue and white lines on the kerb?" she said.
"It is an underhanded, deceptive method of collecting revenue from law-abiding drivers."
DoT officials said such cases must be investigated individually.
"The customer needs to contact our customer care staff with the details of the parking violation ticket in order to investigate the facts of this violation," Mr al Zarooni said.
As with any new implemented strategy, DoT officials said an adjustment period was normal before everything fell into place.
But residents were not satisfied. Mr Buckingham said: "I paid Dh800 [for an annual permit] so that I can park next to a palm tree or over a kerb. It's pretty much as though I'm back to square one."
FACTS ABOUT MAWAQIP PARKING PERMITS
43 Mawaqif parking sectors are planned in Abu Dhabi
19 sectors where Mawaqif parking is installed
2 parking permits allowed per household
800 dirhams is the price of annual residence parking permit