x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Mawaqif parking scheme forces Naveen to drive in circles

Mawaqif's debut in Tourist Club has led to a dire shortage of spots - but is it a transitional phase, or the start of a long headache?

New Mawaqif meters went into effect in the Tourist Club area of Abu Dhabi on May 3.
New Mawaqif meters went into effect in the Tourist Club area of Abu Dhabi on May 3.

ABU DHABI // Naveen Menezes never imagined that Mawaqif might be bad for his waistline.

But in the month since the parking scheme was implemented in two sectors of the Tourist Club area on May 3, he has started to snack at the Ever Green Restaurant while he looks for a space for his car.

He used to head straight home for dinner. Now he hunts for a space as his family waits to start cooking in the flat above. Hungry, Mr Menezes idles his car at the restaurant, knowing that it might be two hours before he parks.

"I don't know whether to eat or look for the Mawaqif guy," he says, glancing over his shoulder at his car. "My apartment is just two blocks from here. Some days I do get parking quickly but it's very rare. My family is waiting but what to do? I know I will have to wait for a minimum of one or two hours, so I'll get some snacks."

Mr Menezes, 38, an IT specialist from India, is "hoping for the best" when Mawaqif fully implements its parking regulations next month.

"At the same time they should not have started this until they had spaces," he said, rushing off.

His problem is a common one in the new Mawaqif zones in the Tourist Club area, despite 3,792 spaces being activated on May 3.

The imposition of order on Tourist Club parking spots has meant the elimination of the chaotic spots such as pavements and centre lanes. The effect, for now, is that the parking spaces are all sensible - but there are fewer of them.

Most Tourist Club residents have paid Dh800 to Dh1,200 for permits and hope that more spaces will be available in June when, they have been told, residential parking will be strictly enforced at night.

For now, crowds of drivers spend hours each evening circling parking lots.

"Unbelievable. This is killing everyone," said Hussam Fares, 52, an Egyptian resident who has lived here since 2004. He now parks his car in a different neighbourhood and takes a taxi to his home and office.

He pulls his key from his pocket: "I'm only enjoying my car in my pocket."

Mr Fares has a resident's parking permit but cannot find a place to park. "I'm crying," he said. "I'm not using my car."

He dismissed the idea of taking the bus, one of the solutions suggested by the Department of Transport (DoT).

"The bus? It's wonderful by the way, but it's easy to find a taxi," he said. "I have habits."

To prevent this problem from recurring, the DoT made a Transport Impact Study a requirement for developers last April.

The developer must assess and plan for any effect on parking, traffic, public and private transport and pedestrian safety before construction can start.

The DoT has processed more than 100 Transport Impact Studies and Master Plans. This is part of a 20-year DoT strategy that includes parking management, taking population and transport needs into account. The DoT announced plans for 10 multi-storey car parks last April but cannot say when they will be ready.

At the same time, some Tourist Club residents are happier now Mawaqif is up and running.

"It's less of a headache than before, it's more organised," said Abdulla Al Rashid, 42, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi who finishes work at 2pm each day.

Anad Lucas, 30, an administrator from India, spends no more than 20 minutes parking his Kia Sorento.

"Without all those cars parked in the centre lane there's less damage to my car and it's easier to spot a parking spot," he said.

However, inspectors admit there is a shortage of spaces at night.

"It's a big problem," said an inspector from the Tourist Club Area. "There's no space anywhere. I see them drive around for one or two hours."

He shrugs. "They are too much angry, I am only smiling and saying, what can I do?"

His friend Mohammed Armond, 53, a driver who has been fined many times in the past month for illegally parking his car, nodded his head.

"He's a very good man, but what can he do?" he asked.

For Mohammed Kamil, 36, a civil engineer from India, the bus is not an option for his young family. His son is 2.

"We don't mind paying but there should be space. Unless it's very important I don't roam at night because I have a fear: Oh God, how will I find the parking?"