x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

New parking fees, same congestion

Capital's drivers say they were not informed before the system was introduced on a busy shopping day, and not many bought a ticket anyway.

A motorist works out how to use a new parking ticket dispenser on Hamdan Street, Abu Dhabi yesterday.
A motorist works out how to use a new parking ticket dispenser on Hamdan Street, Abu Dhabi yesterday.

ABU DHABI // The typical weekend scenario of double-parked cars, crowded kerbs and rows of vehicles clogging up roads in the souq area was unchanged by new parking fees introduced by the municipality yesterday. Shoppers complained of being caught unaware by the expansion of the paid parking system, called Mawaqif.

The municipality began charging Dh2 to Dh3 per hour in several city blocks along Hamdan Street in October in an effort to encourage drivers to use underground parking structures, taxis and public transit. Yesterday, paid parking was extended to encompass areas between Airport Road and Baniyas (Najda) Street, and between Hamdan Street and Sheikh Zayed the Second (Electra) Street. Mawaqif now covers most of the capital's old souq area.

It was rolled out on a Saturday, one of the busiest days for shop owners, and many residents and customers claimed they had not been notified of the change, nor were they sure how the system worked. All of which put drivers at risk of a Dh200 fine. "We really didn't know," said Amal Masalkhi, 26, from Lebanon. Although she knew of paid parking in Dubai and further down the road on Hamdan, she "had no idea" that she and her friend would have to pay to park while shopping. "They really didn't spread the word," said Ms Masalkhi.

Case Hamood, 40, a welding engineer from Britain, said he knew he would have to pay for parking when he saw the blue kerb. However, he did not know how much to pay or how to use the payment machines. "There are no instructions," he said after parking his car. "I don't mind paying. I don't live here, so it doesn't affect me. But if I did live here, I wouldn't be happy." Along one row, only one car out of 14 displayed any kind of ticket to show that the owner had purchased time. And the system failed to alleviate any of the area's notorious parking-related traffic congestion.

"The parking here is bad, there is no space," said Dalia Nadeem, 32, a housewife from Iraq. "They need to put parking under each building to solve the problem." Yet some local shopkeepers were optimistic. "The parking here is very bad for customers, that's why paid parking is good," said Chandesh Chandran, a salesman at Sky Jewellery, on Hamdan Street. In the areas where Mawaqif was first rolled out late last year, residents complained that the system merely moved the traffic into other areas, which became even more crowded. Meanwhile, parking lanes are now empty along some strips of Hamdan Street, because drivers do not want to pay.

The municipality said this week that 3,725 new parking spaces between Khaleej al Arabi and Baniyas Street would be covered by the paid system. Residents can purchase annual permits that allow them to park during the day in paid zones. Fees are Dh800 for the first car and Dh1,200 for the second. Parking during the evening is free. Paid parking is to be introduced in 19 areas around the city at a rate of one to two new areas per month.

Mawaqif will also provide alternative car park structures, including two automated car parks in the Tourist Club area and on Salam Street. Two temporary car parks will be erected near the Corniche and at the intersection of Salam Street and Zayed the First Street. @Email:jgerson@thenational.ae