x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Parking woes blamed on poor planning

Residents in the marina area say they have no choice but to park their vehicles illegally, even if it means risking a Dh600 fine or worse.

A row of illegally parked vehicles received tickets at Dubai Marina this week.
A row of illegally parked vehicles received tickets at Dubai Marina this week.

DUBAI // Residents and visitors to the Dubai Marina being targeted by police for parking illegally say they have no alternative, and blame poor planning in the high-density area. They are unhappy paying parking fines of up to Dh600 (US$160), and their frustration is likely to grow when plans to tow away vehicles that are parked illegally are implemented.

"If you look around here, there are about eight towers and two streets with a single lane of parking on each side of the road," said Sarah Jaberil, 37, an events organiser. "This place is so badly planned. Anybody who comes to visit me, I tell them to park in a legal area or the police will give them a ticket. "Sometimes, especially at the weekends, parking is so hard to get, I tell them to park in the Marina Mall and walk to my apartment."

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and Dubai Police agreed last week to tow away vehicles that were parked on footpaths or on the road, or that were blocking traffic. They did not set a date to begin towing, and the RTA said it would first conduct a publicity campaign to inform the public. Marina residents fighting for precious spaces say they have no option but to park anywhere they can find space.

"There is never parking around here," said Stephen Cooper, 34, from the UK. "Sometimes, people have no other choice but to park on the road, which is wide enough to take a line of parked cars. "But there are no markings to say parking is allowed. The police gave me a ticket when I first moved here because I unintentionally parked illegally. "It is just so annoying. There is so much wasted footpath space that could take three or four times the amount of cars. But instead of trying to help us, they are going to charge us more money."

He said the opening of the Metro station nearby would only make things worse. "It will only attract more cars, because people in JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence) are not going to take a bus to the station, if they are going to use it in the first place." Visitors to the Marina expressed similar discontent. "Whenever I visit my friends in Dubai I always spend about 20 minutes looking for parking," said Owen Wallace, 32, a property sales agent who lives in Abu Dhabi. "When I find it, it's at least a 10-minute walk from my friend's apartment."

Residents also said that there were not enough spaces in the towers' underground parking areas. One-bedroom flats are allocated one space, despite often being rented to couples. Two-bedroom flats are given two spaces. An extra space costs more money, with several towers asking as much as Dh1,000 a month. One resident who inquired about an extra space was told there were no vacant parking spots for the building.

Near the Marina Terrace building, drivers have taken to parking their cars on a wasteland near a building site. Maitha bin Adai, the chief executive of the RTA's Traffic and Roads Agency, asked Dubai residents in a statement issued on Wednesday not to park their vehicles in a disorderly manner on the pavement or on the side of the road. The statement said illegal parking disrupted pedestrians, damaged utilities, undermined public safety and marred the general appearance of the area.

"Motorists are therefore requested to park their vehicles in the places designated for this purpose," the statement concluded. Sean Driscoll, an engineer from Ireland who lives in the area, said he has got to the point of accepting the fine when he cannot find a space in the evening. He has one parking space for his one-bedroom apartment, which he shares with his wife. "Depending on who gets back to the apartment first, they have to find a space on the street because after 7pm, it's impossible to find one. The person who arrives the latest gets the apartment's parking space."

Dubai Marina has no paid street parking, unlike other parts of Dubai where residents can buy monthly parking tickets or pay by the hour. The RTA has a limited number of parking spaces for rent in Deira, Bur Dubai and other parts of the city. "The way it is designed here, it shows that the buildings are more important than the people living in them," said Fadi Gemell, 34, who grew up in Dubai. "There is one road circling the marina and with all these towers, the number of people living in them must be thousands. Put all of them in a car at the same time in the mornings and we have massive traffic problems.

"But now more people are moving to the marina because the rents are lower so it's not as exclusive and actually, the traffic and the parking has gotten a lot worse." The RTA requires new developments to conduct a traffic feasibility study before gaining planning permission, but the marina was developed before the RTA was formed four years ago. Both the RTA and the police agreed to survey and identify congested parts of the city where people park illegally.

"There is the possibility of providing extra parking spaces near residential areas and working out proper solutions for the parking problems without impacting the safety of road users or disfiguring the residential areas," Mrs Adai said. @Email:eharnan@thenational.ae