x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Drivers call for more paid parking in city centre

Drivers are urging authorities to build parking bays in a busy residential and commercial area where it can take up to two hours to find a space.

BEFORE: Illegally parked cars near the Porsche showroom on Salam Street. Delores Johnson / The National
BEFORE: Illegally parked cars near the Porsche showroom on Salam Street. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // Drivers are urging Mawaqif to build parking spaces in a busy residential and commercial area, where it can take up to two hours to find a space.

Parking spots in the area in front of LuLu Centre and the Southern Fried Chicken buildings on Salam Street are in high demand.

On Thursday morning, Iqbal Sulaiman, 38, spent two and a half hours circling the block looking for a place to park.

“We all face this problem,” said Mr Sulaiman, a LuLu Centre manager, as he turned on the hazard lights of his Honda Accord while waiting for a parked car to leave.

“We were allowed to park in the sand but now Mawaqif is very strict.”

Residents, office workers and visitors used to park on both sides of the sandy area in front of the two buildings, ignoring a Mawaqif sign forbidding it.

But the sandy area is now empty and the entrance and exit points had been blocked for about a month, residents said.

Mr Sulaiman said he hoped Mawaqif would turn the sand lot into a paid parking zone.

Zacharia Ahmed, 55, who lives in the Southern Fried Chicken building, said residents’ vehicles far outnumbered parking spots.

Mr Ahmed said it usually took him at least 45 minutes to find a place to park.

“We only have 17 parking spots on both sides of this nine-storey building,” he said.

Residents with parking permits, he said, were allowed to park near the Al Ain Palace Hotel and the Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company on the Corniche.

But Reggie Nacario, 31, manager at Dukkan Falafel Express, said one of his regular customers told him it was inconvenient to park his car on the Corniche and take a taxi home.

“He used to park in front of our shop when the sandy area was temporarily open for vehicles,” Mr Nicario said.

Mawaqif inspectors would come as early as 8am to check and fine offenders.

A customer-service representative at Mawaqif’s call centre said drivers faced a Dh200 fine for parking in unpaved and sandy areas.

In the last 10 days of November Mawaqif distributed brochures telling drivers they would no longer be allowed to park in the sand and inspectors began issuing fines on November 27, the staff member said.

Hassan Abdullah, 39, an IT technician who works at the Lulu Centre building, said: “We’re willing to pay for parking but where will we park? I spend one to two hours every day to find parking.”

The Department of Transport did not respond to a request for comment.

In October, Al Ittihad, the Arabic-language sister paper of The National, reported that Mawaqif would increase its coverage by adding more than 8,400 paid spaces by the end of the year.

The expansion will bring the number of Mawaqif sectors in the capital to 50 and the total number of paid spaces to 98,600, the report said.

“People are complaining,” Mr Nacario said. “We have fewer dine-in customers who now prefer to wait in their cars or call us for delivery.”

Mr Sulaiman said the decision to block off the sandy area to vehicles had affected sales at the Lulu Centre.

“Before, shoppers could conveniently park in the sandy area in front of our store,” he said. “Also, the offices in this building are now shifting to other areas mainly due to the parking problem.”

rruiz@thenational.ae