x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Malls braced for Metro riders

Throngs may descend on shoppers' car parks when the Red Line opens, leaving their vehicles and jumping on the train to work.

Ongoing works at the Dubai Metro station, opposite Ibn Battuta Mall.
Ongoing works at the Dubai Metro station, opposite Ibn Battuta Mall.

DUBAI // Managements of shopping malls are exploring how to prevent their car parks becoming park-and-ride facilities for Dubai Metro passengers once the train line opens. The first phase of the Metro, the Red Line, will open on Sept 9 and run 52km past several of the city's most prominent malls along Sheikh Zayed Road and Bur Dubai.

Many residents have said they may drive to malls to park their cars before taking Dubai's Dh15.5 billion (US$4.2bn) driverless train network. Mall of the Emirates will have an air-conditioned walkway direct to its station and management are already looking at ways to deter motorists from simply coming to the mall to park. "The majority of people spend about three hours in the mall, and we care for the majority of people and don't want our car park to be used as a park-and-ride," said Fuad Sharaf, the mall's vice president.

"At the end of the day the mall is made for the shoppers. It is about managing the parking in a proper way. I will not say it is a paid parking system, because our intention is not to make money out of parking." The mall is adding 750 car park spaces to its current 6,300. By the end of the year, 200 spaces will have been added, with the rest coming next year. Deira City Centre, which is run by the Majid al Futtaim Group, which also operates Mall of the Emirates, is expecting an increase of foot traffic after the Metro launches. Officials there said that the mall was considering "various options" to manage parking, but that nothing had been decided.

Management at the Burjuman has already created a pre-emptive plan to keep parking free for its customers. Last year, the mall introduced paid parking except on Fridays and public holidays. It is also free for customers who spend more than Dh100 at the mall. "Especially where we are, the Burjuman will be the one of the biggest stations, with both lines crossing eventually, and we almost anticipate this is going to be the Piccadilly Circus of Dubai," said Bruce Von Kaufmann, operations manager of Burjuman and Reef Mall.

Parking at the Burjuman costs Dh10 per hour and is free between 12:30 and 2:30pm, and after 6pm. "We will let the Metro open, gauge the impact and then make the necessary adjustments if any adjustments are required," Mr Von Kaufmann said. Ibn Battuta Mall also has an adjacent station. David Thurling, managing director of Nakheel Retail Shopping Malls, said: "Parking at the mall will continue to be managed in such a way as to ensure that all shoppers and visitors are provided with convenient and accessible car parking facilities. We are also looking at ways in which to best accommodate the needs of Metro patrons who may wish to utilise the mall's parking facilities."

Paul Murnaghan, 39, is from the US and lives in Al Barsha. He works as an engineer in the Burjuman Business Centre, and said he would use the Mall of the Emirates car park. "I am about a 10-minute drive from Mall of the Emirates, and the Metro stops right at my office," Mr Murnaghan said. "If I was to take a bus, like any other city, it would take a lot longer than driving to the station. I am really looking forward to getting the Metro to work, but if it means driving instead of taking a bus to the station, I'll do it."

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) plans to put 778 more buses on the roads for 41 new routes, all feeding the Red Line's 29 stations. The Jumeirah Islands station, between Ibn Battuta Mall and the Marina station, will have free parking for 2,000 vehicles. The RTA is also building a car park at Al Rashidiya station that will fit 2,700 cars; the Al Qusais station will have facilities for 3,000 cars.

eharnan@thenational.ae