x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Mawaqif campaign to win the hearts of Abu Dhabi's motorists

Mawaqif says aim is to educate motorists, not to profit from illegal parking.

The Department of Transport's parking scheme has begun a goodwill campaign called Mawaqif in our Lives to win the hearts of Abu Dhabi residents. Sammy Dallal / The National
The Department of Transport's parking scheme has begun a goodwill campaign called Mawaqif in our Lives to win the hearts of Abu Dhabi residents. Sammy Dallal / The National

ABU DHABI // They're out there somewhere – misunderstood men in teal with little machines that push out expensive bits of paper to be tucked under your windscreen wipers.

But now the officers of Mawaqif have a message for the people of Abu Dhabi: trust us, we don't want to fine you.

The Department of Transport's parking scheme has begun a goodwill campaign called Mawaqif in our Lives to win the hearts of Abu Dhabi residents.

"Mawaqif wants people to trust us," said Mohammed Al Otaiba, general manager of Mawaqif. "We want to be transparent with people and have trust with people."

Mr Al Otaiba said the aim was to restore the relationship with motorists and open communication with the public.

The two-month media campaign will be launched this Sunday.

Those who recall parking before Mawaqif appeared in 2009 might give it a bit more credit.

It has had to deal with a fast-growing population on a small island, and a tradition of creative parking solutions in a culture where the biggest car is king.

"The campaign today is about re-engaging ourselves with the public," Mr Al Otaiba said. "[Mawaqif] has affected lives of people in a positive way, like with emergency services.

"Some people look at it differently but at the end we are applying a strategic vision and working very keenly on that."

Mr Al Otaiba said his main vision was to issue fewer fines, not more.

"It's not the idea of fines. It's the idea of obeying the law," he said. "We don't want people to get fines. The ultimate target of this campaign is to reduce the parking fines."

He points to last year's campaign that offered a 50 per cent discount on all outstanding tickets from 2009 until December 2012.

Mr Al Otaiba estimated Mawaqif waived about Dh20 million in individual and corporate fines, though exact numbers have yet to be confirmed.

Mawaqif spoke with people and businesses that had amassed huge fines. Some people had gathered fines totalling as much as Dh20,000.

"That's why we give the 50 per cent discount," Mr Al Otaiba said. "To make people breathe. We feel for people."

In another campaign, Mawaqif negotiated a deal with the police that allowed fined motorists to pay half of their fees this year and half next. This ran from December last year until the end of January.

Last month, 500 inspectors were themselves inspected and reminded that their role is to educate, not penalise.

Motorists may love to blame overzealous inspectors but only 0.03 per cent of December's fines were found to be issued incorrectly.

"We gave them the message that the aim isn't to fine people, the main aim is to create awareness and abide by the law," Mr Al Otaiba said.

Mawaqif manages about 98,000 parking spaces on the island. About 10,500 of these spaces were created since Mawaqif started in 2009.

Of these, about 6,000 are considered new and about 4,000 were reclaimed from spaces filled with rubbish and abandoned vehicles. There are plans for another 10,500 spaces by 2016.

About 500 of these will take spaces previously reserved for fire-hydrant access, with some 200 already converted.

An extra 300 will be added by end of June with the construction of a multi-storey car park near the Department of Economic Development.

A temporary car park is built of metal and can be disassembled and relocated elsewhere, based on demand. They can last months or years, as needed.

Five multi-storey car parks that received funding approval by the Executive Council in January will provide 2,032 parking spaces by next year. It will take two to three months before the concept design is approved and deadlines depend on funding.

A study is also under way to examine paid parking for the city's motorcycles.

Schools are invited to work with Mawaqif to develop new parking areas for dropping off pupils. The agency has continued its 2011 programme to give parents and drivers a special permit in the mornings and afternoon.

Mr Al Otaiba said there were no plans to expand paid parking to the city's mainland suburbs at present.

Parking payments can be made using prepaid cards, credit cards and SMS. New methods are under review.

And those who prefer to use coins will be happy to know that Mawaqif finished fitting its 2,100 machines for the lighter Dh1 coins and fil coins a few days ago, within two months of notification that the new coins were not compatible with the system.

"Mistakes are bound to happen but we learn from our mistakes," Mr Al Otaiba said.

azacharias@thenational.ae