x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Parking free-for-all to be eliminated

The introduction of more than 2,500 paid parking meters on some of the capital's most congested roads comes a step closer.

November 10, 2008 / Abu Dhabi/ Cars fill the streets near 6th Street and 8th Street in Abu Dhabi November 10, 2008.
November 10, 2008 / Abu Dhabi/ Cars fill the streets near 6th Street and 8th Street in Abu Dhabi November 10, 2008.

ABU DHABI // The introduction of more than 2,500 paid parking meters on some of the capital's most congested roads came a step closer yesterday. It followed the disclosure that the Department of Transport (DoT) is to take over responsibility for managing the city's parking. Until recently, Abu Dhabi Municipality was in charge of implementing measures, including pay-and-display parking, to help solve the capital's chronic parking problems. As a first step, meters were installed on Hamdan Street two years ago, but they remain unused.

The British firm NCP Services said earlier this year it had been appointed by the Government to manage the parking programme for the downtown area and part of Airport Road. On the sidelines of the Middle East Parking Symposium yesterday, Saeed al Hameli, general manager of bus transportation for the DoT, said the department would integrate the parking management programme - which includes the 2,500 parking meters - into a master plan for improving transport in the emirate.

The Government plans an integrated local transport system with a network of trams, metro lines, high-speed rail and buses. Park-and-rides and high-occupancy vehicle lanes are among many elements being considered. "Responsibility of parking management has been shifted to DoT and now the DoT is working with the [surface transport master plan] outcomes on how to integrate the parking with the new plan of transport," Mr Hameli said.

He was unsure when implementation would begin. "The municipality was working for years on this project, including the contracts and how to make it flow with the DoT plan. It will take some time," he said. During a presentation on the parking programme, NCP Services said it would take a year to implement its first phase. During that time parking enforcement officers would be recruited and trained, residents' parking permits will be issued and a media campaign launched.

A system to manage the programme will also be configured, a contact centre established, and a parking shop set up for residents to buy permits and pay fines. There will be a transition period during which warnings without fines will be handed out to errant parkers. The size of fines has not been specified. There will be a clamping and removal service for repeat offenders and car pounds will be established.

The scheme is to be rolled out in 10 three-month stages covering zones within Abu Dhabi Island that include the central business district and Tourist Club area and a strip along Airport Road to Al Saada Street. "What we are doing is not a panacea to Abu Dhabi's problems with traffic and parking," said Mark Underwood, the chief executive of NCP Services. "It has to be part of a broader strategy that the Government is putting together.

"What we are helping them do is manage one facet of that, and the one facet is to control the streets and bring order so traffic can flow more readily. Similarly, it's about controlling the demand because people will not come into the city, they'll use public transport." A department of planning and economy report issued in the summer said some landlords were taking advantage of the lack of spaces by charging residents to park. It also said 600 cars were registered each day last year in Abu Dhabi, twice the rate of population growth in the emirate, and that a lack of public transport options was adding to the problems.

Motorists said they were in favour of a pay-and-display scheme if the cost was reasonable and it made it easier to find parking. Amjad Ramadan, 28, who was parked next to a fire hydrant on Al Hamdan Street, said he was always late for work because he spent at least half an hour searching for parking. Underground car parks were not always available, he said. "We pay for all these parking tickets, so we might as well pay for parking," said Mr Ramadan, from Syria.

Habib Noor Mohammed, 36, a delivery driver, said he lost time circling for a parking spot as he tried to drop things off: "Pay and display is OK, as long as it's reasonable." mchung@thenational.ae * with additional reporting by Hermeen Adam