x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Two-tier approach to parking crunch

Some of the new car parks will include robotic parking mechanisms, while landlords must provide tenants with free spots for vehicles.

One of the blue pay parking machines which are being tested near Hamdan Street.
One of the blue pay parking machines which are being tested near Hamdan Street.

ABU DHABI // Transport planners hope new technology and new laws will alleviate an all-too-familiar problem: the capital's massive parking shortage. The Department of Transport (DoT) is preparing to issue tenders for two automated, multi-storey car parks downtown, planners said yesterday.

The Government will also commission two more multi-storey car parks, which will not be automated, with between 500 and 800 parking spaces each. Khalid Hashim, the executive director of land transportation at the DoT, said tenders would be sent out at the end of the year and construction should begin early next year. The agency also has proposed a comprehensive parking law that includes parking meters and mandates that property firms include parking spaces within their developments. Parking permits also will be issued.

The law, expected to be approved in October, will forbid landlords from charging separate fees for parking spaces; residents must be given parking spaces within the project's footprint, either aboveground or underground, officials said. The "parking ratio" rules will stipulate a certain number of spaces for apartments, restaurants, cinemas and offices, based on population density. "It is not an option to stand still and not do anything," said Najib al Zarooni, director of parking at the DoT. "This is an important first step." The automated parking structures will allow drivers to drop off their vehicles, which will then be loaded on to robotic systems to be stacked.

Once thought to be the preserve of technology-obsessed and crowded megalopolises like Tokyo, robotic parking is steadily gaining acceptance as a mainstream parking solution. There are robotic parking systems in New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, DC, and New York City. The American firm Apex SkyPark is building what it says is the world's largest automated parking structure in Dubai's Business Bay, adjacent to the Burj Dubai. The company is behind eight other robotic parking structures in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Proponents of automatic parking say it allows parking structures to be smaller, giving up to three times as much available space compared with conventional parking buildings. These car parks are also cost-effective and do not entail lighting or ventilation costs. At one US facility, waiting times to retrieve a car can be as short as three minutes. But there have been hiccups. In May, a 300-space robotic parking system in Hoboken, New Jersey, malfunctioned, trapping a driver - and his dog - inside his car. The two were stuck on a lift used to move the vehicles. Three cars were dropped over three years of operation at the same facility.