Island-wide paid parking by 2012

The capital's pay-and-display parking project is to be rolled out across Abu Dhabi Island by the end of 2011, one year earlier than planned.

November 10, 2008 / Abu Dhabi/  Cars fill the streets near 6th Street and 8th Street in Abu Dhabi November 10, 2008. (Sammy Dallal / The National)
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Abu Dhabi // The capital's pay-and-display parking project is to be rolled out across Abu Dhabi Island by the end of 2011 - one year earlier than planned. The scheme, known as Mawaqif, will see more than 75,000 paid parking spaces in 43 sectors of the city by the end of next year. It currently has 17,589 spaces in 16 sectors.

Najib al Zarooni, the general manager of Mawaqif said that the Department of Transport (DOT) decided to bring the Mawaqif scheme forward after seeing the knock-on effects of existing schemes on neighbouring areas. He spoke to The National on the sidelines of the third annual Middle East Parking Symposium. Abu Dhabi's current scheme has increased the amount of vacant spaces in the areas of the city where it has been implemented.

However, residents of neighbourhoods adjacent to paid parking zones complain that their areas have become more congested. "When one sector is implemented it makes the other areas worse. So, it is better to move fast," Mr al Zarooni said. Prior to the capital's implementation of paid parking, an average of two cars a day used each parking spot. Since its implementation, that number is nearer to three cars a day. The global benchmark for a well-functioning car park is five cars a day.

Mr al Zarooni said paid schemes are only one aspect of a plan to alleviate the capital's parking woes. DOT figures show that car ownership is increasing by 16 per cent a year. Thirty car parks are planned, including two fully automated "robotic" car parks. In addition, Mr al Zarooni said a more efficient use of existing space could also alleviate the problem. Simply repainting bays could increase parking space by 15 per cent.

He said introducing fees tended to create an increase in parking space of up to 30 per cent - the same amount of extra parking the DOT hopes to get from its new car parks. However, he admitted that despite the promising figures, solving the city's parking woes would not be easy. "Our work is cut out for us," he said. According to Khalid Hashim, the executive director of the land transport sector, the DOT is getting a lot of complaints about Mawaqif. He said most complaints were to do with a perceived injustice in having to pay for parking.

That is one reason why the DOT is yet to enforce its policy of clamping and towing cars parked illegally. "People have to get used to the regulations, they are already angry about the current regulations. So, towing and clamping is not something we can implement right away," he said. No firm dates were announced for when towing would be implemented.