Risky: So bad is the situation even sandy patches are not spared Image Credit: XPRESS/Abhishek Sengupta

Dubai: For seven years, Indian expat Nazia Khan didn’t mind negotiating the chaotic Sharjah traffic twice a day. She had somehow taken the lengthy stretches of her daily drive to and from one emirate to another in her stride.

Her patience, however, finally ran out last year when she had to spend almost an extra hour every morning just to find parking near her office in Dubai Media City.

After months of ‘trying to negotiate with reality’, she finally sold off her Chevrolet Aveo, her faithful mode of transport for years, took up an apartment in Al Barsha and began using the Metro to go to work.

Hers is not an isolated case.

Ever since the new parking management system came up in three phases across Dubai Internet City (DIC), Dubai Media City (DMC) and Knowledge Village (KV) from January last year, finding parking in these places has become life changing for some, nightmarish for most.

Ask Egyptian Ahmad El Hadidi who stays in The Gardens.

Fed up with the new RTA-managed parking system in DMC, he ditched his car and took to the Metro. “I have recently started using the Metro. I get off at Dubai Internet City and have a fair amount of walking to do before I reach the office, but it’s still much better than going through the harrowing experience of finding parking in Media City. It is a nightmare here,” says the journalist working in a television company in building 10 at DMC.

Apart from the Metro ticket and the occasional taxi fare from Internet City station to his office in Media City, he also has the gnawing pain of seeing his car sitting idle at home, but admits he has no choice otherwise.

It’s been an equally tormenting time for Indian Roshni Maiti ever since her office moved from Al Quoz to DIC late last year.

“I have to come by 8am every morning. If I don’t make it, I don’t have parking. Simple as that. The few that are near my offices are all gone by then,” says the manager at an insurance company.


Two kinds of parking

There are two kinds of parking in all these areas — RTA-managed metered parking and reserved parking for permit card holders in separate areas marked as S1, S2, S3, and so on.

As a result, swathes of free parking are now available only to a select few. And the most ironic part is that many of these reserved parking slots remain vacant throughout the day, even as several struggle to find parking in the unreserved slots.

“I had no clue the scenario had changed so much so soon,” said an Indian media executive who visited the place after some years. “I had a meeting at 11:30am, but after desperately searching for metered parking, I was finally forced to park my car at a valet parking nearby spending a whopping Dh60 for a couple of hours. I had no other choice,” he added.

Moroccan Najwah, 30, says she is extremely lucky to have just been provided with a parking slot in the ‘S4’ zone by her company recently.

“I had to struggle for months to get parking, but I am finally sorted now. I feel sorry for my friends who continue to struggle every morning because there simply aren’t enough metered parking slots available for them. Some of them have started using the Metro,” she told XPRESS.

Not all are lucky like Najwah.

Damian Judge, who works in a multinational computer technology company in the same area, says he has never had a day when he’s found parking easily and he doesn’t have a company-provided space.

“I come here almost two to three times a week and I always end up spending 20 minutes to half an hour on an average every time finding parking,” said the Englishman.

“Such is the dearth of parking here that I arrive almost 30-40 minutes before a scheduled meeting. You have to give yourself that much time to find a parking here,” said Pakistani Farid Qureshi, 30, who works in a business analytics company and has regular client meetings in the DIC area near the Grand Mid-West Hotel.

Reserved parking in these areas is only for companies registered with Tecom and with an office in these areas.

Tecom has allocated designated zones like S1, S2, S3… where vehicle owners with special permit cards can park. According to the RTA, the special parking permits have been issued to Tecom companies according to the floor space they are leasing.

In other words, the bigger the office space, the more parking permits for offices. Each parking permit card for the areas cost Dh700 for three months, Dh1,300 for six months and Dh2,500 for a year. A Dh100 processing fee is applicable for issuing each parking card.


Bigger office, more permits

“It is up to the individual companies to allocate the special parking permit. We have no say in that,” said a Tecom spokesperson.

Those without special parking permits are required to park in the metered parking, failing which they can be fined Dh200.

Egyptian Mohammad Fathy says his company has 50 staff and almost all own a car, but only two have been allotted a parking slot.

“So people like us either end up wasting a lot of time finding a parking or paying a fortune on fines every time we are caught parked on a sandy area or on an unauthorised spot,” says the 33-year-old accountant, pointing to the select few RTA metered parking spaces.

Karim Sabbakh, a second-year student of business administration at Middlesex University, Dubai in Knowledge Village says he once missed his exam because of parking problems.

“The next time I just parked my car on the side of the street, knowing well enough that I would be fined, but I was lucky not to get a ticket,” said the 20-year-old Russian. His classmate Muslim Ayobi, 23, from Afghanistan says he got two tickets last month for not parking ‘properly’. However lack of parking around his campus wasn’t his sole issue.

“We are students but we still pay for parking (if and when we get one), between 1pm and 4pm unlike most places in Dubai,” he says.

Unlike other RTA metered areas in Dubai, parking fee timings in DMC, DIC and KV are from 8am to 6pm on weekdays (Saturday to Thursday). Cost to a Tecom employee in the area is around Dh24 a day – assuming he is working for 10 hours (Dh2 for 1 hour, Dh5 for two hours, Dh8 for three hours, Dh11 for 4 hours).

“This amounts to more Dh5,000 a year whereas RTA’s own annual parking cards are almost half the cost,” said Indian Shyam Chandran who works in Media City. RTA does not provide parking cards in the metered areas within Tecom unlike other areas where charges are Dh2,500 annually

“What angers me more is that despite paying so much it’s so painful to find parking. What is the point of paying so much for parking if I cannot find one at ease and without any stress?” he wondered.


Tecom’s response

Tecom told XPRESS they introduced the new parking system to create more parking. “Previously, tenants said they could not find parking as people from outside were parking their vehicles in the parks. Therefore, we decided to introduce the new system.”

Tecom said the new system will encourage greater use of public transport. “We are continuously monitoring the situation with RTA to try and make it as helpful as possible to all business park users. We accept that it is not easy to satisfy everyone who use the business parks, but we are trying to positively influence behaviour through this system, which we believe is much fairer than the old one.For example, we recently opened several hundred new spaces in DMC and are considering opening the basement barriers in Knowledge Village after 6pm. We urge tenants who have still not secured their parking allotment cards to apply for them as soon as possible.”