Dubai: Gold Souq residents, traders and visitors in Dubai continue to face parking issues, with the situation worsening every passing day.
Gold Souq, along with the adjoining areas of Al Ras and Baniyas are some of the busiest business districts of Dubai, housing the old spice souq, foodstuff bazaar and other wholesale markets.
The area is always busy as it is a big attraction for tourists, causing congestion throughout the day, making a parking space one of the most sought-after pieces of property in the city.
Pickup truck drivers complain that they are being discriminated against in the allotment of parking spaces, while traders claim that their business is getting affected as customers are irked by the lack of parking spaces.
“The problem we have here is that the Dubai-registered pickup trucks are not allowed to park in this area, while the non-Dubai-registered pickup trucks are allowed. We have to wait near the parking lots for our customers, because if we park in the regular parking slots, the inspectors ask us to go. If we double park, we get fined by the police. We are in big trouble here and we don’t understand where we are supposed to go,” said Mohammad Riyaz, a pickup driver, based in Al Ras.
Riyaz is among dozens of pickup drivers who depend on the wholesale market in Al Ras near Gold Souq for their livelihood.
“This parking lot (behind the old Souq) was previously allotted only for pickups from 9am to 4pm, so it was easy for us to do our job, without worrying about the fines. Now it is open for all. To go with it is this confusion of whether we are allowed here or not. Because, some officials tell us it’s all right to park here as long as we pay for it, but some inspectors say pickup trucks are not allowed here,” said another pickup driver.
However, a Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) official told Gulf News that its rules and regulations are applied on all road users evenly.
“Special parking slots are allocated for pickups. In all Dubai areas, there are dedicated parking bays for loading and unloading which can be used by this type of vehicles. RTA’s laws and regulations are applied on all car parking and roads user evenly,” said Maitha Mohammad Bin Adai, CEO of RTA’s Traffic and Roads Agency, which manages all of Dubai public parking spaces.
Pickup drivers are not the only ones upset about the lack of parking space, shopkeepers and traders based in Gold Souq and Al Ras are equally annoyed.
Adding to the woes is the closure of a big parking lot near old Golf Souq bus station, to make way for the Deira waterfront development.
“Our customers are finding it difficult to park in this area and that is the reason our business is suffering a little. We hoped that the new parking building near the fish market would help but that hasn’t happened,” said Sameer Chandra, a shopkeeper in Al Ras.
For Nashaat Abdul Baqi, who manages sports events, visiting Al Ras and the adjoining Baniyas area is a business compulsion.
“I have to come here often to purchase sports goods. But the problem in this area is that there is not enough parking space. There is one parking building nearby but it is always full. Other private parking lots are also full so you are forced to either go around or wait,” said Abdul Baqi.
He added that since the parking lot near the old souq is closer to the sports wholesale market, he prefers waiting there.
“On an average, it takes at least an hour, but sometimes it takes two hours to find parking in this area. The authorities should create more parking spaces, because most of the spaces are taken up by commercial vehicles and pickup trucks, there should be some solution to this issue,” said Abdul Baqi.
Apart from visitors and shopkeepers, residents also have their grievances.
One resident, Mohammad Faiq, suggested that the slots designated for trucks to load or unload goods should be open for other motorists during night time.
“We understand these spaces are allotted to trucks for a reason. But, during night time when there are no business activities, these spaces are mostly vacant. RTA should allow us to park there during night time as we struggle to find a space elsewhere while these spaces remain unused,” said Faiq, a longtime resident of Al Ras.
Echoing Faiq’s views, Naveed Ahmad said recently more roadside parking slots have been allotted for the commercial vehicles.
“It is understandable that these vehicles need spaces during business hours, but during night time, all these spaces remain empty and motorists get a fine for using this space even during non-business hours. I suggest that RTA should open up these spaces for all vehicles during night time,” said Ahmad, who is also a longtime resident of the area.
However, RTA believes implementing this suggestion will have an adverse impact on the business.
“Dubai is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and the trade movement happens the whole day. The loading and unloading activities start very early in the morning and this suggestion will affect the availability of these parking bays for the right users (pickups), and consequently will affect the economic movement as well as the traffic,” said Bin Adai.
She added that greater use of public transport is the best solution to ease the parking problems of the perennially congested business district.