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Monday, May 17, 2021

High-tech paid parking being expanded across Qatar

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General post office car park
General post office car park

Many motorists will find themselves paying to park more frequently in Qatar as businesses try to discourage residents from using spaces reserved for customers for long periods of time.

But as parking lot owners roll out changes, at least one technology firm is adding new features allowing payment via mobile phone and assistance finding one’s vehicle to make the process less cumbersome.

One of the first facilities to be affected is the multi-story car park at Qatar’s general post office on the Corniche. It will introduce fees at the end of this month, according to the company installing the new system for Qatar Postal Services Company (Q-Post).

The four-level lot on the edge of the busy West Bay/Dafna business district currently offers free parking, but this has led to it being “abused” by commuters and others doing business in West Bay and customers are often unable to park easily, the head of Computer Station Co. – which is installing the new pay parking technology – told Doha News.

By the end of April, new fees will be charged for anyone wanting to park there. The Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) is approving the proposed new tariff, but – in line with the new government regulations for all car parks – the first 30 minutes will be free for customers.

“It is a busy area but people were parking there who were not customers. It (the parking) was being abused.

(Q-Post) brought in parking charges to provide a better service for post office customers, to increase turnaround. They can park there, pick up parcels or do business then leave again and if they do it within 30 minutes, it will be free,” Elie Elkhoury, chief operating officer of Computer Station told Doha News.

To keep traffic flowing in the area, the entrance to the car park will not have a barrier and the system will be ticket-less.

Automatic number plate recognition technology will log each vehicle’s registration plate when it enters the car park and again when it approaches the exit gate. It will calculate how long the vehicle has been there and so what the parking charge will be (if any).

Fess will be able to be paid by cash or card, and the machines will also accept coins, the company’s chief executive Hashim Gumma added.

Charging at Gulf Mall car park in Al Gharafa will also resume, after reconfiguration of the parking lot to improve the flow of traffic, Elkhoury said.

Gulf Mall traffic
Gulf Mall traffic

The mall introduced parking fees last September. However, congestion in the area led them to temporarily suspend the service until the lot was redesigned.

Charges are expected to be re-introduced in the coming months, “around Ramadan”, Gumma confirmed, pending government confirmation of the tariff.

New Souq car park

A new, two-story car park at Souq Waqif is set to open this August, with a number of gadgets designed to make it easier for visitors to park, find their car and pay.

Souq Waqif west car park under construction - July 2015
Souq Waqif west car park under construction – July 2015

The underground car park,  on the site of an old surface lot at the end of Al Rayyan Road, across from the Falcon Souq, will also do away with tickets and entrance barriers, and will use the same licence plate-reading technology to make it quicker to get into the car park.

The inside of the car park is installed with an extensive CCTV system, with one camera fitted for every two-to-four parking spaces.

The “park eyes” cameras will read the licence plates of every vehicle and will also record everything which takes place on that spot, with the aim of improving security.

“If someone opens their front door and it hits into your car or scratches it, everything is recorded. There is no dead area – you can track everything and it is easy to monitor.

The focus is on security. The camera is pointed to the licence plate,” Elkhoury added, arguing there would be no intrusion on individuals’ privacy.

The new car park will also feature “find my car” technology, to help visitors who have forgotten where they have parked. Kiosks will have devices in which a visitor can enter their licence plate number, and they will be given the exact location of their vehicle.

To further assist motorists, the light above their parked vehicle will start blinking to attract attention.

And in addition to being able to pay for parking by cash or card, near-field communications (NFC) will mean visitors can also pay using their mobile phone after registering their credit card with the system, Elkhoury said.

The firm, which operates the parking at Doha Exhibition and Convention Center (DECC), has also been brought on board to introduce parking systems for three, staff-only car parks for Ashghal and for the QP District, all in Dafna/West Bay.

It is also set to install charged parking at the under-construction Tawar Mall, near Landmark Mall, and at Mirqab Mall in Al Sadd.

Parking facilities will also be paid-for in Lusail City, with at least eight car parks set to be installed with the new payment technology.

The future

As Qatar’s population continues to increase and its roads get more congested, paid-for parking is going to become more prevalent as a way of better managing the traffic, Elkhoury said.

“The traffic is increasing every day. (Qatar authorities) need to regulate the car parks in order to regulate the traffic flow. Charging for car parks is a necessity, just like in Europe or anywhere else,” he continued, adding that the parking charges were low compared to other world cities.

To reduce congestion in busy areas such as West Bay, options such as on-street parking meters could be an option in the future.

“This is the next step for Qatar,” Elkhoury added.

How will the new parking arrangements affect you? Thoughts?

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