The Big Debate: Should Dubai malls introduce parking charges?

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    By Carolyn Proud  on Thursday, July 02, 2009, www.business24-7.ae 

    A proposal by shopping centres to introduce fees for parking when the Dubai Metro opens in September has been hailed by some as a fair means of unclogging already congested carparks – but others see it as nothing more than a grab for cash.  More than 60 per cent of respondents to an Emirates Business poll this week  said they view free parking as an expected customer convenience, whereas a third  say parking should be free only for paying customers.

    Shopping centre owners are rightly concerned that when the Metro opens in September, workers will swarm to their carparks (conveniently located near Metro stations), and dump their cars there while they commute via the cheap new railway.  We’ve all at some point needed to run into a store to collect a few items, only to end up frustrated by circling in often vain attempts to find a park. These are the times when shoppers may welcome moves towards paid parking.

    The Burjuman mall already charges for parking, except for between noon and 2.30pm, so it doesn’t deter lunch customers from its food court. The centre has a policy of refunding customers who spend Dh100 in any of its stores.   Despite retailers’ early fears that introducing fees would impact traffic and cash flow, sales figures at the centre reportedly increased.  Parking is also the norm in shopping districts in many foreign countries.

    But others believe that living expenses in Dubai are already too high in what can only be regarded as tough times. Many people have lost their jobs or have taken salary cuts, and families are struggling to make ends meet.  Some  also complain that they have gained no tangible benefits from previous charges imposed, such as the Salik tolls, as the toll roads were often crammed anyway.

    There’s  also another suggestion that a four-hour time-limit be policed in shopping centre carparks to discourage workers from using them.