Monday, June 21, 2010

Residents complain about carpark crunch

HDB tries to ensure sufficient spaces but these may not always be close to person's block

IT IS the HDB residents' bugbear: You have a season parking ticket, but there is not a carpark space in sight when you return home late at night.

Exasperated at not finding a space in the carpark near his Tampines Street 84 flat, handyman Yazied Arsad, 32, resorted to parking his van in a handicapped space or outside designated spots.

Over the past 18 months, he has flouted parking rules no fewer than 25 times, accumulating $1,260 in fines. 'Why should I pay? I have been buying my season parking ticket monthly, but I just can't find a space sometimes,' he said.

Complaints about a parking crunch in HDB estates have surfaced in Parliament. In March, Parliamentary Secretary (National Development) Mohamad Maliki Osman conceded that about 10 per cent of HDB carparks do not meet 'local parking demands'.

He cited changes in demographic profiles and car ownership patterns as reasons. He did not identify the carparks. Neither would the HDB, which runs 1,800 carparks here and charges between $65 and $90 for season parking monthly.

HDB said that the number of red spaces set aside for season ticket holders varies from location to location and is highly dependent on the local situation and parking demand pattern. Demand for short- term parking may be high at carparks near amenities and hence more spaces are reserved for ticket holders.

It said it will make every effort to ensure that there are sufficient parking spaces but seeks residents' understanding that it may not always be possible to park at preferred spots nearest their flats.

In Mr Yazied's case, its spokesman maintained that there is sufficient parking space for all ticket holders in the area.

Night inspections by its officers showed there are vacant spots, though not necessarily next to Mr Yazied's block. But Mr Yazied said this was not always the case even for carparks farther away.

'I even have a skateboard in my van, so that if I find a space far from my block, I can skate home. Why would I risk parking illegally if there were empty spaces?' he asked.

Mr Raymond Yeo, 42, a Tampines resident who lives near Mr Yazied, recalled two occasions last year when he returned home after midnight to find the carpark full. So he had supper at a nearby coffee shop to kill time and wait for a space.

MPs contacted for comments think the problem has become more acute as more families start owning more than one car and more car owners move into mature estates with limited surface parking areas.

Bishan resident W.C. Yeo, 55, who moved into the estate earlier this year, could not even get a season parking ticket for the carpark nearest her block. They were sold out. She has had to park her car 15 minutes away from her flat. 'It just doesn't make sense for me to walk almost two bus stops to get home every night after a long day at work,' she said.

MP for Aljunied GRC Cynthia Phua said that since late last year, she has been getting about 30 such complaints a month. She said the parking crunch happens most often in estates aged between 20 and 30 years where there are few multi-storey carparks.

Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Inderjit Singh agreed that the parking crunch has worsened. 'Over the last few years, parking in our HDB estates seems to have reached its limit. I think the planning parameters used to decide the number of spaces may no longer be valid,' he said.

MPs said that they react to complaints by asking HDB for more red parking spaces so season ticket holders can get a spot. Often, HDB complies by converting white spots meant for the public.

Tampines GRC MP Ong Kian Min said some surface carparks in Tampines have been converted to multi-storey ones and more levels have been added to multi-storey carparks. The problem, however, is illegal parking in red spaces by 'outsiders'.

MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Hri Kumar Nair said: 'Sometimes there is the problem of non-residents taking up red spaces. It's a question of enforcement but officers can't possibly go down all the time.'

A Straits Times check on HDB carparks showed that residents in Teck Whye, Bukit Batok, Hougang and Ghim Moh face similar parking woes.

A hawker who lives in Bukit Batok said he usually gets home at about 2am, by which time all the spaces are occupied. He had chalked up more than 30 parking summonses over the past three years.

Some season ticket holders, however, do have a way out.

Another Bishan resident, housewife Huang Siew Ling, 48, said her husband sometimes pays an extra $2 in night parking coupons to leave their car in the visitor spot at a nearby multi-storey carpark.

But that leaves him at a risk of being fined for leaving the car there past 7am, when the night coupon expires. 'All these costs are on top of the $60 plus we spend on season parking,' she said.

Making space for more cars

SOME measures by HDB to ease the parking crunch:
  • Grouping carparks within walking distance from blocks to provide more spaces for season parking ticket holders;
  • Abolishing the night parking scheme (by coupon) in some carparks so that residents with season tickets will have sufficient spaces;
  • Converting some surface carparks into multi-storey ones or adding more levels to existing multi-storey carparks;
  • At selected carpark groups, residents can pay a flat fee to park at any of the surface or multi-storey carparks within the group. Previously, their season parking tickets would only allow them to park at either one.

 Source: Straits Times, 21 Jun 2010

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