Residents and businesses in Abu Shagara area of Sharjah have welcomed the New Year with ample parking spaces in their neighbourhood.
Abu Shagara was the location of the largest used-car market in the Middle East, which has now moved to the new market at Al Ruqa Al Hamra, freeing up thousands of parking spaces.
However, residents’ joy was short-lived as they realise that most of the liberated parking spaces have been converted into private paid parking zones operated by companies.
Several residents and managers of businesses including groceries, salons, cafeterias and other small businesses said the removal of thousands of used cars did open up parking spaces in the area near to their buildings for them and their customers, but they are no more free.
Many businesses who have been operating from Abu Shagara for decades said they are relieved because suppliers can now deliver things without worrying about finding parking space.
“Now they feel comfortable because the parking space here remains vacant as thousands of vehicles have moved after Sharjah Municipality gave a 48-hour notice,” said Ayoob K S, Manager, Al Nasheed Grocery, Abu Shagara.
"This is good because more customers can come in. Until now our main customers were those from adjacent neighbourhoods who used to walk in. Now people from other parts of Sharjah can also drive in,” said a sales assistant in Al Madeena supermarket.
“Our customers can park and shop. This is great relief for salons, cafeterias, even the new fish market and many small businesses,” Ayoob of Al Nisheed Grocery.
However, some residents are feeling the pinch. Abu Obaid said: “Earlier I used to park my vehicle free in the area. But from last two months, I am using the new paid private parking area and am paying Dh250 a month.
This is additional expense for me. There is a sandy patch where we can park free but that is not safe. There is no security camera there.”
Yet another resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Earlier though it was difficult to find parking, after doing several rounds of the area, we would find a slot. But now we have to pay.
"I don’t want to spend Dh250 per month only for parking. Many people got parking fine of Dh200 for not taking parking tickets of Dh2 in paid-parking slots.”
“Parking fee is Dh250 per month. For some vehicles we charge Dh300 a month. We have space to park 200 vehicles,” said a private parking manager.
Sharjah taxi driver Mubarak Hussain said the shifting of used-car market has resulted in reduced customers for him. However, he is relieved as traffic congestion has also reduced.
“This used to be a very congested area and sometimes getting out of the market took about half-an-hour to one-hour during the peak business hours.”
Restaurant owners, typing and documentation centres that thrived in the area due to used-car dealers also allege that their business has been affected.
“Our business started declining in recent weeks, because the number of people visiting the car market is coming down. We had many customers from the market where more than 180,000 vehicle transactions happened per year,” said a restaurant owner in Abu Shagara.
“About 70 per cent of all vehicle registrations in Sharjah used to happen in Abu Shagara market. There were about 32 electronic vehicle testing centers, several garages and auto ancillary service centres in the market.
"There were more than 190 vehicle washing and polishing centres, too. All these have to be shifted to the new market,” said one used car dealer.
Some used-car dealers alleged that about 12 vehicles that remained in the area after the 48-hour notice period were fined between Dh500 and Dh2,000.