In response to confusion about paid parking rules in Qatar, a major operator has explained that a half-hour grace period only applies to motorists who cannot find a vacant space.
The clarification comes following a government directive announced in April this year that sought to regulate maximum fees at parking lots around town.
According to this, drivers should not be charged if they cannot find a spot within the first 30 minutes of entering a lot.
The rule, which came into force last month, was initially understood by some operators and drivers to mean that the first 30 minutes of parking should be free.
However, this has since changed and some motorists have reported being charged after parking in malls and commercial complexes even for a few minutes.
Elie Elkhoury, chief operating officer of Computer Station Co. which runs a number of car parks across Doha, said the wording of the rule had recently been clarified.
“The grace period that was mentioned in the decree announced by the ministry earlier this year was interpreted in different ways,” he told Doha News, adding:
“The ministry states that the first 30 minutes are free if the customer cannot find an available place.”
As a result, some parking operators have recently begun charging motorists who make quick trips, as long as there are vacant spaces, he said.
“Although if you go to a mall or a hospital, it’s unlikely you are going to be there for less than 30 minutes,” Elkhoury added.
Operators can monitor the capacity of some parking lots through smart systems that record the number of available spaces at any given time.
While this system is in place in most recently-built car parks such as that at the Doha Exhibition and Conference Center (DECC) in Dafna/West Bay and City Center mall, it isn’t yet universal.
It said operators were limited to charging customers QR2 an hour for the first two hours. This rises to QR3/hour for the following two hours and then QR5/hour thereafter.
This is still significantly lower than the parking fees in many other international cities.
City Center Mall introduced fees in 2011. Gulf Mall also started charging when it first opened last year, but is now retooling its system.
Popular venues such as Souq Waqif, Hotel Park near the Sheraton Grand Hotel and major hospitals also charge a fee to park onsite.
The central post office on the Corniche also introduced paid parking last month.
Previously, the four-level lot was free. But this led to it being “abused” by commuters visiting and working in the busy West Bay/Dafna area, Elkhoury said.
However, parking remains free at other malls such as Landmark, Ezdan and Villaggio malls for now.