Sunday, 21 February 2016

First HDB Mechanised Parking System officially launched at Changi Village

More lots, but long waits at Changi Village mechanised carpark
Gripes over time to park, retrieve cars; '3-6 months needed' for teething problems
By Danson Cheong and Sheryl Lee, The Straits Times, 20 Feb 2016

It is lunch hour and, on some days, the queue at Changi Village stretches almost to the end of the block.

But the line is not of hungry foodies waiting for a steaming plate of nasi lemak. These are drivers waiting to collect their cars from a new $10 million mechanised carpark built by the Housing Board.

Completed in December, the 195-space mechanised carpark in Changi Village was constructed to alleviate the parking crunch at the popular food haunt.

The HDB also built two other mechanised carparks in Bukit Panjang and Yishun as part of a pilot project initiated in 2013, to test out mechanised parking systems (MPS) in housing estates.

The carparks in Bukit Panjang and Yishun are for season parking, but the one in Changi Village is open to short-term users.

So while the total number of parking spaces has almost doubled at Changi Village - from 183 to 304 - a new problem seems to have arisen.

During peak hours, drivers say it can take more than 30 minutes to retrieve or park a car at the MPS carpark in Changi Village.

In a media statement yesterday, HDB said peak-period waiting times ranged between 10 and 15 minutes.

But The Straits Times, which visited the area four times in the past two weeks, observed that waiting times could extend past 30 minutes.

"The mechanism is too slow, it's so inconvenient. It's frustrating when your car number remains in the queue but the rest disappear. They don't run in sequence," said Mr James Ong, 50, a sales manager in the pharmaceutical industry.

Posted by Lianhe Zaobao on Friday, February 19, 2016

To park, users have to drive their cars into one of four car lifts before exiting their cars and punching in an eight-digit PIN code in the computer terminal outside.

The car lift doors then close and the MPS automatically parks the car. Cars are retrieved by entering the same PIN code.

A computer screen lets users know when their cars are ready.

East Coast GRC MP Mohamad Maliki Osman, who toured the facility during its launch yesterday, said long waiting times were not typical in his experience. HDB records state that during off-peak periods, waiting times averaged five minutes. Dr Maliki added that users might have to wait a little longer at times because some of the car lifts might be closed for maintenance.

"I hope the users will be able to understand some of the current challenges - (we need) to stabilise the system and we need to give them some time to maintain the system also," said Dr Maliki.

The HDB said the facility needs a settling-in period of three to six months to solve its teething problems.

Experts told The Straits Times that MPS, like the one in Changi Village, might not be suitable for areas with high vehicle volume and turnover.

"Imagine one car takes three to five minutes to retrieve. If you have 10 cars in the queue, the last car, even at the quickest, will take half an hour," said Mr Dave Ng, a sales engineer at engineering firm MHE-Demag. He noted that retrieval times also do not take into account the time required for drivers to get into their cars and drive off.

"If a driver takes longer than usual, the delay can snowball," he said.

But the system in Changi Village has its fans. Shopowners say business is up 10 to 15 per cent, while residents say they no longer have to compete with visitors for parking.

"In the past, there would be a queue to the carpark that stretched out to the road. Now, my customers come back more often because it's easier to park," said Ms Chris See, 40, who runs the Tekong Seafood Restaurant.

Additional reporting by Wong Shiying and Alexis Ong

* Mechanised HDB carparks safe but slow, say users
Those in Yishun and Changi Village are well used, not so the one in Bangkit Road
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 10 Oct 2016

While two of the three mechanised carparks in Housing Board estates - Changi Village and Yishun - can have utilisation rates of more than 90 per cent during peak hours, it is not the case for the one in Bangkit Road, which sees just around half its spots taken up in its busiest periods.

The mechanised parking systems (MPS) started operation last December and January, with those in Bangkit Road and Yishun for season parking and the Changi Village one open to short-term users too.

The HDB says it plans to allow short-term parking at the mechanised carpark in Bangkit Road in Bukit Panjang later this year where "the needs of our season-parking ticket holders are adequately met".

There are 26 parking spots in the Yishun mechanised carpark, 60 at the one in Bangkit Road, and 195 in Changi Village, where the mechanised carpark is near offices and eateries and is most popular during lunch and dinner on weekdays.

In Yishun, residents said the mechanised carpark is well used, with vacancies falling to single digits at night. But at Bangkit Road, vacant spots remained at around 50 between 8pm and 9pm when The Straits Times visited last Thursday.

At a mechanised carpark, users drive into a lift before exiting their vehicle and entering a PIN code outside. The car lift doors then close and the system automatically parks the vehicle. It is retrieved by entering the same PIN code.

Those who use the mechanised carparks told The Straits Times the system is convenient and safe, despite the occasional glitch. For those who do not use them, waiting time is a major concern.

"We cannot afford to wait five, 10 minutes in the morning. My kids will be late for school," said Mr Low Soon Peng, 45, a safety officer living in Yishun. He uses the mechanised carpark only on weekends.

It takes 10 to 15 minutes for users to retrieve their cars during the peak period and an average of five minutes during the off-peak period, said the National Development Ministry.

Motorists who need to use the car frequently also find it a hassle to park at a mechanised carpark.

Said retail manager Jo Yang, in her 40s, who works in Bangkit Road: "It's not very convenient for shopkeepers like us. We have to move merchandise sometimes and it's troublesome to go in and out of the carpark."

Other problems related to the three mechanised carparks include breakdowns. In half a year, there were 11 breakdowns out of some 54,000 parking transactions, mainly due to user issues such as motorists forgetting to apply their parking brakes, said MND last month.

Fans of the system, however, cited advantages such as security.

Yishun resident K. Krishna, 61, director of a human resource consultancy, said: "When I go overseas, I can leave my car there for a month. In the open-air carpark, you don't know what's going to happen but (at the mechanised carpark), I'm very sure the car is safe."

SIM University senior lecturer in urban transport management Park Byung Joon said such systems make it "quite easy to increase the parking capacity by (at least) threefold".

He said: "It has been implemented in cities like Seoul and Tokyo for many years. Given the scarcity of land in Singapore, MPS is really a way forward."

But Dr Park added that engineers will need to shorten the time for retrieving cars, as a 15-minute wait during peak hours may almost be "psychologically unacceptable" for users.

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