Liberty’s parking mess

2014-03-14 00:00

THE introduction of paid parking at Liberty Midlands Mall has sparked outrage among patrons who, apart from the cost, have also complained of having to wait in long queues to pay for their parking and of the growing congestion at exit gates.

A Pietermaritzburg resident has launched a petition for the system to be abolished.

The paid parking system was introduced on March 3.

Centre manager Umi Khan said the decision followed trends and was in line with many major centres across the country.

The new system, said Khan, allows for quick and easy access, with enhanced security measures, including 24/7 CCTV coverage and patrols.

Currently, the first 20 minutes of parking is free and accommodates those dropping into the centre to run a brief errand. Those who stay longer will benefit from the rates that decrease on a sliding scale. Twenty minutes to an hour will cost you R5, but two to three hours will cost only R4, and four to five hours R3.

Parking charges at the mall are far cheaper than at other shopping centres in KwaZulu-Natal.

Gateway Shopping Centre parking tariffs start from R8 for zero to two hours for open parking, and R10 for undercover parking for the same time.

The Pavilion offers open parking at R5 for zero to three hours; R8 for up to four hours; and undercover at R8 for an hour and R9 for one to two hours.

Pietermaritzburg residents have meanwhile taken to social media to vent their frustration.

Hilton Humphries said the system should have been thought out better.

“I suggest having more machines; a handful of machines for thousands of people is not your brightest idea. Some folks spend at least 15 minutes waiting to pay. If you are going to charge, at least make it quicker. In addition, if we now have to pay, please spend some of that money on teaching your information kiosk and security guards some basic skills in helpfulness and politeness because their service is awful,” he said.

Melissa Botha was not sure whether the pay stations accepted credit or debit cards as there were no signs.

Rivi Wolf said the parking lot employees were “beyond useless”.

“I have seen them looking lost in the corridors more than being of any value to customers.”

Samantha Gurney Pillay said while the new system will take some time getting used to, the traffic flow out of the mall needed to be reconsidered.

“The flow out of the mall entrances is crazy and with the new adjustments at the main traffic circle, it is simply chaotic. If it’s so congested on a weekday, what would it be like on the weekend or during the holiday periods,” said Pillay.

Michelle Whitfield said the system of paying less to shop longer would make the mall busier.

She said more people would “linger” on weekends, making Saturdays and Sundays “even busier when it’s already an absolute nightmare to get shopping done”.

Whitfield challenged that the introduction of paid parking was in keeping with other malls.

“This is strange, as Scottsville Mall, Hayfields Mall, The Quarry, Parklane, Invesco Centre, Polly Shorts Centre, Northway Mall, Cascades, Makro and every other centre I can think do not charge for parking,” she said.

Khan, in explaining the rationale for introducing paid parking, said careful consideration had been given to the rates.

“Liberty Midlands Mall is ultimately owned by Liberty policyholders and in order to protect their investments, centre management needs to ensure that it remains a feasible investment to protect the pension and other funds that benefit from these investments,” she said.

Khan said the mall was the first in South Africa to introduce parking rates that decreased.

“The average rate is not excessive and is in line with other similar facilities,” she said, adding that additional pay machines would be installed.

Khan added that Pick n Pay and Woolworths customers qualified for two hours of free parking. “They can have their parking tickets validated inside these stores,” she said.

Pensioners are entitled to free parking on presentation of their identity document at the parking desk.

Khan said a multimillion-rand project to tackle traffic flow, especially at Gate 3, had commenced last year.

“In addition to the changes to the traffic circle, Liberty Midlands Mall invested in the construction of an extra lane for the use of vehicles not visiting the mall and therefore improving traffic flow for the entire area,” she said.

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