HDB building high-rise mechanised carparks in trial

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Sept 15, 2014

Residents of Bukit Panjang, Changi and Yishun will get some relief from parking woes next year.

The Housing Board has started building high-rise mechanised carparks as high as 15 storeys in these estates, as part of a trial to see if a mechanised parking system (MPS) suits HDB estates.

"The MPS is not new in Singapore: several private condos and hotels have it. But it will be new in an HDB town," wrote National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in his blog yesterday.

He was in Bukit Panjang yesterday to launch the construction of a 15-storey mechanised carpark in Bangkit Road.

Costing about $18 million to build, the mechanised carparks at these estates will add 219 parking spaces, up from 717 currently. The cost excludes maintenance.

These mature estates were picked because they lack parking spaces as well as space for new multi-storey carparks.

To park using the mechanised system, a motorist drives his car into a car lift and parks in it.

He then keys in a PIN number and the system will automatically find a parking spot for the car. The driver keys in the same PIN number to retrieve his car.

Carpark charges will remain unchanged during the trial, said the HDB. Residents currently pay $65 a month to park their cars at unsheltered HDB carparks and $90 per month at sheltered ones. Visitors pay $1 an hour.

Dr Teo Ho Pin, the MP for Bukit Panjang, said the system will relieve the shortage of parking spaces during weekends. "The additional 60 (parking spaces) will provide more (parking) facilities for residents and visitors," said Dr Teo, who is also mayor of the North West District.

Office administrator Catherine Ng, 48, said the system will save drivers from having to hunt for parking spaces. "It will also help drivers like me who cannot park properly," she said with a laugh.

Shopkeepers were also happy at the prospect of more parking spaces. "It may bring more shoppers," said owner Lau Chye Tong of Choan Huat Trading, a shop supplying prayer items.

But a few residents were hesitant about using the new system.

"What if the waiting time is too long or if the car is damaged?" asked 37-year-old Ram Bijay. A 38-year-old salesman, who gave his name only as Mr Tan, said he will use it only if there are no regular parking spots available.

Mr Henry Tng, business development manager of Japanese construction and engineering firm Sato Kogyo, which is building the Bukit Panjang MPS, said his company has been building such parking systems in Japan for more than 20 years. "It is reliable. We are not only building it but also maintaining it."

The HDB said the systems will have hotlines manned around the clock and back-up generators in case of power failures.

It added: "If cars are damaged by the system due to mechanical failure, there will be insurance coverage by the contractor as the system provider."

tohyc@sph.com.sg