More lots, but long waits at Changi Village mechanised carpark

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 mechanised parking
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 mechanised parking system (left).ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Gripes over time to park, retrieve cars; '3-6 months needed' for teething problems

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.

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2016, with the headline 'Mechanised parking hits 'slow' hump'. Print Edition | Subscribe