Daily traffic jams at Toa Payoh market carpark caused by electronic parking system
It's a spacious open-air carpark, next to a popular Toa Payoh market and hawker centre, which used to generally be a breeze to get in and out of.
But since a gantry was installed at the carpark's entrance last month because the parking system was upgraded to the Electronic Parking System (EPS), it's been nothing but a nightmare for users.
The gantry has caused massive jams - queues of 30 to 40 vehicles are a common sight.
The EPS was implemented at the carpark at Lorong 8 Toa Payoh on Dec 29 last year.
Responding to queries from The New Paper, the estate's Member of Parliament, Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, said the congestion problem needs to be addressed.
Mr David Neo, a resident who is self-employed, said he has been stuck in the jam there several times.
The 55-year-old added that before the gantry was put up, two cars could fit on the exit lane - one for turning left and one for turning right.
He said: "Now that the barrier is up, cars can no longer exit in pairs. So the road capacity is halved, causing the jam."
He suggested having an alternative exit because no one would be able to leave if there was an emergency.
He said: "It's very frustrating, especially during weekends. I can be stuck in the queue for up to 10 minutes."
The situation gets bad during lunch hours on weekdays and in the mornings on weekends.
Residents and shopkeepers living and working in the area told The New Paper that before the gantry was installed, there were hardly any jams.
Wonton mee seller Yeo Kwai King, 68, said: "Cars have no space to move."
Another resident, who wanted to be known only as Mr Kang, said the gantry has affected his weekend plans. The sales director said he does not head out on weekends now unless it is necessary.
"The jams are worse on weekends, especially in the mornings, as the school next to the carpark (First Toa Payoh Primary School) has tuition classes on Saturday mornings," he added.
Residents were also concerned about emergency vehicles getting caught in the jams.
Mr Francis Xavier, who works in the education industry, has been a frequent visitor to the estatefor a decade.
Last weekend, he saw an ambulance, which was evacuating a resident, get caught in a gridlock.
Another resident, Ms Mel Lim, 40, saw the same incident.
She said: "Thankfully, the cars gave way to the ambulance. But what if something similar happens and the drivers aren't as considerate?"
The New Paper team observed the carpark for about 10 hours over Tuesday and Wednesday.
During lunchtime on both days, there was a jam that stretched about 100m from the carpark exit to Block 215. The most number of cars we saw in the queue at one point was 33.
Drivers in Malaysian-registered cars contributed to the delay as they would have to manually insert their cashcards.
Mr Benedict Su, 63, was stuck for nearly 10 minutes. He said: "I come here almost every day to have lunch, and it's very annoying to get stuck here. The barrier is fast but it's not convenient."
Another problem is that with a loading bay close by, heavy vehicles such as coaches and trucks that park near the gantry also cause a jam.
Shopkeeper Lau Ah Kow, 72, said: "It's easy for the buses to enter, but difficult for them to park. So when the drivers are parking the buses, the cars will have to stop and give way."
"Now that the barrier is up, cars can no longer exit in pairs. So the road capacity is halved, causing the jam."
- Resident David Neo
HDB monitoring situation
Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, the Member of Parliament for Potong Pasir, told The New Paper that the situation at Toa Payoh Lorong 8 is being monitored.
He said: "We have noticed the problem and informed the Housing Development Board, requesting that they resolve the issue quickly."
In an e-mail reply, an HDB spokesman said the gantry is in good working condition with a response time of 2 to 3 seconds.
The HDB observed that the parking demand is very high during peak hours (mealtimes and weekends).
It noted that with many of the vehicles choosing to turn right towards the Lorong 6/Braddell Road area, the vehicles have to wait for the traffic to be clear in both directions before they can turn.
This has inadvertently hampered the vehicle flow out of the carpark.
HDB said it will continue to monitor the situation.
Dr Park Byung Joon, head of the urban transport management programme at SIM University, said there are ways to reduce jams caused by the barrier system during peak hours.
He said: "One way is to make more than one exit lane, for example, by placing two or more barriers. The more effective way is to construct alternative exits to the main road.
"All options require a bit of investment, but it wouldn't be too expensive."
Dr Park added that while the automatic pay system with barriers is more expensive to manage than parking coupons, it is a more effective and convenient method to enforce parking payment.