Friday, August 3, 2012

O come, all ye faithful... but pray leave the car at home

Straits Times: Thu, Aug 02

NOW that the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is open to the use of industrial spaces for religious activities, religious leaders said such premises may be coveted more for their parking spaces than as just additional buildings for worship.

"With the Government allowing more buildings to be used for religious purposes, it would be more helpful if we could use them for carparks," said Father Richards Ambrose from the Church of the Holy Cross. "That would help everyone."

The church in Clementi has room for only 100 cars - not enough for the thousands of worshippers who come every Sunday. It has tried various measures, such as staggering service timings and deploying wardens to direct traffic, but there remains a space crunch.

Parishioners have to compete for parking spaces in a public carpark a significant walk away, while some park along lanes in private estates.

Over in Tampines, the rise in vehicle ownership among its 5,000 congregants is also a big challenge for Darul Ghufran Mosque, said its chairman Abdul Matin. "The mosque was built in 1990 with only 11 parking spaces, and vehicle ownership has increased a lot since then," he said. "In the last few years especially, a lot of people are driving to the mosque."

From 8pm to 10.30pm during Ramadan, the mosque has permission from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) for congregants to park along a single lane in Tampines Avenue 5, as long as they do not park at a bus bay or near a traffic junction.

The mosque also put up posters highlighting a quote from the Mufti of Singapore, Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, urging mosque-goers to practise their religion by not parking illegally.

Mr Mohd Ali Suri, chairman of Darul Aman Mosque in Jalan Eunos, said it had been working with the LTA, SMRT and a nearby Buddhist temple to deal with the parking issue.

The LTA recently converted a lane near Sims Avenue to paid hourly parking spaces, but it is still hard to find a place to park.

The mosque's leaders have encouraged its 2,500-strong congregation to take the MRT when they can, said Mr Ali.

Father Richards suggests tapping schools near religious buildings for parking purposes. "The schools have ample parking facilities and are empty on Sundays. If we could pay for the space and use it, that would be good."

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