Plans to mitigate traffic congestion in Dubai roads as the emirate prepares for the staging of World Expo 2020 go beyond constructing new roads and bridges. The Dubai Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) is revisiting its intelligent transport systems (ITS) roadmap to align it with the demands created by the Expo event.

While remarkable milestones have been achieved over the past 18 months, the RTA is keen to assess if the existing ITS masterplan requires additional enhancements. Some of the projects launched by RTA, in line with achieving Dubai’s smart city vision, are the smart-swipe payment using near-field communications (NFC)-enabled smartphones, the downloadable Wojhati App to plan one’s journey, as well as the initial roll out of free Wi-Fi in Hala, or luxury, taxis. The free Wi-Fi connectivity is scheduled to be available in all taxis by the end of 2014, while payment of fare by credit card will be rolled out in phases.

“The priority for the credit-card payment would be the airport taxis, since most tourists arriving in Dubai would not have the local currency to pay for their fare,” says Abdulla al-Madani, CEO of Corporate Services at the RTA. In addition, passengers will soon be able to pay taxi fares using their Nol card, a debit payment card that is already used in Dubai’s metro, bus and water taxis networks.

The RTA is also currently planning to build a command and control centre to monitor all public transportation systems and effectively manage traffic congestion within the emirate.

“At the moment we have a command and control centre that can monitor up to 79 metros. Our plan is to install a city-wide command and control centre to monitor all metros, taxis, buses and roads,” says Al-Madani. He says the RTA is currently engaging consultants to design the new command and control centre, which is scheduled to become operational in 2017. He did not disclose a timeline for the main contract award, although it is likely the project is awarded sometime in 2015 to meet the 2017 deadline.

Plans are also under way to upgrade and improve the traffic-lighting systems across the emirate in order for them to effectively communicate with one another and achiever higher efficiency. This could be done by installing a wireless network that will link all traffic lights to ensure coordination and effective management of traffic flow from a central location.