Dubai races to solve road congestion

24 January 2017

Deincentivising private vehicle usage must include a convincing alternative

Dubai introduced a short-term car rental service and completed linking 400 traffic signal lights to its command and control centre during the past week.

The short-term car rental service aims to address the first and last mile challenge or the means to get public transport users to their final destination, which could be their home, office, airport or a mall.

Linking the emirate’s traffic signals using 3G technology will provide a more efficient means to control and manage traffic flow and ease congestions at intersections especially during peak periods.

These comprise important measures to plug in existing gaps in the emirate’s public transport and urban planning strategy even while it copes with the city’s rising population and development challenges.

The latest statistic points to one vehicle for every two residents in Dubai. If the rate of car ownership is not reversed, Dubai will have close to 2.5 million vehicles by 2030, when population is expected to reach 5 million.

One million more vehicles on the road - the latest figure stood at 1.4 million - requires building more car parking facilities and widening roads and streets, which most experts agree is not a sustainable solution.

The RTA is aware that slowing down the growth of private vehicle usage is key to easing the emirate’s traffic issues. It also knows that any campaign to move people away from using private vehicles could only succeed if an adequate public transport infrastructure is provided.

Initiatives like the car sharing service and even the planned bus rapid transport (BRT) network, which will complement the existing feeder bus services, and many other projects in the RTA’s pipeline aim to lessen the discomfort of taking public transport modes and motivate more residents to use them.

Other cities in the GCC region are learning from Dubai. Qatar has just released a tender for an intelligent transport system (ITS), which will enable quick and safe response to manage road incidents and events, while providing a platform to efficiently manage all road assets. Riyadh’s public transport masterplan includes the construction of a 1,200km bus rapid transit to complement the 176km Riyadh Metro.

While there has been a significant delay in the award of urban light rail projects in the region, it is hoped that these upcoming schemes will integrate effective last mile solutions from the start to ensure they could displace the maximum number of private vehicles on the road.

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