Okay, so the last time you were in Dubai was probably never. But don’t let that stop you from marveling at the sleek, new, $7-billion-and-some-change Metro rail system in the ultra-wealthy United Arab Emirates that just whisked its first passengers past a steady river of Land Cruisers to the world’s largest artificial islands — the Palm Islands resort.
As the Dubai metro opened in the sheikdom to royal fanfare, we decided to compare it with systems we all know and love to hate (and hate to love): New York’s subway, London’s Underground, and Paris’ Metro.
Let’s start with the atmosphere: Dubai’s Metro provides a clean, bright and business-like aura — very un-grungy, very un-New York, where the subway requires a seeming constant flow of heroes to save people from being run over. It’s unclear whether taggers will strike Dubai (and we have no idea what sorts of penalties such scofflaws face in the sheikdom), but we’re certain that marker pens are selling well in gift shops surrounding all three Western systems, where just about every disgruntled skateboarder signs his initials as a rite of passage. Moreover, with with dark corners in the Western systems offering an array of lurkers, we’re going to say (at least for now) that we’d prefer arriving in one of Dubai’s modern stations (unless the taggers get serious and become DaVincis of graffiti, triggering our appreciation for street art). In Dubai, there also appears to be no gap to mind, but we’d need to investigate further to confirm that.
The system map: Systems in New York, London, and Paris all have their blind spots, leaving passengers in a bind, but overall spider-like systems make good on their promise to get you anywhere you want to be — even making driving in the cities seem a real chore. While Dubai has plans to build lines and expand, right now it offers only a handful of stations along a red line. The better systems are obviously the time-worn ones in the West. However, there are those man-made islands in Dubai that seem worth checking out.
The big unknowns: Trains in Dubai will reportedly be driverless, prompting some ethical considerations, such as: Who is to blame if there is a crash? Another issue worthy of debate is that Dubai Metro offers “gold” service — special first-class cars at twice the price — opening up a complex dialogue about culture, money, style, politics, and even religion that we just don’t have the time to explore right now.