Dubai's Salik experiment makes a clear case for toll roads

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By Alice Haine  www.thenational.ae

It’s been almost five years since the Roads and Transport Authority introduced Salik, Dubai’s first charges for driving on certain routes. Initial problems have now been overcome and congestion in the city has fallen sharply, slashing some journey times.

Traffic flows freely through Al Safa Salik Toll Gate on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. Sarah Dea/The National
Traffic flows freely through Al Safa Salik Toll Gate on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. Sarah Dea/The National

It is well-documented that people do not react well to change.

So when Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) first launched Salik, a road toll system, on July 1 2007, it triggered months of chaos as motorists struggled to adapt to paying to drive on their favourite roads.

However, as the scheme reaches its fifth anniversary on Sunday, ask the average Dubai-resident how they feel about Salik and they will shrug their shoulders as if it has always been part of the city.

“It’s something everyone has come to terms with,” says Richard Wagner, a Dubai resident and architect at Wanders Architects, who has lived in the emirate since 2005.

“Everyone’s got their little tag and there aren’t any more questions about it – the gates are almost invisible. And the road system has improved dramatically. If you observe the construction that has gone on over the last two years since the crisis, it was mostly infrastructure; it gave the RTA an opportunity to catch up with the general growth of the city.”

Experts estimate Salik – Arabic for “clear” – generates around Dh600 million a year for the RTA based on the assumption there are 1400 cars passing through one lane of a Salik gate during rush hour.

According to a report from the RTA, the system collected Dh800 million from Salik in 2010 while revenue from July 2007 to December 2009 was Dh1.658 billion. More info

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