By Mohammed N Al Khan, Staff Reporter, Published: June 02, 2009, www.gulfnews.com
Dr. Mohammad Al Mutawa, Professor of Sociology at UAE University, says that if people begin using the Metro on a regular basis there will be an evident change in lifestyle.
“Will people leave their cars behind? No, I don’t think so. The Metro will have to have a much wider network for people to even consider that. I am 100 per cent sure that at first people will flock to the Metro, as with all new things; but there has to be practicality and convenience if people are to depend on it on a daily basis,” says Al Mutawa.
“Traffic in Dubai is a major issue and a major cause of stress and frustration. The Metro is one of the major solutions to the traffic problem. I feel that even if it takes just as long, or a little bit longer, to commute everyday it will still be an incentive for people to use a more relaxed method of transport.”Al Mutawa noted that the reduced stress will result in an increase in productivity; people will take advantage of the free time on the train to pick up new habits and skills.
Reading is one habit that most public transport commuters seem to pick up around the world, and book stores are ready to take advantage of the Metro.
“We definitely expect that there will be a boom in reading materials sold as we are about to finalise plans to open stores in four Metro stations,” says Sachin Joshi, branch manager at Borders bookstore in the Mall of the Emirates.
“Borders Express will be targeting commuters; besides daily newspapers and magazines we will be concentrating on small, easy to carry books that can fit in your pocket, for example.”
Joshi also said they plan to have special offers for regular commuters. “Reading always has a positive impact on people, and we are seeing a trend of customers going for the self-help books and books on business and finance these days.”
People might also learn to be more organised, says Al Mutawa. “Abiding by the Metro schedule and timing will have a clear change on people’s habits and lifestyles. They will have to organise their day according to the train timetable.”
“School transport will be something interesting to see how it develops,” Al Mutawa says.
“Will parents have to drive the children to school and then use the Metro to go to work? Or will more and more students use school buses? Car-pooling children to school is not an option since many children in the same neighbourhood go to different schools.”
But this is not the first time Dubai has had to cope with a change in lifestyle, says Al Mutawa.
“During the oil boom in the sixties the same thing happened. Cars were being introduced to the city, but in those days roads were made for donkeys, not cars. The infrastructure had to be put in place to make owning a car more convenient. People had to change their habit and thinking. They went from having an animal which needed care and attention to just having a tool. Today every house has two or three cars parked in it.”
“I think there is a very good chance that Emiratis will use the Metro eventually. It will take time to get used to it, changing people’s mentality and habit takes time,” explains the professor.
“Back in the days when women were criticised for driving on their own, we may see the same thing happening with the Metro where women are criticised if they ride it without a chaperone.
“But then again the new generation of Emiratis has a different viewpoint than in the past.”
“Back in the sixties the community was very closeknit; everybody knew everybody, there were no strangers. Today, these communities have been scattered everywhere; you bump into someone in the supermarket and you don’t even realise that you are related by blood. I don’t know my neighbour’s name. People hardly ever leave their houses.
“There is no connection anymore except at funerals and weddings. Even for Eid and Ramadan all you get is an SMS these days.”
“If more people start using the Metro they will start noticing those who are always on the same route, they will greet and begin to get to know each other and there might still be a sense of community regardless of nationality. Then again they could just as easily go on ignoring each other everyday.”