More big crowds expected on Metro

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    By Eugene Harnan   www.thenational.ae

    DUBAI // It has been a busy first week on the Dubai Metro, and transport chiefs expect passenger numbers to continue rising over the weekend and during the Eid holiday.

    “We expect a high number of passengers – I would probably say more than we had the first weekend,” predicted Peyman Younes Parham, the director of marketing and corporate communications for the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

    The Metro was inaugurated last Wednesday, and 67,000 people tried out the 52km Red Line when it opened to the public the next day. By Saturday night, the total number of riders reached 178,000, despite operations being marred by delayed trains and queues of up to an hour to enter some stations.

    Passengers have continued to ride the world’s longest driverless rail system this week, however, and breakdowns become less frequent and queues shortened.

    Last weekend, most of the passengers were drawn by the novelty of the Metro and a chance to get their first look at the massive project, which will cost Dh28 billion (US$7.6bn) by the time the Green Line is added next year.

    Yesterday, some passengers were still riding the Red Line for entertainment, while others were using it to commute to work, conduct business and avoid traffic and taxis.

    “I took the kids today because I heard it was busy at the weekend,” said Cindy Lee, from Hong Kong. “It is something different for the kids and the city looks so different from up here.”

    Tarik Mohammad, a financial adviser from India, said the rail system has already become part of his daily life. He has been planning business meetings near Metro stations this week, he said.

    “It is easier for me and usually for the people I am meeting,” he said, while on his way to the Khalid Bin al Waleed station. “I have used it every day since Saturday when I visited family in Karama. Then Sunday and Monday, I’ve been organising my meetings around the Burjuman Centre and I also met a client from Abu Dhabi in Mall of the Emirates.”

    Katrina Santos, from the Philippines, boarded the Metro at the airport station with a small suitcase. “I was in Bahrain for work but now I have to go to the office in the Financial Centre,” she said. “I got a taxi to the airport yesterday but this is much cheaper to get back. Taxis have a minimum pick up fare of Dh20 at the airport and this is costing me Dh2.30.

    “I like using it but I have yet to really see how good it is in rush hour. If I can get across town in 15 minutes, then I’ll take it all the time,” the retail area manager said.

    Weekday passenger numbers has averaged a little more than 40,000 per day this week. In total, almost 280,000 passengers have used the system since it opened.

    The RTA did not provide a breakdown of what hours of the day have been busiest, but Mr Parham said the overall high numbers reflect the public’s intention to use the Metro as a means of transport.

    “We are thrilled with this uprising trend in Metro numbers. It is a strong indicator of the revival of public transport sector,” he said.

    It may take some time, one expert said, before the full impact of the Metro is established and commuters’ lives are dictated by the rail system.

    “I would say that a huge first-day crowd of curiosity seekers is not uncommon,” said Richard Wener, professor of environmental psychology at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

    “After that initial drop-off, one might expect use to slowly build from word of mouth and, eventually, people choosing to live in areas best served by the transit line,” Mr Wener said.

    eharnan@thenational.ae