By Ashfaq Ahmed, Chief Reporter www.gulfnews.com
Dubai: More than half a million passengers benefited from the free public transport day celebrated in Dubai Monday, to mark the fifth anniversary of the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).
“From now on, I’m going to use the Metro as it is so cool and comfortable to travel in,” said Sultan Ahmad, a UAE national who decided to use public transport after he heard it was free for the day.
Speaking to Gulf News on board the Metro, he said he was having a wonderful experience as he didn’t have the hassle of finding parking and being stuck in traffic.
Like Sultan, hundreds of thousands of passengers used the Metro, buses and water transport, not only to get to their workplaces, but also simply for the experience, given the fact that it was free.
Public Transport Day was officially launched by Shaikh Majid Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture, and he himself used public transport Monday.
Shaikh Majid was accompanied by a number of senior officials from government departments, who signed a document, to be displayed at Union Square station, to encourage the use of public transport amongst their employees.
Shaikh Majid took the Metro from the World Trade Centre station to Union Square in Deira. He got off and took a public bus to Baniyas marine station, before boarding a water bus for Al Seef Station in Bur Dubai. The whole journey took around 35 minutes.
Earlier, Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the RTA, briefed Shaikh Majid about the massive progress that has been made in the public transport sector over the years in Dubai. He also spoke of projects to attract passengers.
Al Tayer said the number of public buses had increased from just 305 in 2001 to 1,593 in 2010. He said the number of people using the bus service had jumped from 48 million passengers in 2001 to 119 million passengers in 2009 and that it was expected to increase to 121 million by 2010.
Dubai Metro has carried more than 36 million passengers since it began running, on September 9 last year, and October this year.
“The most important element of the public transit system is the full integration of all modes of transport, including the Metro, buses and water transport,” he added. Shaikh Majid was also briefed about Al Sufouh Tram Project, currently being undertaken by the RTA.
The initial phase of the 14-kilometre-long tram involves the construction of 9.5 kilometres of track, starting from Dubai Marina and going to the Mall of the Emirates Metro station, providing an alternative mode of transport for people in new developments of Dubai.
Cooperation : annual event
Free Public Transport Day will be observed all over the UAE from next year, said a senior official.
“We will observe the transport day every year and will expand it to all over the UAE and then all over the GCC countries in coming years,” Eisa Al Dossary, Chief Executive Officer of the Public Transport Agency at the Roads and Transport Authority, told reporters yesterday.
He said the aim of the free transport day is to involve various public and private sectors and different segments of communities in a bid to boost the use of public transport in the emirate. “It also aims at increasing the numbers riding the mass transit system, step up the multi-model integration of the transport system and showcase the role of Dubai in general, and the RTA in particular, in upgrading the public transport system,” he added. Al Dossary noted that physical and psychological relief for passengers, reduced fuel costs and vehicle maintenance, reduced traffic fatalities and less carbon emissions are also some of the benefits of using public transport. He said the RTA’s efforts have led to high seat occupancy on buses over the years.