Moving Dubai en masse

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By Ashfaq Ahmed, Chief Reporter  www.gulfnews.com

Dubai: Despite initial glitches and challenges, Dubai Metro has changed the lifestyle of thousands of residents in the emirate within one month of its operation.

Illustration: Dwynn Ronald V. Trazo/Gulf News
Illustration: Dwynn Ronald V. Trazo/Gulf News

Gulf News kept tracking the day to day Metro operations in terms of ridership, comfort, convenience and glitches and reached the conclusion that the overall performance of the Metro was better than expectations.

The punctuality rate was 83 per cent while around 1.5 million passengers used the Metro within one month. The ratio of service availability was more than 93 per cent while passengers were blamed for causing major glitches as they pushed the emergency button during the first few days of operation.

“We got very good responses from passengers and it speaks volumes about the success of the Metro project,” said a senior official at the Rail Agency of the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). He said the number of passengers is expected to go down a bit as the joy ride period is almost over.

He said that the maximum number of passengers a day touched more than 97,000 during Eid holidays while the minimum number was 42,000.

As far as the revenue is concerned, more than 150,000 Nol Cards (Silver and Gold) were sold during the first 25 days of the Metro and more than 300,000 Nol Red Ticket (single journey tickets) were sold during the same period.
“Our main challenge now is to increase the ridership, educate passengers about rules and regulations of the rail system, and to create awareness on how to use the Metro system effectively,” added the official.

According to the latest RTA figures, a total of 1,316,319 passengers used the Metro in 23 days from its official public launch on September 10 to October 2. This breaks down to an average of around 57,273 passengers per day, which is far less than the expected figure. The RTA expected to have 59,500 passengers per day per direction but achieved less than half the target.

“We have more passengers using the train to go to the shopping malls or just to joy ride while there are very few passengers using the train for work because only 10 stations have opened and there are only 11 trains on the tracks,” said the official.

He said the targeted ridership would be achieved once all the stations were opened with more than 44 trains on the track as it would be more practical for passengers to use it to make trips to their workplaces.
Problems

Gulf News also noticed that issues related to the Nol Cards, especially problems of topping-up, incidents of overcharging, broken vending machines and faulty card readers on public buses, also kept many prospective passengers away from using the Metro.

Irregular timings of feeder buses and lack of passenger education about using the integrated transport system were also some of the main reasons for fewer passengers, especially during peak hours when people feared being late for the office.

The passenger figures from September 10 to October 2 revealed that the Metro did not attract a huge amount of passengers from the airport as the Terminal 3 Station recorded the least numbers — 44,490 passengers.
Stations attached to shopping malls recorded the highest numbers with the Mall of the Emirates topping the list with 246,035 passengers, followed by Khalid Bin Al Waleed Station (BurJuman) with 182,035 passengers, Al Rashidiya with 178,364 passengers, Nakheel Harbour and Tower with 152,265 passengers, Union Square with 145,643 passengers and Deira City Centre with 129,665 passengers.

Inspectors flag down and fine 180 passengers for violations

More than 180 passengers were slapped fines during the first month of the Dubai Metro operation.

Most of the passengers who were fined were found travelling in the Gold Class while using Silver Nol Card, which is good only for the Silver (Economy) Class. The second largest number of fines were issued to passengers who were found eating and drinking in the trains while some got fines for placing their feet on the seats.

Metro inspectors, who wore suits and ties, had a tough time issuing fines because majority of the passengers resisted and refused to show them their IDs, necessary to issue fines. Many of the passengers were handed over to the Metro police for defying fines and for not following instructions from Metro officers.

“These are very small numbers as most of the passengers behaved well on the Metro,” said an official at the Metro operations. He said that inspectors have been told to be lenient but fines are necessary to ensure the safety of the system and comfortable travel for all.

There are about 31 fines ranging from Dh100 to Dh2,000. The maximum fine is issued to anyone pressing the emergency button and using the emergency exits without real emergency.

The fines apply on all modes of transport including public buses, taxis and water transport.

Metro Experience

Enjoyable first ride

Sanya Nayeem, Deputy Readers Editor

I never expected to enjoy my first ride on the Metro as much as I did. It was just a train ride after all — over the city I’ve grown up in and know so well. What could be more mundane? But when I joined in the frenzy of excited strangers clicking photographs and found myself cheerfully (and rather rudely) waving goodbye to the endless queues of traffic below — it was a pleasant surprise and incredibly cathartic! My friend and I went the whole nine yards on a Sunday evening, from Rashidiya all the way to Nakheel Harbour and Tower Station. The 50-minute ride went by with seamless precision and the feeder bus ride from the Metro station to Ibn Battuta Mall was just as convenient. For a mere Dh11, I was able to travel, and more importantly, enjoy, a journey I would usually dread. That’s when I decided — it may have been my first time on the Metro, but it definitely wasn’t going to be my last.

Kinks to be ironed out

Mahmood Saberi, Senior Reporter

A month after Dubai Metro started I take the train to the Gulf News office, off Shaikh Zayed Road, where I work.
First I have to park my car at the Ibn Batuta Mall. There’s a free so-called “feeder” F999 bus running every five minutes from the mall to Nakheel Harbour Station.

I get down at the Mall of the Emirates Station, the Metro’s first stop, only to find out that there was no bus service to my office. The train is useless for hundreds of people living in Jebel Ali and working in the Media and Internet cities as it does not stop there. We speed off and I can see the Gulf News office going past. When I get on again, I spend Dh4.10 as I am in a different zone to go to the Financial Centre (the next station). An attendant said maybe I will get a bus there.
But the buses from Financial Centre go to Dubai Mall, Gold Souq, via Trade Centre and Satwa.

I go back to Nakheel. I see a huge board advising me to reduce carbon footprint, even as hundreds of cars go by.

Metro adventure

Alex Abraham, News Editor (International)

It was the culmination of many days of planning. Having bought my ticket on 09.09.09, it was time to embark on the historic journey along with my wife and four-year-old son. The day we chose was the second day of Eid. We parked our car in the multi-level complex at Rashidiya, and caught the train to Mall of the Emirates. The journey was smooth, setting aside all our fears of a roller-coaster ride. My son even managed to spot my office from the train and I eavesdropped on a conversation which revolved around how many stations were yet to open and how it would benefit just about everyone once the entire system became operational. However, the return leg was more adventurous. After spending about four hours at the mall, when we walked towards the exit, we noticed a line snaking into the mall. We walked to the front only to find out that we would have to wait it out to gain entry onto the platform. A good sweaty hour later, we managed to get back onto the train to Rashidiya. Not too bad at all for one of the busiest days since the Metro opened in Dubai.

“The main lesson we have learnt during the first part of the operation is to educate people, teach them manners about using the Metro and to ensure the smooth link of the public buses with the Metro,” said another RTA official.