Push to spur Dubai motorists to use public transport


By Melanie Swan  www.thenational.ae

DUBAI // Researchers in Dubai are looking at ways to lure people out of their cars and on to public transport, after it was found that nine in 10 motorised trips are made in private vehicles.

  Nine of 10 city trips in Dubai are made in private vehicles.  Pawan Singh / The National
Nine of 10 city trips in Dubai are made in private vehicles. Pawan Singh / The National

The figure is extremely high, exceeding the global average of 60 per cent, and even the Middle East average of 85 per cent.

The fundamental problem is that, despite the UAE’s transport infrastructure being regarded as a leader in the region, the car remains the most convenient way to get around.

“It gives you a sense of freedom of movement,” said Dr Arun Bajracharya, who conducted the study at the British University in Dubai.

“It gives you a sense of satisfaction and, if used again and again, it becomes attractive and people don’t want to use other forms of transportation.”

Roads were the priority when Dubai was first developing.

“Before the RTA [Roads and Transport Authority] took over, the main emphasis was expanding the road network,” Dr Bajracharya said.

“Settlement is sectored here and roads were sparse, so there was little chance of movement by walking or cycling otherwise.”

That problem has not gone away. The city’s communities are spread several kilometres apart and with only two metro lines, travelling on public transport takes time.

Cars are cheap in Dubai and the roads are world class, Dr Bajracharya said.

“The costs of maintenance, registration and fuel makes [cars] very affordable,” he said. “Because of these factors, people tend to use cars.”

And large parts of the city still lack decent public transport. Academic City on the Al Ain Road, where many of Dubai’s universities are based, is hard to reach without a car.

“Accessibility and availability isn’t there yet,” said Dr Bajracharya. “Public transport also takes longer than driving, even with traffic.”

Many students at Heriot-Watt University take the Metro to Rashidiya, from where a single bus travels to Academic City.

The bus journey takes an hour, passing through International City and Silicon Oasis.

“If there was a metro a lot of our students would use it,” said Chris Burgoyne, the university’s student president, adding he would use it instead of driving.

Afshan Pathan, an MBA student at Amity University, who lives in Karama, tried the Metro and bus route. It took an hour and a half – twice as long as the privately operated minibus she now uses.

“There was a lot of waiting time for the bus and then it was a very long journey,” Ms Pathan said.

Part of the answer could be dedicated bus lanes to let services run faster. A pilot scheme has set up lanes in Bur Dubai. More info