The voices may differ, but the
message is clear: 'It's overcrowded;
RTA needs to make changes
or I come home every evening
smelling like a thousand different
people.' "Convenience of commuters
is our top priority," says
Ramadan Abdullah, Director of
Rail Operations at RTA.
Dubai : It's 7.30am at Rashidiya Station and a few stray passengers board the Metro, find a comfy seat, plug in their earphones and hope to doze for the next hour or so, oblivious to the chaos that is about to come.
Five stations into the journey, at the Deira City Centre, the passengers board in the hundreds. By the time the train reaches Khalid Bin Al Waleed station, people are standing shoulder to shoulder, or "mouth to mouth", as one man puts it.
Johann Smith, a businessman who travels to DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre) daily, admits that while it isn't a dog-eat-dog situation, he sees it heading that way soon. "At the moment, no one pushes and shoves. They stand alone in their misery, with beady eyes looking out for the first available seat."
Smith points out to the predominantly Indian and Filipino commuters who all carry the same blank-eyed gaze. Laxmi Chauhan, an Indian woman no taller than five feet, complains loudly.
"It's the same story every day. Because of my height and the lack of space in the compartments, I always have someone's armpit in my face."
On a train with 142 seats and a maximum capacity of 897 there are well over 1,000 passengers.
Welcome to the world of rush hour travel on Dubai Metro.
Since the launch on September 9 last year, 30 million passengers have commuted on the Metro. But is the Metro ready to handle the extra load since the opening of five new stations in October?
The feedback from rush hour Metro users is ambiguous. With an expected 170,000 expected to ride per day by the end of 2010, the general consensus is that RTA needs to make some changes if they want to accommodate so many on a daily basis. Despite RTA's assurance of having increased the frequency of trains to handle the extra load, passengers who brave Dubai's rush hour beg to differ.
Women and children
"I've noticed women and children have to stand through their journey, while there are men all around them sitting comfortably," says Jane D'Costa, an Indian secretary. "On the odd lucky day, there'll be a gentleman who offers me his seat. Normally, most people stand cramped, waiting for passengers to get off so they can get a precious seat, if only for a few minutes."
Angolan mum Maria Rui, who boards daily from Union, the largest station capable of handling up to 22,000 passengers per hour, disagrees. "Although most people don't offer me a seat, I've noticed that when there is a spare seat available, the majority of men allow the women on board first choice to take the seat. Filipino men are the most chivalrous."
RTA says 22 trains run during peak hours and 16 during regular hours. The frequency varies on weekdays and peak hours and ranges from eight to six minutes. Service frequency is 10 minutes from 9pm to 11 pm from Saturday to Wednesday, eight minutes on Thursday and Friday, 10 minutes from 11pm to 12 midnight, and eight minutes on Fridays.
Despite these changes, passengers say that the only change they've noticed is the increase in the number of people on each train. Ravi Bhandari, an Indian financial controller boards the Metro at 8.30am from Khalid Bin Al Walid station.
"As new stations keep opening, the number of people on board each train keeps increasing. We've already reached bursting point and RTA needs to increase frequency to accommodate this crowd.
Also, put a restriction on the number of people on a train. It's maddening to travel on one toe while hanging on for dear life to whatever or whoever I can get hold of," he says. Bhandari's frustration has led him to consider investing in a car, just so he can "sit in peace on the way to Jebel Ali every morning."
If Bhandari does that, it would go against the very grain of what RTA is trying desperately to achieve: to get people off the roads and onto the Metros.
On November 1, RTA offered free rides for Nol card holders. Earlier, it plastered 7,000 cars with magnets featuring images of fried eggs. The magnet had a clear message: "it's a cool 20 degrees C on the Metro'.
"That's all well and good," says Indian Mary-Divya Thomas. "But how do they expect to fit so many more people into a space that's already overcrowded?"
Packed to capacity
And yet, despite being packed like sardines in a can, commuters are still making the trip, day after day. "What other choice do I have?" asks Filipina nurse Karen Sabiniano. "I have to make a daily commute from Bur Dubai to Shaikh Zayed Road. Taxis are too expensive. The trains are overcrowded, but I'm not really paying for luxury here."
By 9.30am, the Metro is nearly empty. Come 5pm, however, the commotion begins all over again - except the crowds seem to have multiplied in numbers. Swedish mum Annika Lundgren says she only travels in the women's carriage since the crowds are even more maddening in the other compartments.
"Rock concerts look deserted in comparison to the hordes of passengers on this train." Lundgren, who boarded at Business Bay station, said riding during peak hour was a mistake.
"Since I don't drive, I figured I'd hop on the Metro. Never again. If only someone had warned me that I'd be nearly crushed to death for the duration of the journey, I'd have paid for a taxi ride home. I'd even have walked home, rather than be stuck in this mess." True to her word, she got down at the Financial Centre station.
The voices may differ, but the message is clear: ‘It's overcrowded; RTA needs to make changes or I come home every evening smelling like a thousand different people.' "Convenience of commuters is our top priority," says Ramadan Abdullah, Director of Rail Operations at RTA.
Common sense would suggest that the frequency of trains should be every two-three minutes during peak hour. Why can't RTA implement that?
Mayola, DXB, United Arab Emirates
Added 08:41 November 5, 2010
Its no problem if its too crowded during rush hour. It should be like that because its rush hour. The real problem is that one cannot breath comfortably. The RTA should address the issue of smelly passengers. RTA and the government should address this issue and launch a hygiene campaign by informing and educated people on the importance of hygiene and personal care.
anne, kurtis, Afghanistan
Added 23:29 November 4, 2010
There is no point moaning about rush hour, this is something that happens in any metropolitan city. Its just a matter of time once people get used to the system. Because people are more conservative in the UAE, they find it difficult in the beginning. Cities like London where the tube system is still a 100 per cent success always face rush hour issues.
There is a limit to what the authorities can do. Having said that, it doesn't mean they don't have to take care of the facility. What matters is how the people deal with the situation. One has to bear in mind that no one can make everyone 100 per cent satisfied. So lets be happy with the kind of service we receive.
charles, london, United Kingdom
Added 23:16 November 4, 2010
Yet another irksome point during rush hour is the lack of handles or overhead rods at strategic points where people are forced to stand. It is amply clear that the design of the coaches was primarily for aesthetics and not for practical mass transit use.
Kapil Tandon, Dubai, Afghanistan
Added 19:29 November 4, 2010
I use the metro at 8am in the morning and then again at 3pm. I find it absolutely crowded in the morning and the odour of people is not pleasant. Perhaps the RTA should install air fresheners in the compartments.
Another thing that irks me is that commuters do not wait for people to exit the train before entering; they just stampede in.
Blank, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 17:54 November 4, 2010
Of course there is overcrowding since every one wants to go in the same direction at the same time.
Its really not in the hands of the RTA, I really do not understand what the commuters expect by way of solution?
yasmin, sharjah , Afghanistan
Added 17:02 November 4, 2010
I feel that the Metro has been the best thing RTA has ever done. Yes it gets crowded at times, but its a hundred times better than earlier days, when the only affordable means of transport were buses. Now people don't have to wait for hours. Traffic or no traffic, you'll always be on time. Also you will not smell of sweat, which used to be a common feature in the pre-Metro days.
All I would say is that RTA should definitely increase the frequency of the Metro during peak ours, and also run the metro till 1am or 2am during weekends.
Sarim, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 15:20 November 4, 2010
I suggest RTA must decrease the interval between trains during rush hour.
hope, dubai, Afghanistan
Added 15:00 November 4, 2010
Hello from Paris to all XPRESS/Gulf News readers and RTA commuters,
I hope the RTA will indeed be able to improve its rush-hour service, but your article made me smile. As a public transportation user in Paris (and other big cities earlier in my life), these situations you are describing are just plain normal to me. I don't think anybody likes to be cramped with hundreds of other people (I'm a short woman like one of the ladies referred to in the article and find it hard to breathe while most people surrounding me are taller, not to mention some embarrassing situations where I found myself sandwiched between two gentle (or not so gentle) men, but I am afraid you just can't avoid it. That's when your capability to show consideration and kindness for fellow passengers really matters, and makes a difference in your daily life. If it can be of comfort, imagine rush hour in the Paris metro on a strike day, when you've waited two or three times more than usual, and the incoming metro is already packed to capacity... At least, I don't think there are strikes in Dubai! I promise next time I come [to Dubai] Ill take the Metro during rush-hour, and will tell you how I find it.
Louise, Paris, France
Added 14:22 November 4, 2010
The goal is achieved. That's good news. RTA have to finetune the system, so that it encourages more people to use the Metro. I have a suggestion for RTA - the number of 'grips or handle' have to be increased inside the train, so that all people are safe and comfortable. Due to shortage of grips between the doors, most people prefer to stand close to the door, thus the crowd is not evenly spread across the train.
Hanif Mohammed, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 13:39 November 4, 2010
The cat is out of the bag. Many wondered why the Jebel Ali Station was not one of the stations opened first. The reason it should have opened at the onset was very clear. But the real reason it has not opened till now is this article, which is bang on target.
Sharon Fernandes, Dubai, India
Added 12:45 November 4, 2010
Welcome to the world of rush hour travel on Dubai Metro.
So what is the RTA going to do? Till today I kept reading great news about the Metro. So what has happened all of a sudden?
It was a shock when I read this report this morning and due to this I used to never take the metro. I am now thinking of not taking the metro after reading about the rush.
No wonder I love taking my car - its nice, peaceful and you have your privacy to even eat and drink without anyone to stop you.
Mathew Litty, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 12:16 November 4, 2010
Why are you comparing Dubai Metro to the trains in Mumbai?
Even in developed countries sch as the UK , the situation during peak hours is the same. I am surprised why people are not complaining about the UK, but only Mumbai?
SV, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 12:14 November 4, 2010
This is a worldwide phenomena, affecting everyone despite constant complaints. It's basically just become a fact of life you get used to. What Dubai Metro needs to do is start the service a little bit earlier, and finish later at night. I never understood, especially in the UAE with people leaving very early from home to get to work, how they arrived at the decision to start services at 6am. That is too late.
Treat the Metro service in the same way as an airport, meaning have it running at least 20 hours per day, not 6am to midnight. I suggest the same timings as in the UK - 0430 to 0100 every day.
Sayed Ali, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 12:08 November 4, 2010
Everything is fine on the Metro, except that during rush hour the trains are terminating before the final destination. It happened to me twice and many people were affected while going to work.
Baiju, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 12:01 November 4, 2010
I dont get why women expect men who are sitting to get up and offer them their seats? I am sure men get equally tired. The only people who deserve a seat are elderly people, very obviously pregnant ladies, or those with babies (men or women)
Its unfair to compare the Metro to Mumbai locals. The RTA didnt build the trains with Mumbai in mind, so dont compare it either.
Kinjal, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 11:56 November 4, 2010
The ladies compartment is so overcrowded that many a time women are unable to get off at stations! At least the RTA personnel on the stations should regulate the number of people in metro compartments and not just allow people to push and push till the door doesn't close.
RTA needs to pay attention to this problem immediately to make the metro journey a pleasant one!
Radhika, Dubai, Afghanistan
Added 11:33 November 4, 2010
With the Dubai Metro having single tracks in each direction, limited stop service cannot be introduced to ease congestion and afford convenience.
However, what can be done is for the RTA and Metro to introduce all-ladies trains, where only women can travel at that particularly-timed service. These could be alternated with the regular service during rush hour traffic. This I feel is the only possibility as of now to alleviate the inconvenience, especially to ladies.
Amit Bhattacharjie, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 11:26 November 4, 2010
Seriously? People have just got to stop complaining about everything. Dubai is still better than many other places and if the Metro is getting crowded during rush hour.. then have some common sense before you speak.. it is rush hour.
Now you're complaining because its packed. In six months you'll have another complaint about the seats etc.. It just never ends. Its about time people had some appreciation for RTA's efforts.
The London tube is no better; the Singapore tube is not less crowded and the list just goes on.
Jason Willis, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 11:14 November 4, 2010
Be it crowded or not, we all love the Metro. Its better to stand in a train than stand waiting for a bus, or worse pay high taxi fares, or even worse sit alone in a car.
With people all around you, you feel good like a family- the Metro family. For those who have issues, well you will always have a issue even if the metro would be empty and kept exclusive to you. I travel during rush hour and i must say everyone respects each other in the train. I do agree, however, that if the frequency was one train every five minutes, it would be heaven on rails.
Craig, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 11:11 November 4, 2010
I'm not sure how many of these people have used a metro in their hometown. By no means would I say that the Dubai metro is over-crowded. Not being able to sit down [on the train] for 20 minutes is not the end of the world.
caldeluna, Dubai, Spain
Added 11:02 November 4, 2010
If RTA wants most people to consider public transport, especially the Metro, they should work on a solution for the problem of over-crowding which is becoming more obvious. Otherwise people would reconsider crowding the roads with their own cars. They should provide more trains to accommodate the increasing number of passengers to avoid overloading the trains. Over-loading a train also makes the train more prone to breakage. Taxi fares could also help if only taxi fares were cheaper.
Jiggy Ho, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 11:00 November 4, 2010
An eye opener for the officials.
Ratish, Dubai, India
Added 10:46 November 4, 2010
Yes I agree with this article, its pretty bad. Even at 7:30am the metro is being used heavily, RTA either needs to have a cap on capacity per train or increase the number of trains. The next station in line should be notified that the incoming train has this many passengers... or people should wait for another train when they see the one they are boarding is crowded!
mansoor, dubao, United Arab Emirates
Added 10:36 November 4, 2010
I must say it is both good and bad news. In a city where everyone predicted that something like the metro, where there is a car for almost every individual in the family, would be a big failure, the success speaks for itsel.
If trains, despite having high frequencies are getting overcrowded, it means people really want to use public transport to travel to work. It is an opportunity for RTA to fill in the gap, introduce more trains, may be with more capacity, more buses and initiation of similar mass transport projects.
Adnan Shabbir, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 10:24 November 4, 2010
A truer word has never been spoken! If you are not getting on at the first station then you are in for a bad time. It is also true, I have only seen Filipino men give up their seats or offer empty seats to woman. They are also the only ones who actively try to make space and clear a path if you are leaving or getting on instead of just looking at you as if you are a nuisance. Filipino men are the only ones with metro manners!
Kitkat, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 10:21 November 4, 2010
The metro here is nowhere near as crowded as in London, and the prices here are a fraction of that in London. It is also cleaner and more pleasant.
The main problem is that people don't know how to use it. They stand in front of the doors on the platform and block the way of passengers coming out. They also push their way in before people from inside finish getting out. This makes for longer and more difficult boarding and disembarkation.
Adam Greaves, Dubai, Afghanistan
Added 10:19 November 4, 2010
I have been using the metro since its launch and have been impressed by every aspect of it I am British and compared to the London tube system, the Dubai Metro is superb. I would suggest to all the people complaining about the Dubai Metro to try rush hour train travel in London!
However I do agree that to continue the smooth running of the train service, RTA needs to step up a gear and put on more trains so they run every three to four minutes and shorten the stopping time at each station. At the end of the day I think its great that at last we are not reliant on just taxis!
Saffron Goodyear, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 10:14 November 4, 2010
I'm a transportation systems designer living in this city and I often use the Metro during the so called rush hour, yet, not regularly due to work timings.
I have to admit, the trains are crowded! But, I would never say this as as dramatic as portrayed here! OK, It's highly unlikely it'll ever reach the conditions of Mumbai's trains where we see people actually fighting each other in order to board the wagons, yet, if you are willing to accept the fact that it's normal for people to want to use the service, it's clear that trains getting a bit crowded is sort of inevitable.
Dubai's case though, is far from the "sardine pack" conditions you see in the metros of Athens, for example, or (to the extreme) Tokyo (where there are special personnel appointed to push people trying to squeeze in the wagons in order to pack them solid, for the doors to be able to close behind them!!).
One suggestion in the Dubai Metro case would be, should that be possible and, of course should appropriate destination studies show clear trends, to have special trains during particular hours that service only particular stations (i.e. the most crowded ones) and not all stations.
Therefore, passenger load will be divided and it will lessen the burden on the Metro and, consequently, their frustration, thus allowing for a smoother flow and avoiding the "bleeding" of passengers to other means of transportation (like back to their cars).
Andrew, DXB, United Arab Emirates
Added 10:07 November 4, 2010
I still remember the first ride I took on the Metro with my family. My wife was seven months pregnant at that time and not a single person offered her a seat!! There were a lot of passengers who had their 2-3 year old children occupying single seats. No at single person had the courtesy to put their children on their laps and show a little bit of kindness!! We had to stand all they way from Mall of the Emirates to Rashidiya Station. We've never used the Metro as a family after that bitter experience.
Vinod Mathew, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 09:57 November 4, 2010
Metro has become more crowded because RTA has done away with many bus routes under the excuse that buses on those routes go empty, but in reality it only meant they wanted more people to use the metro.
For example, it would cost less time and money for any one if they travel by bus from Trade Centre to Jebel Ali and he or she would be 90 per cent assured of a seat too.
There is no point in claiming Metro is a huge success by forcing more people to use Metro after cancelling bus routes.
Let RTA increase the number of trains or compartments and put in some direct buses, this would reduce the congestion.
All the best RTA
Imran, Dubai, Pakistan
Added 09:55 November 4, 2010
It's really too crowded ...I hope RTA is going to do something about it...
may, dubai, Philippines
Added 09:37 November 4, 2010
The rush hour problem is always going to be there. Even if RTA changes the frequency of the trains from one every five minutes to one every two minutes, the trains are just going to get smaller day by day as commuter traffic increases. There is obviously a big limitation on increasing the size of the train. Sorry to say, but commuters commuting like this during rush hour would just have to live with it.
And its not just Mumbai which suffers from rush hour traffic. London underground, New York subway are all in the same boat.
Hussain, RAK, United Arab Emirates
Added 09:29 November 4, 2010
For so many years the public buses were crowded, but no one noticed.... Now, just because its the Metro, suddenly there is an "oh!" Its public transport what did you expect?
Ajit, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 09:27 November 4, 2010
Mumbai trains carries 6.94 million passengers daily (which is almost four months the total number of passengers on Dubai Metro) in Mumbai, which is one of the most densely-populated cities in the world. I would compare Dubai Metro to some similar cities like Vancouver Skytrain, Taipei Metro etc.
Vinod , Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 09:21 November 4, 2010
I have written to the RTA complaining about this situation and suggesting increasing the operating hours for the Metro, for example, starting half an hour earlier, but my suggestion fell on deaf ears. I don't know if they care.
Jaber, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 09:15 November 4, 2010
Just want to thank Maria Rui for her comments on Filipino men. Definitely a true traditional Filipino trait, you can never take out the different values that we have within us that we learn early on from our childhood, wherever we are in the world. It is deeply rooted within us. Proud to be FIlipino!
Jhun, Dubai, Philippines
Added 09:13 November 4, 2010
Yes, it is really bad to travel during peak hours, especially in the evenings when I board the train from World Trade Centre to Khalid Bin Waleed. It is so cramped. I dont understand why the gold class cabin cannot be used at such times. Might not make much difference, but I'm sure it would give some relief.
Richa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 09:13 November 4, 2010
Yes, it is really bad to travel during peak hours, especially in the evenings when i board the train from World Trade Centre to Khalid Bin Waleed station. It is so cramped. I dont understand why the gold class cabin cannot be used at such times. Might not make much difference, but im sure it would give some relief.
Richa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 08:59 November 4, 2010
I agree, Metro is becoming so hard nowadays to travel especially at peak hours.
On one side women are striving for equal rights and competing with men and on the other hand they are expecting people to have soft corner for them and offer them a seat by sacrificing their own. I always do offer my seat to elderly people and pregnant women, if I am one of the lucky ones to grab a seat.
I think the 40 minute ride of metro while standing is not hard for any human irrespective of gender, except for maybe women who are pregnant, and those who are old or sick.
Adeel M, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 08:56 November 4, 2010
Our expectations of Dubai are endless and so is our ability to crib! The problem will be easily solved as soon as we are out of this economic mess my increasing the rolling stock. Till such time, just avoid the peak hours.
NN, DUBAI, Afghanistan
Added 08:55 November 4, 2010
It soon going to be like this :)
MN, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 08:47 November 4, 2010
I agree that there is a rush hour overcrowding problem on the Metro . However, one should also not overlook the fact that if the policy of not allowing passengers on Metro trains beyond the capacity is enforced, then there would be long queues in the Metro stations and this will just get uglier as people will just keep coming in to the station.Thus overall the journey time may only take a few mintues, but with the wait at stations and other factors, the overall journey time is bound to stretch to hours.
This is the same situtaion in other metros around the world.I would like to actually congratulate the RTA for their initiatives so far.
This report just confirms that we the people crib about everything and anything even though initiatives are introduced to satisfy the whole population.
I would like to end this by asking the readers to think if it is worthwhile to go home in a overcrowded metro in the usual time or is it worthwhile to wait for the metro until the "overcrowding" is over and go home say atleast an hour late putting in the assumption that the readers already had a tired day behind them?
Chandy, Dubai, India
Added 08:45 November 4, 2010
I note that ladies are complaining that when they board a crowded train they have to stand while men continue to occupy the seats they have been sitting in. What is wrong with that? And ladies talk of equal opportunity? Unless there is a pregnant, disabled or elderly woma, there is no reason for a man to give up his seat to a lady just because she is a lady. I've seen this all over the world and I see this as a perfectly logical thing for men to do.
Najmul Ehsan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 08:44 November 4, 2010
Crowded "metro" is a good sign considering how it works in the rest of the world. Its puzzling to note the number of people complaining about it. Women that expect men to offer their seats, should head to the ladies section upfront. Men - its time to show compassion for the elderly, little ones and women with children. Etiquette is built in to society. No point blaming individuals. Congrats to RTA on the job well done..
Cool KA, Dubai, India
Added 08:34 November 4, 2010
Obviously this was going to happen. Out of all the Trains the Japanese recomended, the RTA goes with the smallest one with out thinking of the scalability.
The Tree, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 08:34 November 4, 2010
This happens everyday around the world, what's the big deal?
Underground Ernie, London, United Kingdom
Added 08:27 November 4, 2010
Not only the metro even the buses are overcrowded. I take bus no. 22 in the morning & evening from Al Qusais to City Centre metro station. & back I feel as though I am in a Best bus in Mumbai as I have to stand for the whole journey. RTA should introduce some 'Ladies Only' trains & buses during peak hours like we have in Mumbai.
M Rodrigues, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Added 08:24 November 4, 2010
"Filipino men are the most chivalrous"...That is what you call manners! Thanks for mentioning it.....