Dubai/Sharjah: Commuters have been left baffled by an unexplained spike in traffic that has thrown travel schedules into chaos in recent weeks for those making the daily journey to work in Dubai and Sharjah.
Drivers report the morning and evening rush hour lasts for hours, with heavy traffic now experienced even outside of traditional peak times.
Weekends have also been clogged with snarls, they added.
Even non-prime roads, previously free-flowing, have turned sluggish, motorists say as residents are urged to take advantage of public transport and park-and-ride options.
The rapid rise in traffic, which some attribute to improvements in the economy, job market and expansion of leisure markets, has seen residents arriving late to work and also returning home late.
The Dubai-Sharjah grind, never a breeze, has become especially problematic, motorists report.
“It’s gotten really horrible and no-one knows why,” said Indian commuter Junaid Sayed, 30.
“Dubai-bound traffic near ‘National Paints’ on Sharjah Ring Road is at a standstill at 5.30am. On the way back, Emirates Road is blocked as early as 3.30pm, instead of 5pm. This was unheard of before — what’s going on?”
Similar reports have emerged regarding the main Dubai-Sharjah link via Al Ittihad Road.
A number of motorists using that route say journeys are taking about 30-45 minutes longer.
There is traffic even at 11pm on weekdays on that road, Sayed said. Industrial areas in Sharjah and Ghusais are also teeming with cars.
A Pakistani taxi driver in Dubai said the once quiet neighbourhoods of Barsha and Dubai Marina are witnessing bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“I’m not sure why this is happening; maybe it’s because of more tourists coming in for the cooler weather,” said Omar Hayat, 26.
“We taxi drivers are also picking up more job seekers and businessmen, there seems to be an improvement in the economy.
“That alone doesn’t explain it though, nobody really understands why traffic’s so bad now.”
A refreshments company manager said sales were up in Dubai, meaning more delivery vehicles on the roads. He added that his colleagues from Sharjah were returning to Dubai after work and during weekends for shopping and dining out.
“People are now constantly going between Dubai and Sharjah, for work or pleasure. It’s no longer a weekend thing now. That could be one reason. I don’t know what the other theories are, it’s a mystery,” he said.
Tailbacks are forcing commuters to adjust work and social lives to allow for more time spent behind the wheel.
And they fear a return to the traffic woes of 2008, when gridlocks meant waking up before dawn to beat the morning dash.
Some motorists then slept in their cars in the office parking lot until doors opened for business.
More than 1.3 million vehicles use Dubai roads everyday, hundreds of thousands of them from neighbouring Sharjah.
That means there is about one car for every two Dubai residents.
The Dubai government is pumping billions in developing its infrastructure to meet demand.
However, some areas continue to suffer from bottlenecks.
The typical problem is that lanes merge on the approach to Dubai and Sharjah. Lane indiscipline at interchanges and exits also slows down traffic, with drivers trying to cut in line.
Residents have been urged to use public transport.
The Roads and Transport Authority told Gulf News in a statement: “The RTA, as part of the Metro Green and Red Lines works, has invested heavily in an efficient public transport system including the park-and-ride facilities at Rashidiya and Etisalat stations.
“This is mainly for traffic coming from the north, including Sharjah traffic, to park the cars for free and get on the reliable metro lines. The ridership and the parking occupancy numbers have been increasing with an increase in public transport share.
“The Emirates Road widening project is currently under construction, which is expected to increase the road capacity for Sharjah traffic.”