Dubai: How in six years of innovation, hard work and meticulous planning the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has transformed the way Dubai moved is not a news anymore. With a highly efficient metro, a widening bus and marine network and a huge fleet of taxis, RTA has achieved in half a decade what most organisations fail to achieve in several decades.
From Green Bus to WIFI and catering services on buses, from night and highway driving classes to luxury taxis, the authority has continued to widen the scope of its services this year.
But it’s not just the infrastructure and transport facilities that have made RTA so successful. It’s the innovative use of technology that has made commuters feel good. This year RTA has gone a step ahead in using technology to amazing effect.
And it’s not just the residents of Dubai who are singing praise for a job well done, local and international institutions have made a beeline to fete RTA for its stupendous success. This year alone the authority has won more than half a dozen awards.
Dubai eGovernment ranked RTA first among Dubai government departments and authorities in the Improved Government Departments Performance category, and also topped Category (A) for government departments delivering more than 100 electronic services.
Internationally, RTA won Middle East Internet Award for its use of Facebook and Twitter to reach out to Dubai residents and commuters.
RTA also won INSIGHTS Middle East awards for an exceptional service through its call centre, while a separate award also went to its Salik call centre.
Among its biggest achievements this year has been its innovative use of technology to improve its huge variety of services, which was acknowledged by Dubai eGovernment with multiple awards.
RTA currently delivers more than 170 internet-based services, apart from several other tech-based services that makes life that much more convenient for commuters as well as motorists.
“Our focus is to offer more and more convenience to commuters and motorists. People can find most our services online now and adding more technological innovations to our facilities only helps in attracting more commuters,” said Ahmad Hashem Bahroozian, CEO of RTA’s Licensing Agency, who has been a pioneer in pushing for greater use of technology.
RTA has focused a lot on making its bus journeys enjoyable while at the same time they are eco-friendly and sustainable.
In August, the authority launched Green Bus that runs on biofuel, uses solar power for internal lighting and LED bulbs, operates on recycled tyres as well as using organic material for seats and flooring. The bus on trial for a year, cuts down on CO2 emisson by 78 per cent when compared to conventional buses.
The WIFI-enabled buses plying between Dubai and Abu Dhabi are already a major hit, attracting hundreds of passengers since its launch in September. To go with internet, RTA has also launched catering service on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi buses that is touted to be first in the world.
“It’s a five-star hospitality we are offering to the commuters for no extra charge. The facilities have already played an important role in attracting new passengers on buses and it will get better as time passes,” said Adel Shakeri, Director of IT services at RTA’s Public Transport Agency.
Another major technological application has been the Real Time Passenger Information or RTPI, which provides passengers on metro and bus stations as well as those who call RTA call centres accurate information about bus routes, timings, headway and duration. RTPI which is fed by Automated Vehicle Management system also helps drivers stay on schedule thus helping Dubai buses achieve around 80 per cent punctuality rate.
Further using mobile technology, RTA recently launched taxi booking facility through SMS for metro users, which makes taxis available for commuters before they reach a station.
One of its most interesting tech innovations is RTA’s new iPhone/android app that allows people to post pictures and videos for complaints and suggestions. The app allows mParking and taxis booking functions, while providing information on metro, bus routes, RTA service centres etc.
During Gitex this year, RTA also launched Smart Taxi, which is a feature available on Luxury Taxis launched earlier this year. The Smart Taxi uses GPS to good effect enabling passengers to book movie tickets, check in for a flight or check out the latest offers on the go.
“One of the key features of the smart taxi is ‘smart advertising’. The system will change the advertisement depending on the locations. For example, if the taxi is passing by Wild Wadi, it will advertise the promotions that are going on at that time. Similarly, it will have advertisements about other promotions and deals,” Yousuf Al Ali, CEO of Dubai Taxi Corporation, which is a subsidiary of RTA, had told Gulf News during its launch last month.
Other e-services launched this year are online booking of Driving Licence Test, a revamped website, call centre linked to RTA’s Operation Control Centre, smart traffic light system that adjusts signal duration and timing depending on the volume of traffic on each direction of a junction.
However, the year hasn’t been all technology. There have been several other important initiatives that will have long-term benefits.
In January this year, RTA launched a unified driving curriculum for trainee drivers that included mandatory highway and night classes.
The curriculum focuses as much on attitude as on driving skills and conducts classes according to a candidates skill levels in a progressive manner.
Continuing its effort of encouraging sustainable transport, RTA set up around 3,000 bicycle parking spaces across different metro stations early this year.
Catering to the growing demand of early riders RTA launched a trial on express trains from October 1.
The new service has two trains each starting from Rashidiya and Jebel Ali stations at 5.30am and 5.40am respectively, ahead of the normal service which begins at 5:50am.
The four express trains stop at only 13 out of 27 red line stations, cutting down the total journey time in each direction by 10 minutes and aims to reduce the peak hour rush.
Another significant move in reducing road dangers is RTA’s decision to register and test trailers and heavy vehicles together, which was not the case until now. Untested and unregistered trailers have been a cause several major road accidents on highways.
Also new this year is the classic car registration facility and auction of classic car plates. Classic cars were not allowed to ply on Dubai roads for lack of testing facilities and with the new facility, many of these vintage beauties which were earlier confined to showrooms and garages are now back on roads.
Among the infrastructure projects, RTA opened a major flyover on Al Khail road easing traffic congestion and providing alternative access for motorists.
On Mina road a new dedicated bus and taxi lane was built, opening up flow of traffic towards the congested Bur Dubai area. Apart from this several internal roads in different areas have helped commute motorists in a better way.
RTA also announced Business Bay canal extension last month, which will see Dubai Creek passing under the Sheikh Zayed Road and up to the Arabian Sea in Jumeirah. Work on the Dh1.5 billion extension project will begin early 2013.