For some time now I have wanted to write about the Dubai Metro and its impact on the city.
Travelling by car in Dubai and suffering the congestion, especially during rush hours, made me wonder what would have happened if the Metro wasn’t there. More than that is the passenger traffic on the Metro itself and wondering how they would have commuted and how much more congestion on the roads we would have seen.
I am an avid supporter of the Metro and have written about it more than once since it started operations in September 2009. Today, I am encouraged by the latest available statistics, which tells the success story of the Metro and puts an end to the thoughts of all the doubters.
During the first half of this year, the Metro transported 81.4 million riders, averaging 452,000 riders daily according to the Road Transport Authority. To appreciate this number, we may remember that the average daily traffic in all of 2011 was close to 189,000 commuters only.
In September 2011, when the Green Line started, I wrote: “We are told that the Green Line is expected to handle 120,000 passengers per day while the Red Line serves 180,000 passengers a day. However I dare say that these numbers will be exceeded because the impact of one line over the other is yet to be seen.”
That statement is now borne out by the experience and current statistics, which has surpassed all expectations. The city of Oslo in Norway, which has about the same population as Dubai and with a very elaborate metro network, has a daily commuter traffic of about 200,000 only.
This brings me to say that the Dubai Metro is getting very crowded and I know from personal experience that this is driving some people away from using it. The fact that Dubai Metro is relatively slow makes the trip difficult for older people and women with children who cannot stand for a long time and suffer the pushes and shoves on the way.
In this regard younger people should give up their seats to the elderly, which unfortunately is not the case as I have noticed.
Surely, we have not reached the limits of the system and the Authority should seek what is possible to improve the service. I am sure that it is possible to increase the speed and frequency of the trains individually or both, which will go a long way in improving the service in many respects.
I am not aware of future plans to expand the system, but I hope it will include extending the lines to Sharjah and Ajman. This will go a long way in solving one of the most intractable congestion routes.
Of course the metro system is supported by the activities of other forms of public transport of about 1,600 buses, 3,500 taxis and about 160 “abras” and waterbuses. While the metro remains the most popular mode of public transport, the total daily traffic on all forms of public transport in the first six months of 2014 was 260 million, a sharp increase from 165 million in the same period of 2011.
People do want, and prefer, public transport as shown by these stark numbers and a well-planned and run public transport system is essential to the development and growth of any city.
The public transport is expected to receive a shot in the arm in November when the Tram system begins serving commuters in densely populated and busy areas of Dubai by connecting important residential, commercial and tourism projects in the city to the rest of the public transport. A fleet of 11 trams will operate in the first phase of the project, covering 10.6 kilometres from Al Sufouh to Dubai Marina.
I am confident this is only the start and that the project may be duplicated in other regions of the city.
Environmentally, the advantages of public transport cannot be underestimated. The International Association of Public Transport estimates that an energy equivalent of one kilogramme of petrol per person will allow a car to travel 19 kilometres, a bus 38 kilometres and a train 48 kilometres.
Therefore, without the buses and the Metro, Dubai may have needed a lot more of expensive petroleum products to serve the mobility of people with their attendant negative impact on the economy and the quality of air in the city.
— The writer is former head of the Energy Studies Department at the Opec Secretariat in Vienna.