Traffic jams and insufficient parking are proving
to be a nightmare for many students going to and from
university. They vent their frustration and suggest solutions. Naima Uthman, Amelia Naidoo, Maysam Ali and Rukhsana Q. Baig report.

Drive past any university campus between 9am and 6pm and you will encounter a familiar sight. Students in small cars weave through mammoth slow-moving trucks, construction vehicles and tankers in an attempt to get to college on time. And when these cars eventually arrive at their student parking lot, a long search for a parking space begins. It is not unusual to see cars parked on sidewalks or double parked illegally far away from the campus or squeezed into the tiniest of spots that are not designated parking spaces.

Notes looks at four campuses that are plagued with one or both of these problems.

University City, Sharjah

Unbearable traffic jams caused by diversions and the lack of proper roads is frustrating many students and staff who live off campus and commute daily to University City. Students routinely complain about the long time they spend in traffic their cars crawling along Emirates Road and Al Wahda Street.

Many said they leave home one hour or two earlier in order to make it to an 8am class. They complain that a diversion merging three roads into one, such as that on Al Wahda, is a major cause of traffic jams, especially during rush hour.

"The time I could spend studying or relaxing is, instead, spent in traffic struggling on Emirates Road from Ajman to Sharjah," said Nadia Abdul Gani, a mass communication student at the American University of Sharjah (AUS). She spends a minimum of 10 to 12 hours per week in traffic.

So too is the case with Tasmeea Kabir, a student of chemical engineering at AUS. She said she leaves home every day at 6.15am in order to reach class at 8am.

Some students complained that battling traffic makes them worn-out by the time they reach college. "Traffic makes a person nervous while driving. As a result, I see so many accidents on my way to university," said Arzoo Khezri, a medical student at the University of Sharjah.

Dubai Knowledge Village

"It's horrendous!" says SAE Institute student Dominic Carolan about the lack of parking at Dubai Knowledge Village (DKV).

"It's one of the worst places that I can think of in terms of the ratio of people with cars to the availability of parking spaces."

Carolan uses his parents' soft top Saab, and says the lack of a four wheel drive means it's difficult to park his small car in the sand if he can't find parking.

"There are two options — park in the sand and risk hitting things like water drains, or park at the very edge of Knowledge Village," said Carolan.

The student said the lack of parking was all the more inconvenient because he works part-time, and this often leaves him with just 30 minutes to drive to campus and park. "On top of that our lecturers lock us out of class or mark us absent if we show up late," he said.

Looking at the sunny side of things, Carolan said he works fairly close to DKV and doesn't have sit through traffic jams. "Most of my life is centred around this area of town and I don't commute long distances. If I lived farther away, then traffic would be a problem for me."

Rehana Rahim, a student at Middlesex University, Dubai complains about facing traffic jams in the evening after a long and hectic day in college. "I request that we have more parking spaces on campus; we need it most in the summer when we have to walk a long distance in the hot sun," she said.

Dubai International Academic City

Adel Ahmad is a business administration student at Heriot Watt University Dubai, based in DIAC. He said that although he had to park quite far from the campus and walk 10 to 15 minutes, it did not bother him much.

The commute from his home in Abu Dhabi to DIAC on Emirates Road is, however, the bane of his life. "It takes me two hours to get to campus and I'm always stuck in traffic with big trucks all around," he said.

Jay Bhatia, studying at Manipal University, is also a frustrated commuter who spends three to four hours travelling every day from home to university. The lack of parking space further aggravates his frustration.

"My friends and I spend almost half an hour finding car parking, which is a reason why we are late to class," he said.

Maninder Singh, a Manipal University student, travels from Abu Dhabi to Dubai every day. He complains about traffic jams, congestion and the lack of signals on Emirates Road. Accidents also slow the traffic. He appreciates the work of the authorities in improving traffic conditions by opening up the Dubai bypass, which has made a huge difference, but the acute shortage of parking space is still a major cause of concern.

Alya Alam, studying at the American University in the Emirates in DIAC, spends most of her time travelling in the university bus. As she puts it: "I could utilise my time for studies or being with my family. The construction and detours in the city are a major cause of traffic. Dubai is officially the most congested city in the Middle East; the introduction of the Dubai Metro is a ray of hope."

Fashion design students

Salman Anjum, a student of fashion design at the French Fashion University Esmod Dubai, has received a number of fines for parking in undesignated spaces.

"I had no other option but to park in the non-permitted area. I was running late for my exam," he said. Being a fashion design student he often has a heavy load to carry comprising his projects and other equipment needed for design, and a long walk from a distant parking spot is not appealing. Anjum also complained about the time wasted trying to get to DIAC from Sharjah. His trials don't end on arriving back at his building, for he has to spend another half-hour trying to find parking near his house.

He does not have time for a proper dinner, to sit with his family or concentrate on his studies. Neither does he have enough time to shop for fabric and embroidery material required for his course work, which results in poor grades, he said.

"Universities in Academic City should be allotted specified parking areas for the convenience of the students. We as students can't afford to pay for valet parking so there has to be an affordable solution," he said.

Aanchal Jaggi, also studying at Esmod Dubai, complains of the heavy load she has to carry from her parking spot to class, especially during summer.

She said: "The other universities start early so we do not get enough space for parking." She hopes to see the parking conditions improve this year.

The American University in Dubai

Students at AUD say that at peak times — from 10am to 4pm — it is very difficult to find parking space.

"It takes me 10 minutes to park my car," said Ahmad Al Mulla, an accounting senior. "Before 10am it is not a problem, but after 10 it becomes almost impossible, so most cars park in unallocated spaces. I am often late to class when trying to find parking, and the building is usually far from my parking spot," he said.

Ahmad often resorts to parking wherever he can and hopes he doesn't get a ticket.

Finance and management student Anshul Purohit said that the fact that his classes are at 9am saves him the trouble of having to find parking. "If I come after 9.30am, it would take me 15 minutes to find parking. If I can't find parking, I go around the university and park anywhere and then walk back. I don't mind because I like walking," he said.

"Students usually use the parking problem as an excuse when they are late to class, and they usually only aim to find space facing the main gate, which is difficult. They have other options around the university campus," he added.

There is a parking lot reserved for students with tight class schedules and long sessions. "The parking next to Building A is reserved for some students, but it is understandable given their schedule constraints," Anshul added.

He, however, has a lot to say about traffic jams. Anshul lives in Sharjah and drives to university. "I get stuck in traffic on the Dubai-Sharjah Road, in Bur Dubai and on Emirates Road," he said.

Official feedback

George Varghese, senior development manager at the Dubai International Academic City (DIAC), said DIAC and Dubai Knowledge Village (DKV) have not received any complaints regarding the lack of parking.

"DIAC and DKV provide adequate parking space at their premises for students, employees of business partners and visitors. DIAC also offers a range of amenities including ample parking bays," he told Notes.

"Each individual university has its own transportation arrangements... . To date, we have not received parking-related complaints from any university," he said.

Notes also contacted officials from American University of Sharjah and American University in Dubai but they had not responded by the time Notes went to press.


Students and faculty at University City in Sharjah argued that the Sharjah Public Transport Corporation (SPTC) must increase public transportation for students by providing hourly buses and taxis with fixed timings.

Tahira Abdul Rahman, mother of a student at the American University of Sharjah (AUS), said: "Public buses must be provided for students because private transportation has become very expensive. This way, fewer cars will be used, thus there will be less traffic." Abdul Ghani suggested that a change in the driving hours for trucks would help reduce traffic on Emirates Road.

"The trucks should not be allowed at peak hours. Eliminating them completely at those times will change the traffic situation tremendously," she said.

Sana'a Ramzan, a student of accounting and management at AUS, said: "Dubai must begin investing in the bypass road which connects from Sharjah to Jebel Ali." "There must be alternative routes, besides Emirates Road, from Sharjah to Dubai".

SAE Institute student Dominic Carolan suggested that a sticker system be implemented under which students pay a fee each year to use the parking lot. Only cars bearing a sticker will be allowed to access the parking lot. "I went to a uni in Britain before coming to Dubai and for a nominal fee of about £10 (Dh54.78) we were able to park without hassles."

Carolan also feels Dubai Knowledge Village authorities must do something about the sandy parking lot behind the complex, which is neither paved nor clearly demarcated for students. "You often find inconsiderate students parking right in front of the only exit of the parking lot, making it impossible for others to leave."

"It will also save my dad money on car wash bills!" he said with a laugh.

Jay Bhatia, studying at Manipal University, Dubai suggested that the authorities use the available empty space around the buildings at Dubai International Academic City for parking.