Passengers board a bus on Electra street in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. The public transport network in Abu Dhabi has provided well over 57 million passenger trips this year and plans to scale that figure up to 76 million next year. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Only one per cent of the capital’s population use public transport, figures released by the Department of Transport show.

The figure were released during a conference on Wednesday. The conference heard the UAE has a long-standing car culture due to relatively cheap fuel and car prices.

Vehicle fumes constitute 23 per cent of carbon emissions in the UAE, the second largest source after electricity and water production, which represents 41 per cent of total emissions, Mohammad Yousuf Al Sharhan said at the International Sustainable Transportation Conference.

Eleven per cent of Dubai’s population use public transport, thanks to more options such as the Dubai Metro and water taxis, he said quoting official figures.

But increasing awareness on the environmental impact of transport will prompt more people to use public transport in the UAE, he told Gulf News on the sidelines of the conference.

He has studied the topic as part of his master’s degree at Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and presented his paper at the conference.

Even the lower-middle class can afford to have a car due to the low cost of cars and fuel in the UAE, which has created a “long-standing car culture” in the country, he said.

He said a lack of access to public buses, which is the only public transport system available in Abu Dhabi, keeps many people away from this system. Connectivity to the destination is also a problem, Al Sharhan said.

Abu Dhabi authorities are working on the issue. Its solution and upcoming metro and tram projects will attract more people to use public transport in the emirate, he said.

Carbon taxes

In a survey conducted as part his studies, 60 per cent of Abu Dhabi and Dubai residents who owned a car said they never used public transport. Only two to three per cent use public transport frequently.

Emiratis in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi do not regularly use public transport at at all.

Emiratis in Dubai said they were not able to use the Metro because of a lack of Metro stations near Emirati neighbourhoods. This issue may be solved very soon considering Dubai’s interconnected public transport modes, Al Sharhan said.

Increasing the cost of fuel by minimising subsidies and imposing carbon taxes could discourage private transport but such decisions will not be easy, he said.

Even the US gives fuel subsidies ranging from $10 billion (Dh36.7 billion) to $52 billion every year, he said.

The two-day conference is being held at Emirates Palace Hotel as part of the UAE Green Festival, a month-long event to promote sustainable practices across the country.