Commuters travelling for free in RTA buses and Metro on Public Transport Day. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: An estimated 900,000 people travelled by public transport on Friday, taking advantage of unlimited free trips to mark the fourth edition of the Roads and Transport Authority’s annual Public Transport Day.

Many roads in Dubai were free of traffic as people left their cars at home for a day to use other modes of transport, which resulted in an estimated 10 per cent reduction in Dubai’s CO2 emissions generated through vehicular traffic.

Though the exact numbers of people who took advantage of the free transport on Friday were not available, according to a senior RTA official the rush on the metro and buses was overwhelming.

“I used the metro today (Friday) and I could see an incredible response to our campaign. I’m sure there were a lot of the commuters were not regular [public transport] users and the free transport service has helped in getting people to try Dubai’s mass transit system and realise how efficient it is,” said Dr Yousuf Al Ali, CEO of RTA’s Public Transport Agency.

In order to encourage more people to take part in the campaign, RTA organised a number of activities that included a marathon, a used book expo, a marine parade, free health checks and a blood donation camp.

Based at Burj Plaza, around 500 people participated in the marathon that included 100 teams of five members each. Twenty of those teams were representatives of government departments.

To begin with, the marathon required participants to answer certain basic questions about RTA’s public transport facilities and once the teams got through that level, they headed to the RTA buses which took them to Dubai Mall Metro station.

The participants headed to the Burjuman Metro station from Dubai Mall Metro station on the trains and from there took a bus to Al Seef Metro station, crossed the creek on the water bus, got on the bus again, went to the Deira City Centre Metro station, boarded a train and came back to Burj Plaza.

As they moved across the route assigned to them, all of the members had to stay together and solve the clues given to them to find their check points. Each team had to stop at their assigned check points and get their participation booklets stamped by the organisers.

The teams that completed all the tasks and came back first to Burj Plaza received a cash prize of Dh10,000, while the first and second runners up received Dh7,000 and Dh5,000 respectively.

“We just came here to have fun, but this turned out to be a fantastic experience. We are a team of five including two Columbians and three Mexicans. I like the idea of this marathon, which tests many skills like team work, your physical strength as well as your level of alertness,” said Benjamin Baron, a Mexican software engineer based in Dubai, who took part in the marathon along with his friends.

Apart from the marathon, the Burj Plaza also hosted a used book expo that attracted a lot of attention.

As many as 2,000 books ranging from novels and Islamic theology to text books and historical tomes were collected through a week-long campaign. Individuals and institutions donated the books which were sold at the expo for Dh1, Dh5 and Dh10. The revenue generated through the expo will go to Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre.

At the Marine Parade held at Dubai Creek, 31 marine vessels representing RTA and Dubai Municipality and other government authorities took part in a spectacular show that enthralled the viewers on either side of the creek. The parade set off from Al Seef marine station and ended at Al Ghubaiba marine station.

The blood donation camp, held at Al Ghubaiba bus station, also saw an overwhelming participation with more than 80 bottles of blood collected throughout the day.