Dubai: The coronavirus has turned most of our lives upside down. However, for a large section of UAE residents, a part of their lives at least has turned for the better — the daily commute between Dubai and Sharjah.
With schools out for the summer and many offices still closed or only partly open, the daily drive between the two emirates has been halved in some cases, down to 30 or 40 minutes.
Offices and schools had closed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, switching to Work From Home (WFH) and distance learning, respectively.
After a staggered start, Dubai government departments reopened with full staff capacity by mid-June, including some private companies.
However, many corporate offices are still operating remotely on WFH or having staff rotate on different days or shifts. Meanwhile, schools will only reopen in September.
As a result, the morning rush hour from Sharjah to Dubai and the evening rush hour in the reverse direction has significantly shrunk from its earlier hour to two-hour spell.
Before the lockdown, it used to take Yunus Shamsher around two hours from his Sharjah home in Al Khan to his Dubai office in Al Quoz, and vice versa. Now, it only takes about an hour.
“I’ve definitely experienced less traffic. I think it’s because many offices are still doing WFH. Schools are also off for the summer. A lot of the traffic in the mornings was because of school buses and family cars on the school run,” said Shamsher, 64, a manager in a Dubai company.
Also appreciating the lull in traffic is Zubair Haider, 41, a marketing professional who lives in Ajman — located north of Sharjah — and works in Business Bay, Dubai, thus facing the entire rush hour traffic through two emirates.
His morning commute has dropped from about 90 minutes earlier to around 45 minutes. The evening drive back is down to an hour from 90 minutes or so. He takes Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road for most of the way in both directions. “I can afford to leave home by 7am nowadays. Maybe when schools and offices are back on by September, I may have to leave by 6am. I’ll only know after the summer,” said Haider.
“In the evening, it takes a bit longer. There’s some traffic between the Mirdif turn-off and National Paints flyover [on Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road], but after that it’s a free flow all the way to Ajman.”
Ravindran Suriya, who lives near King Faisal Street, Sharjah, can also afford to set out later in the morning at 6.45am — a half-hour difference from his previous routine.
“My commute to my office, in Al Ghubaiba, Dubai, takes around 30 minutes now instead of 50 minutes to an hour. In the evening, I leave by 3.30pm and reach home by 4pm, passing through Al Shindagha,” said Suriya, 59, who works in the cement sector. “I think the main reason for less traffic on the roads is the school break; the school buses really add to the number of vehicles on the roads.”
Traffic on Al Ittihad Road, another major commuting route between the two neighbouring emirates, in the morning is also clear nowadays by 9.30am, from Sharjah to Al Mulla Plaza, Dubai.