Dubai to push for flexible working and school bus fleets to reduce traffic

Residents urged to take part in confidential online survey to shape transport needs

To gauge public opinion, the Roads and Transport Authority will survey those living in Dubai to assess when they are most likely to be driving and which areas need improvements. Reuters
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Flexible working hours and incentives for more children to use school buses are part of plans to take vehicles off the roads and ease congestion in Dubai.

Announced by the Dubai Executive Council, several projects aim to build on economic growth and the city’s prime reputation for global tourism as a pivotal transport hub.

A crucial foundation of the project is to improve traffic flow in the emirate, by easing choke-points at peak times.

Introducing flexible working hours could be a game-changer
Shireen Ahmad, 38, from Jordan

Plans include the development of priority bus routes to improve trip times by 59 per cent, and encouraging more pupils to use buses to improve traffic flow around schools by 13 per cent.

Introducing flexible working hours and remote working are other policies being analysed to take more traffic off the roads.

“Dubai represents a bridge between North, South, East and West. It provides state-of-the-art infrastructure for companies, setting the foundation for global expansion,” said Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai.

“We aim to achieve balanced economic and social development through placing people at the heart of progress and by engaging Dubai’s community in designing its future.”

According to a recent YouGov survey, almost half of UAE workers – 46 per cent – work remotely in some capacity.

Public opinion

To gauge public opinion, the Roads and Transport Authority will survey those living in Dubai to assess when they are most likely to be driving and which areas need improvement.

It is the second survey, commissioned in seven months, to engage the public in traffic calming measures.

In October, private sector workers were contacted by Dubai Statistic Centre, to take part in a similar authority road traffic survey.

Confidential data obtained from the survey will be used to shape future traffic requirements for the emirate.

Respondents have been asked to take part in the 10-minute questionnaire, revealing their company position, personal details, current flexible working options and how they are utilised.

Nora Khalid, 47, from Egypt, who drives to Dubai every day from Ajman, said introducing a plan for flexible working hours could make a significant difference for commuters.

“By staggering start and end times not only in businesses but also schools, commuters could avoid peak rush hours, reducing congestion on the roads,” she told The National.

“Given that my office already has flexible hours, a structured system where schools would have different start times and where employees can choose to start their day earlier or later could be beneficial.”

Addressing driving behaviours on the roads is also crucial to improving traffic, Ms Khalid said.

“Introducing stricter rules to enforce lane discipline and discourage rubbernecking could also improve traffic flow and reduce delays because most congestions on my way are often caused by misbehaving drivers,” she said.

Shireen Ahmad, 38, from Jordan, who has fixed working hours from 8am to 5pm and drives from Ajman to Silicon Oasis in Dubai each day said her routine contributed significantly to long commute times.

“Introducing flexible working hours could be a game-changer,” she said.

One approach, she suggested, could be to allow employees to start their workday between 7am and 10am and finish between 4pm and 7pm.

“This helps me avoid the peak traffic periods, potentially cutting down my travel time,” she said.

“Also encouraging a work-from-home option for a few days a week could further reduce the need to commute daily.

“Implementing such policies would not only ease traffic congestion but also improve overall work-life balance for many employees facing similar challenges.”

Cutting school run congestion

The Indian High Group of Schools, which has three campuses in Dubai, said it was committed to tackling school run congestion.

The not-for-profit group owns their fleet of buses and aims to make school transport affordable for families.

"We haven't increased our bus fees in three years. This is significant as fuel prices have gone up,” said Punit Vasu, Indian High Group of Schools' chief executive.

"There's a scarcity of spare parts post-pandemic and it's not easy to get spare parts, so the cost of replaceable and spare parts has gone up. A majority of the 13,000 pupils who attend their schools use school buses or public transport. “We do specific things to help and encourage pupils to take the metro,” said Mr Vasu.

"Pupils get discounted cards. But, there are intersections that they have to cross between the school and the metro. We deploy our marshals allowing all the pupils in that area to cross the roads safely."

Conference congestion

Another crucial area for congestion is around the Dubai World Trade Centre, which continues to be used for major events.

Tens of thousands of visitors pour into Zabeel at different times of the year, many using the already busy Sheikh Zayed Road at peak times, to visit set-piece conferences like Arab Health, Gitex and the recent Arabian Travel Market.

The Dubai Exhibition Centre’s south and north complexes in Expo City have a combined capacity for about 31,000 people for events, with transport links through Dubai Metro and roads, along with vast car parking options.

However, major events continue to be staged at DWTC.

That could change with work under way to develop Al Maktoum International Airport into a major regional transport hub in Dubai South, making DEX a more convenient conference destination in the near future for many.

The airport is being developed at Dh128 billion and aims to serve 260 million passengers a year once complete.

Updated: May 09, 2024, 1:52 PM