Abu Dhabi commuters slow to adapt to Park and Ride system

The park-and-ride scheme allows commuters to leave their vehicles and take special shuttle buses to all parts of Abu Dhabi Island.

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ABU DHABI // The section of Zayed Sports City’s car park set aside for commuters as part of a new park-and-ride initiative lay deserted just a day after the scheme was launched.

Only a few vehicles owned by Department of Transport staff could be seen on Monday.

The park-and-ride scheme allows commuters to leave their vehicles and take special shuttle buses to all parts of Abu Dhabi Island.

A commuter can pick up a bus ticket – and one for up to three passengers – when parking in the secured area.

“I think a few people know about it,” said a staff member at the ticket booth. They also issue a separate ticket for the driver to display on the dashboard.

“It’s good for people who are coming from Al Ain, Dubai or Sharjah and don’t know the city very well. This service can help them avoid getting into traffic accidents.”

A source familiar with the project said they expected the park-and-ride services to take off gradually, and the parking spaces would eventually be filled.

“It’s meant for motorists who are coming into the city,” said the government employee. “They can park here instead of struggling for spaces in the city. It will relieve congestion in the city where there is a high demand for parking spaces.”

The car park, which has 600 spaces, is identified by the now-common Mawaqif black and turquoise kerbs.

“Parking for the time being is free,” said the source. “We cannot put a date on that”, was the reply when asked when Mawaqif would start charging motorists.

The buses, which have free Wi-Fi, will run from 6am to 8.30pm, Sunday to Thursday.

The initiative also seeks to reduce the amount of pollution and environmental damage caused by the number of cars on Abu Dhabi city's roads.

On Monday, bus drivers said they had not yet carried any passengers into the city.

“People are not yet aware of it,” said Amjad Ali Shah, 55, one of 12 bus drivers assigned to the park-and-ride service, which has six buses.

“This morning, a Pakistani woman asked me at a bus stop if it will take residents to the different parks in the city.”

Bus routes from Zayed Sports City take in Al Safarat roundabout, Dhafeer Street, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Street, Delma Street and Hamdan Street through the Corniche.

The shuttle buses will leave every 15 minutes during peak hours, and every 30 minutes at other times.

The stops in the city include the Abu Dhabi Municipality, City Air Terminal, Abu Dhabi Mall, Al Ain Tower, the Abu Dhabi Education Council, the Central Souq and the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce, before returning to Zayed Sports City.

“Inshallah, after a week people will start using the service,” said another bus driver, Shamsudeen Kuniyam, 40. “It needs good publicity.”

Basheer Ahmad, 51, a company driver for BA Systems Abu Dhabi, said the service was ideal for people who lived off the island.

"It will definitely reduce congestion on Abu Dhabi's roads," he said. "But for people like me who live in the downtown area, it will be too time consuming. I would use it if I lived outside the island or near the Zayed Sports City area."

Ghassan Mustafa, 36, a facilities manager who has lived in Abu Dhabi for 18 years, said the park-and-ride service would mean “less headache” finding a parking spot in the city.

“It’s a great idea,” he said. “I will use it but I think it won’t really appeal to families. What if the bus gets crowded? They would rather drive their own vehicles than take the bus.”

A government employee who did not want to be named said it would need a change of mindset for people to think beyond their personal cars and embrace public transport.

“Mobility management is important in any development of a city,” he said. “We need to inform the public about the services and efforts of the Government to build an efficient and sustainable transport.”