Four central Dubai roads to have bus lanes

Motorists in Dubai will lose a lane on some of the city's roads when dedicated bus and taxiways are introduced in May.

Dubai, 24th March 2010.   Buses at Zaabeel road in Karama.  (Jeffrey E Biteng / The National)

DUBAI // Motorists in Dubai will lose a lane on some of the city's roads when dedicated bus and taxiways are introduced in May. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is introducing the lanes on four roads in the city centre at a cost of Dh8.5 million (US$2.3m). Signs will be visible on the four roads beforehand but the police will not enforce the new rules until May 15. Motorists who use a bus lane at any time of day will risk a Dh600 fine.

The agency will take 16 buses off the roads after the lanes are in use because it expects the change to reduce congestion, said Mattar al Tayer, the RTA chairman and executive director. "The project will also contribute to slashing the operational costs of buses deployed on these routes by Dh10.4m, minimise the demand for parking spaces at congested spots, reduce the environmental pollution rates caused by private vehicle exhausts and decrease the number of road accidents," he said.

Emergency services vehicles, taxis and public buses from other emirates will be allowed to use the bus lanes. The police and RTA will meet after the lanes have been in use for three months to iron out any problems that may arise. Perhaps predictably, some RTA users approved of the move in hopes of getting quicker service, while some drivers were concerned about car traffic growing more crowded with fewer lanes available.

Jimmy Cielos, a 31-year-old Filipino, takes the bus every day from the Satwa area to work at the BurJuman centre and said he liked the plan. One of the new bus lanes will originate from the Satwa roundabout. "I think it is a good idea," Mr Cielos said. "Sometimes traffic is really bad here but usually I reach work in about 10 minutes. Now I should be able to get there faster." People who get about by car were not convinced. Ali Kamal, 33, a sales executive from Lebanon, said the new plan would make a bad situation worse.

"I drive everywhere and there are not enough lanes even now," he said. "Traffic in the evenings is so bad around Satwa it will only congest other areas. It would not make me want to use a bus because the lanes are so short and I need my car to get around quicker." Some who make their living in the transport industry approved of the plan. John Hughes, a traffic expert with ARRB Dubai, said bus lanes had proved successful in other cities. "Any priority given to buses makes public transport more attractive for passengers," he said. "If it cuts travel times in areas with high traffic condition, it has shown that people will make the move from their cars to public transport."

Along Al Mankhool Road from Satwa roundabout up to Sheikh Rashid Road for 1,400 metres. Along Al Khaleej Road from its intersection with Khalid bin Al Waleed Road as far as Al Musalla Road, opposite the Hyatt Regency hotel. That lane will run for 3,600 metres. Along a 220-metre limited-access stretch of the notoriously congested Khalid bin Al Waleed Road from the intersection with Al Mina Road up to Road 16.

Along 320 metres of Al Ghubaiba Road from the intersection with Al Mina Road as far as Road 12. The idea to build the lanes is not a recent one. Eisa Abdul Rahman al Dosari, the chief executive of Public Transport Agency, the RTA parent company, said they were always part of the city's transport master plan. "We studied the movement of the buses and we monitored the buses on the road," he said. "We pinpointed and identified the places on the roads where the buses experienced significant and late arrivals. In the future, we will have to study the buses' movements."

The 5.6km of bus lanes are a good start according to Mr al Dosari, who said the agency wanted to provide more bus lanes to and from Metro stations. An express bus lane was also being considered, he said. Officials expect the economic benefits of the lanes to be spread across the system. Maitha bin Udai, the chief executive of the RTA's Traffic and Roads Agency, said 98,000 bus users would benefit from the plan daily, about a third of the total number of riders.

"We based it on certain calculations, such as the ridership, the time saved on the roads per hour and took into consideration the value of time for the road user," she said. "We ended up with the conclusion that it could save [passengers] Dh104m per year." Dubai has 1,540 buses running on 119 routes and carrying 325,000 passengers on an average day. The RTA says there is a bus every 10 to 15 minutes at every stop. The agency wants 30 per cent of residents using public transport by 2020.