Transport upgrade will ease congestion in Dubai

RTA chief says more roads will not solve problem of increased journey times.

A trip to Dubai airport from The Greens near Tecom using Sheikh Zayed Road can take at least 90 minutes. Sarah Dea / The National
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DUBAI // Plans to upgrade Dubai’s transport infrastructure and ease traffic congestion will come into play from next year, a top Roads and Transport Authority official said on Monday.

Maitha bin Adai, chief executive of the RTA’s traffic and roads agency, told delegates at the Gulf Traffic Exhibition and Conference that a new phase of a smart management system would begin next year.

“During this phase the RTA will study the infrastructure network needed to assist in managing and controlling the growing traffic in the emirate that is expected to reach 3.2 million residents by 2020,” she said.

The three-day meeting at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre ends on Tuesday. So far more than 200 global traffic and transport infrastructure suppliers have attended to look for new business in a region that recently committed to investing about Dh444 billion.

Building on an integrated system was vital, said Ms bin Adai, adding that projects taken up in Dubai had encouraged public transport networks in the region.

“Our experience has taught us in that building more roads by itself does not solve the problem of congestion,” she said.

“Transport is vital to our economic activities and social life and transportation must be planned, designed and operated as a complete system with integrated modes of transportation like pedestrians, bicycles, rail, bus, water transport, taxis and vehicles.

“The success of mega projects opens doors for similar ambitious projects not only within the United Arab Emirates but also for entire Gulf region.

“These projects proved for the first time in the Gulf area that rail projects can be a huge success despite the high temperatures and humidity during several months of the year.”

Ms bin Adai plotted several milestones such as the opening of the Metro Red Line in 2009, followed by the Green Line in 2011 and Dubai Tram launch last month.

Public transport accounted for 800,000 passenger trips daily, 14 per cent of the emirate’s daily journeys. In 2006 this was less than 6 per cent and there are plans to increase the figure to 20 per cent by 2020 and 30 per cent by 2030.

Intelligent traffic systems include upgrading and synchronising traffic signals, easy use of Salik accounts, and messaging signs on main roads to alert motorists of traffic and road conditions.

About 300,000 motorists already use the RTA’s recently released Smart Drive navigation application that provides live traffic information and route maps.

Experts said more needed to be done due to increased pressure on the roads.

Subhash Joshi, Frost & Sullivan’s industry manager for automotive and transport in the Middle East and North Africa region, said traffic was heavy every evening on Sheikh Zayed Road causing a trip to the airport from the Greens near Tecom to take at least 90 minutes.

“There is need to reduce this because whether you take Al Khail Road or Sheikh Zayed it takes that much time, so there is a requirement of a smart application that will make vehicles more connected and also make life easier,” he said.

“Dubai is already using text-based parking and toll gate management, but now there is a need to move to the next level and provide more augmented services.”

The need to keep pedestrians safe was also stressed by Ms bin Adai.

“Emphasis on pedestrians will continue to be part of transportation design, construction and operation,” she said.

In 2006, the authority drew up its first pedestrian safety plan after the rate of deaths involving pedestrians reached 44 per cent on the roads.

This plan has resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in pedestrian deaths, from 78 fatalities in 2009 to 50 last year, said Ms Joshi.