Building new roads won’t solve Dubai’s traffic issues

Dubai's RTA has just announced that the expenditure on roads for its 2020 masterplan will reach US $26billion. Conrad Egbert looks at what that means for the city.
Building new roads won’t solve Dubai’s traffic issues
By Conrad Egbert
Sat 22 Dec 2007 04:00 AM

It's only from an aerial view of the city that one realises Dubai has no dearth of roads, even though it may seem that way on the ground.

It's a known fact that all major cities in the world have traffic congestion problems.

From bumper-to-bumper traffic in New York and London to the strangely functional chaotic streets of Cairo and New Delhi, traffic is a constant problem.

But the difference between Dubai and these cities is that they all have alternative modes of public transport, which include trams, an efficient bus network, trains, bicycle lanes, metro systems and ample walkways. Sydney even has an extremely functional ferry service.

Dubai, on the other hand, relies on its roads.

And this is where the RTA wants to make changes.

With the Dubai Metro under construction, an expanding water taxi service, additional buses, a tram system, a train network and maybe even a helicopter service, the RTA is looking to shift the dependency from roads onto these other modes of transport.

This week, the authority announced its ‘2020 plan', with a budget of US $26 billion (AED95 billion) for road building and modification, as well as alternative modes of transport.

"The main problems that are being faced by the RTA include encouraging the use of public transport, congestion, transportation safety and improving the transportation environment," said Dr Abdel Malik Ibrahim Abu Sheikh, head of transportation studies and planning section, RTA.

The RTA's plan will involve the construction of 500km of roads, including nine new ring roads around key development areas such as Deira and Bur Dubai, Business Bay, Dubailand and the upcoming Jebel Ali Airport.

The RTA also aims to have a metro network in place that will cover 318km, a tram network of 270km, a bus network of 3,000km and a marine transport network spanning 450km.

But while an efficient transport system will enhance the value of developments, some believe the key to solving the traffic problem is a combination of solutions that need to be well-timed.

"As a developer, I think the more means of public transport that are available around my development, the better as it will raise the value of the development," said Adel Lootah, CEO, National Properties and chairman of Dubai Property Group.

"But the answer to solving the congestion problem in Dubai is a combination of different solutions that have to be timed well. Simply building more and more roads will not solve the problem in the long run."

The RTA has developed its transportation plan in coordination with six international consultants including US-based Parsons for the road network plans, Germany's PTV for transportation modelling, South Africa's Africon for transportation planning, the UK's WSP for transportation policies, South Africa's Urban Econ for urban economics and the UK's MVA for public transport planning.

Thomas Barry, CEO, Arabtec Construction, agreed with Lootah's view that building more roads wouldn't necessarily solve the congestion problem, but said the introduction of a dedicated highway for industrial traffic, including trucks and cargo, would go a long way to help the situation.

"If industrial traffic could be taken off Al Khail and the Emirates Road and put onto a dedicated highway, the traffic situation could get much better," said Barry.

"Also, all the modes of transport have to be integrated for the whole system to work. The trams systems, the metro, the bus service, even the water taxi's all have to link up with each other for a smooth flow of traffic. This will also make developments all over the city more accessible, so areas that are valued lower due to being far away from the CBD would then increase in value."

In addition to the ongoing construction of the metro and tram systems, the number of lanes across the creek will also be increased from the current 40 to 47 in 2008, and to 100 by 2020. There will also be 95 new interchanges, while 25 of the existing ones will be modified.

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