Building roads won’t solve Dubai’s traffic crisis

An integrated solution is needed to get the city moving, argues ConstructionWeek.
Building roads won’t solve Dubai’s traffic crisis
By Conrad Egbert
Fri 01 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

An integrated solution is needed to solve the Emirate's bottlenecks, argues ConstructionWeek news editor Conrad Egbert.

It's only from an aerial view of the city that it becomes apparent that Dubai has no dearth of roads, even though it might 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 jams 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 includes trams, an efficient bus network, trains bicycle lanes, metro systems and ample walkways.

Dubai however, 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 on to these other modes of transport.

Recently, the authority announced its 2020 plan with a budget of AED 95billion for road building and modification as well as alternative means of transport.

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

The RTA's plan will involve the construction of 500km of roads including nine new ring roads around the key development areas such as Deria and Bur Dubai, Business Bay Dubailand and the up-coming 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 3000km and a marine transport network spanning 450km.

But while an efficient transport system will enhance the value of developments, some believe that the key to solving the traffic problems 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 my development'" said Abdul Lotah, CEO, National Properties and chairman of the 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 modeling, South Africa's Africon for transport planning, the UK's WSP for transport policy, South Africa's Africon for transportation planning 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 problem but the introduction of a dedicated highway for industrial traffic including trucks and cargo would go a long way to improving 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 taxis 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 the 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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