By Rob Corder
Figures suggest that motorists will spend over Dhs16 per day on Salik.
Back in February, when the Salik road pricing scheme was first announced by Dubai's Road Transport Authority (RTA), it was predicted that charging for driving through the congestion zone would reduce traffic by 25% from the current 130,000 vehicles per day that currently use the stretch.
By my calculation, that means that the RTA expects 97,500 vehicles to travel down Sheikh Zayed Road after the toll is introduced.
If each of those vehicles pays Dhs4 to enter the zone and Dhs4 to exit it, the scheme would raise revenue of Dhs780,000 per day or Dhs284,700,000 per year.
However, last week Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the RTA, said that he expected to generate revenues of Dhs600 million per year - more than double the estimate based on its own traffic predictions.
How can this enormous difference be explained?
The answer, I suspect, is that the RTA expects the average motorist to travel through the congestion zone twice per day - not an unreasonable prediction given that people might use it on the way to work and on the way back.
If this is the explanation, then consider the following. The authority announced that the toll would be a mere Dhs4 - one of the cheapest congestion zone charges in the world. But the fine print revealed that motorists will be charged for entering and leaving the toll zone, making it Dhs8.
Not only that, if the RTA expects to raise Dhs600 million per year, it must be predicting that motorists will make the journey twice per day, making it Dhs16 per day for the 100,000 vehicles that use the road.
In fairness to the RTA, Dhs16 ($4.35) per day is still cheap in comparison to other major cities around the world.
London will cost $16 per day from next month; New York is planning to introduce an $8 daily charge for entering Manhattan. Singapore, however, is considerably cheaper than Dubai with a daily fee of $3.25.