By Soren Billing
The Dubai RTA has said the Dubai Metro will be a city icon on par with the Burj Al Arab. So who's the competition?
The Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has said the Dubai Metro will be a city icon on par with the Burj Al Arab. So who's the competition? Arabian Business has a ticket to ride.
So here it is, the world's longest automated metro system built in one go, and quite possibly put together in the shortest period of time, if compared to similar projects.
Will the RTA ever recoup the $7.6bn investment it has made in the Arabian Peninsula's first ever urban rail network? Looking at the experience of other cities, it is unlikely. The Dubai brand, on the other hand, should get a boost that is difficult to quantify in money terms.
After raising the budget by an estimated 80 percent, the Red and Green Lines will serve 47 stations on 7.7 km of railway tracks. Most of it will be over ground: 24 of the Red Line's stations will be of the elevated, beetle-shaped kind that has now become an integral part of the city's skyline. Six of the stops on the Green Line will be underground.
Union Square and Khalid Bin Al Waleed will be the two main transfer hubs, with the area above Union to be turned into a park after it is completed.
Sheikh Zayed Road, the multi-lane highway that once divided the city in two for anyone without a car, will be crossed by 19 air-conditioned footbridges that will include travelators, escalators and lifts.
Only five of the world's 50 largest cities do not have their own metro, and much like the cities themselves, no mass transit system seems to be quite like the other.
The old one
The London Underground, launched in 1863, is the oldest subway system in the world and the largest one in Western Europe. It has been known as the Tube since 1890, when the first deep-level electric railway line was opened.
Like in most other European countries, praising public transport is considered social suicide in the UK.
Thankfully, there are plenty of things to moan about. The London Tube is one of the most expensive public transit systems in the world.
Due to its deep tunnels and poor ventilation, temperatures as high as 47 degrees Celsius have been recorded during the summer months, and travellers are advised to bring a bottle of water with them.
Overcrowding is another problem. A 2003 House of Commons report stated that commuters faced a "daily trauma" and had to endure "intolerable conditions".
Still, Londoners are voting with their feet: the number of passengers rose 5.7 percent last year to around 1.2bn per year, and Transport for London says a customer satisfaction survey gave it a 77 percent satisfaction score. The American one
US commuters have never taken to public transport like their moaning peers in the Old World. Europe's medieval city centres and strict zoning laws have generally kept population density higher than in America, where urban sprawl has made it difficult for public transport to gain traction.
The exception to the rule is the New York City Subway, which has grown from 28 stations in 1904 to 462 today. Around 4.9m people travel every day on the trains, which carry more passengers than all other rail mass transit systems in the US combined.
The system is famous for its cleanliness, affordability, and being open 24 hours a day.
On a less positive note, it is infamously infested with rats, and in March this year the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) introduced a new type of mousetrap to try to contain the problem.
The fast one
At 120km per hour, the Moscow Metro is the fastest metro in the world, although the frequent stops mean that travellers may be more inclined to remember it for the many ornately decorated stations, which have sometimes been referred to as "the people's palaces".
With their stunning mosaic panels, striking use of marble and chandeliers, Stalin wanted the stations to showcase the best of Soviet architecture and design, in addition to demonstrating to the West how privileged the Russian people were.
Today tourists still find that the socialist-era railway system works surprisingly well, although an English-language map might come in handy for those who don't speak Russian.
Ticket prices are low by international standards: a one-way ticket only costs 22 roubles ($0.70).
The Moscow Metro has the second highest ridership in the world, carrying an average of 2.6bn people per year. Trains run almost entirely underground, although some lines cross bridges across the scenic Moskva and Yauza rivers.
The popular one
It is unbelievably clean, runs like clockwork and carries a staggering 3.2bn passengers per year - it could only be the famous Tokyo Subway.
Trains in the world's most used subway system are so punctual that anyone experiencing a delay of over 30 seconds can expect an apology. Delays of one minute or more are rare.
A word of caution: rush hour in the Japanese capital is quite possibly more stressful than anywhere else in the world. Seats are pulled up to maximise capacity and platform attendants are on hand to push the last passengers into the carriages.
Gauging the price of your ticket can be difficult, and the complex fare structure means that many people start their journeys by paying the lowest price and top up their tickets before passing the exit. The new one
A late mover, Copenhagen didn't open its metro until 2002, decades after most other European capitals had launched theirs and were feeling the benefits.
Although Dubai is often compared to other financial hubs like London and New York, its metro may have just as much in common with the Danish city, where a driverless, largely over-ground railway system was launched seven years ago by Serco, the same operator that won the contract for the metro in Dubai.
The RTA may hope that the similarities end there. After all, The Danish project is expected to cost almost three times more ($2.89bn) than initial estimates, and passenger numbers have been around one third lower than projected. The failed one
Perhaps it is unfair to call the Los Angeles Metro a failure, but despite increasing in popularity over the last 20 years, public transport remains an Achilles heel of America's second most populous city.
For tourists, it's a cheap, if rather time consuming way to see places like Downtown, Hollywood and Long Beach.
For residents who live and work in the sprawling city, the system remains underdeveloped, and many have no choice but to stay on the city's famously congested roads. A 2005 study estimated the cost of the problem to be around $9.3bn.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) currently operates five light rail and subway lines in Los Angeles County.
The posh one
That'll be us. The Dubai Metro's Gold Class cabins include wide leather seats, carpet flooring, and exclusive lighting and design.
The entire network will have mobile phone coverage and WiFi access; and cabins, walkways and stations will be air conditioned so that the temperature doesn't exceed 20 degrees Celsius, even during the hot summer months.
On the retail side, there will be restaurants and coffee shops, in addition to direct links to some of the city's many shopping malls, such as Mall of the Emirates, Deira City Centre and Ibn Battuta.
The only cheap thing we can think of is the ticket price: the cost of a standard ticket ranges between AED2.50 ($0.68) and AED6.50 ($1.80).
The next one
Construction of Australia's first ever metro is expected to begin in Sydney next year. The New South Wales Government expects the first line to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2015. The project aims to ease congestion of bus and rail services, and to increase the city's international competitiveness.