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Thu 2 Jul 2020 05:41 PM

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First and last mile integration key to Dubai's smart city plans

Leading transport consultant believes more must be done to encourage people onto public transport

First and last mile integration key to Dubai's smart city plans

Dubai needs to improve its first and last mile transport options in order to encourage people out of their cars and enhance the emirate’s status as a smart city, according to a leading mobility expert.

Scott Fennelly, director of transportation and ITS Services at Surface Mobility Consultants, was speaking at a webinar organised by international real estate outfit Savills, looking at transport and innovations and whether real estate in the Middle East is future-proof to technological changes in transport.

Fennelly said that while the UAE and Saudi Arabia are leading the way in terms of the adoption of autonomous vehicles and self-drive transport, Dubai, in particular, is lagging behind cities such as London and Singapore when it comes to providing mobility as a service.

While Dubai boasts hugely popular metro and tram systems, he pointed out that the links between these need to be improved.

He said: “The extension of the metro line here in Dubai, that requires further work in the first and last mile areas. Other regions do a lot better on the first and last mile, with cycle schemes and e-scooters. Unfortunately the infrastructure needs to be developed more in a planning perspective and on an urban design.

“I myself wouldn’t cycle many roads in Dubai, but that needs to be increased substantially to be able to have those first-mile links. And how that interacts with infrastructure and development is really to look at the infrastructure to have the facilities that if somebody wants to cycle to work, they can maybe shower. The heat here in Dubai and the UAE, KSA will put you off cycling.”

In March 2014, Sheikh Mohammed launched the strategy to transform Dubai into a 'smart city', which features six key pillars and 100 initiatives on transport, communications, infrastructure, electricity, economic services, urban planning.

“You have Dubai which is a smart city and it has implemented a number of intelligent transport systems or smart mobility systems within the city as a whole, but it needs to increase on existing infrastructure,” said Fennelly.

Smart solutions are already being incorporated into new developments, while work has begun to link up with transportation networks, an example being the launch last year of bicycles for hire from Careem, which are available in various spots across the city.

However, Fennelly stressed more must be done if citizens and residents are to give up their cars and switch to public transport instead.

He said: “It’s that first and last mile that stops us getting public transport because we don’t want to be walking in the heat.”

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