RTA celebrates its fifth anniversary in style

Integrated public transport shifts gear; foundation laid for rail transport in region

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has managed to deliver several projects and initiatives over the past five years, thanks to a bright vision and unlimited support of senior leadership.

These span strategic planning of roads and transport systems along with booking their respective rights of way, upgrading roads network and public transport systems, addressing the requirements of pedestrians and traffic safety, and applying a package of traffic and transport policies.

Among the towering achievement was the operation of the Red Line of the Dubai Metro, which has seen the operation of added 16 stations this year, bringing the total number of stations opened to 26 stations the last of which were five stations operated in mid-October.

Among the milestones of the Dubai Metro project was the launch by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, of the trial run of the Green Line of the Dubai Metro, where the contractor has finalised all construction works and is currently putting the final touches to the internal decors and the electromechanical works at the stations such that the project will be delivered on the approved schedule in August 2011.

The portfolio of RTA achievements includes a 153 per cent increase in the number of lanes crossing Dubai Creek from 19 to 48, a 24 per cent increase in the total length of roads network in Dubai Emirate from 8,715km in 2005 to 10,809km by the end of 2009, and an 83 per cent increase in the number of lanes of key traffic corridors (Sheikh Zayed, Al Ittihad, Emirates, Dubai Bypass, Dubai-Al Hibab, Al Rebat roads) from 36 to 66 lanes.

In view of these results and others, key traffic hubs witnessed a remarkable improvement in the traffic flow in the range of 35 to 50 per cent, depending of the area and roads. In the field of public transport the ridership of public buses increased from 96 million in 2006 to 120 million passengers by the end of 2009 and similarly the number of commuters using marine transport modes increased from 17 million to 20 million passengers, and the number of taxi passengers also picked up from 50 million to 140 million passengers.

Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman and Executive Director of the RTA, said the ongoing support and patronage accorded by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and the close follow-up by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of the Executive Council, and Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Vice-Chairman of the Executive Council, was the underlying factor responsible for all achievements made by the RTA over the last five years.

He stated that from inception RTA paid much attention to upgrading the performance level, keeping abreast of the successive developments made in various fields, enhancing its ability to apply modern and advanced administrative concepts, focusing on customers service and winning customers satisfaction, developing the existing resources, simplifying the work procedures, advocating the spirit of creativity, unleashing employees innovative skills, and achieving excellence in government management.

Foundation challenges

RTA embarked on sorting out solutions for the challenges confronting the transportation system in Dubai emirate; which focused on the traffic congestion that involved an annual cost to the emirate amounting to Dh5.9 billion worth of time wasted in traffic congestion, the traffic safety with accidents fatality reaching 21.7 cases per 100,000 of population compared to five cases in countries like the UK and six cases in Sweden.

Challenges also included the limited use of mass transit systems which was not more than six per cent compared to 40-80 per cent in developed countries. Challenges also included serving the requirements of the rapid urban and economic expansion of Dubai Emirate with traffic growth rate clocking 13 per cent per annum compared to two to three per cent in European cities.

The annual growth of Dubai population was in excess of six per cent whereas the corresponding rate in most European cities was not more than two per cent. Equally the increase in the number of registered vehicles in Dubai was as high as 17 per cent per annum at a time where the prevailing corresponding rate was not more than four per cent in European cities and about eight per cent in Saudi Arabia.

Roads

It is well established that mega roads and transport projects require extended periods of planning, designing, constructing, and operating before starting to reap their traffic benefits. Nevertheless during its short lifespan, RTA managed to complete an array of mega projects illustrated by the increased number of lanes crossing Dubai Creek from 19 at the time of establishing the RTA to 48 lanes (153 per cent increase rate).

This had been possible as a result of completing the construction of the 13-lane Business Bay Crossing, replacing the old Al Garhoud Bridge by a new 14-lane bridge, constructing the 6-lanes Floating Bridge, and increasing the number of lanes of Al Maktoum Bridge from nine to 11 lanes.

These projects have contributed to increasing the average speed on these crossings by 20 to 40 per cent, and increasing the number of lanes at core traffic hubs from 36 to 66 lanes (83 per cent increase rate), as illustrated by an increase in the number of lanes of Emirates Road in the sector extending from the outskirts of Sharjah up to the Arabian Ranches Interchange from six to 12 lanes, and an increase in the number of lanes of Dubai Bypass Road, which had been developed as a new traffic corridor stretching from the outskirts of Sharjah Emirate to the outskirts of Abu Dhabi Emirate (72km) from four to 12 lanes.

RTA also constructed road and bridge projects linking Al Khail Road with the Business Bay Crossing with a capacity of 10 lanes, and carried out the Parallel Roads Project from Sheikh Rashid Road in the north up to the outskirts of Abu Dhabi Emirate (108km) with a six lanes capacity.

As to interchanges, several key projects have been opened; resulting in a radical improvement in traffic movement. This included the Arabian Ranches Interchange at Emirates Road, and Sheikh Zayed Road interchanges at Tecom, Sufouh, Emirates Hills as well as the entries of The Palm Jumeirah, the 5.5 Interchange at Sheikh Zayed Road, Beirut – Al Nahdah Roads Interchange, the upper deck of the Financial Center Road (the first double deck road in the region).

RTA had also completed most stages of Al Ittihad Road Widening Project as well as the first Interchange of Sheikh Zayed Road, and improved some of the existing interchanges such as Wafi Interchange. These road improvements and widening works resulted in increased speed levels on core traffic hubs.

Traffic

RTA has introduced several express solutions to improve traffic movement on more than 30 locations; which in turn improved the traffic movement and safety at those locations by 20 per cent on the average. RTA has also launched several initiatives for improving the traffic safety levels that comprised running educative campaigns, constructing a number of footbridges, and constructing a pedestrian fence to fend off passenger crossing at dangerous spots of roads network.

It also introduced the flashing green light traffic signals which has contributed to a 75 per cent reduction in the number of fatalities associated with jumping the red traffic signal. The efforts to enhance roads traffic safety carried out by the RTA in collaboration with Dubai Police General HQ have yielded a reduction in traffic mortality rate from 21.7 cases per 100,000 of population in 2007 to about 12.7 cases per 100,000 of population in 2009.

The last months of this year witnessed a substantial drop in accident fatalities and the number is expected to drop in 2013 to nine cases per 100,000 of population.

Salik

The toll gate system (Salik), which is a pioneer project in the region, has contributed to reducing the traffic density on the corridors covered by the system, and raising the average speed on the roads covered by the system.

Despite the increase in the average number of daily trips in the emirate from 3.5 million trips in 2003 to about 5.5 million trips in 2009, Salik has contributed to increasing the driving speed in the corridors covered by the system by more than 20 per cent.

For instance the time taken to complete the distance from the 4th Interchange on Sheikh Zayed Road (near Mall of the Emirates) to Al Nahdah Interchange dropped from 79 minutes before the introduction of the system to 27 minutes following the application of the new system i.e. reflecting a 66 per cent improvement.

The traffic volumes at Al Garhoud Bridge has dropped by more than 30 per cent and at Al Maktoum Bridge by 33 per cent and in a parallel development the number of trips at the Business Bay Crossing increased by 47 per cent, and at Emirates Road by seven per cent; which meets RTA objective of diverting the transit traffic to alternative roads.

Dubai Metro

Among the defining achievements made by the RTA is the operation of the Dubai Metro Project, the longest driverless metro project undertaken as a single project in the world.

Dubai Metro was launched on 09.09.2009 starting with 10 key stations and the opening of stations continued till the total number of stations opened has reached now 26 stations the last five of which were opened in mid-October.

The operational results of the Dubai Metro, which has celebrated in September last one year of operation, illustrate the success of the project in transforming the culture and attitude of a wide segment of the community towards public transport means.

Indicators show a huge success in the operational efficiency, service punctuality and achieving the highest global safety standards. Since the start of operation till the end of October, the metro ridership exceeded 36 million persons and the number of commuters is expected to rise further this November.

The number of Metro riders has seen steady rise since the start of operation in September 2009 as it jumped from 1.8 million passengers in October 2009 to 3.3 million passengers in August 2010 recording in the process an increase rate as high as 83 per cent. The number of daily commuters using the Dubai Metro also jumped from about 55,000 passengers in October 2009 to about 130,000 passengers last October, and the number is set to exceed 140,000 passengers by the end of 2010.

Dubai Metro has a set of unique features as it is the world’s first metro train operating within a single city that has a gold class. It has the world’s largest underground metro station; Al Ittihad Station spanning an area of about 220,000 square feet. The stations have high levels of decorations and internal finishing works, and Khalid bin Al Waleed Station is considered the most beautiful metro station in the world. Dubai Metro is characterized by stations linked with the neighbouring buildings and commercial centres through overhead bridges or subways and has parking facilities for more than 8000 vehicles at different locations.

It has integrated transport systems at each station (parking, bus stops, and taxi ranks) and the trains and stations are covered by wireless internet service (Wi-Fi) enabling commuters to use their laptops or handheld devices in transit. It also has modern footbridges fitted with the latest equipment, central air-conditioning, and travelators enabling passengers easy access to station concourse. Various methods can be used to pay the metro fare through the unified card (Nol) or even tapping the mobile phone across the e-gates.

Al Safouh Tram

RTA started the preliminary works of Phase I of Al Safouh Tram project including preparation of precast concrete sites, drilling trial tunnels, carrying out topographic surveys of locations in which the project is to be constructed, and conducting soil analysis for the same area.

The project extends 14km along Al Safouh Road, with 9.5km long of the project to be constructed during the initial stage starting from the Marina to the Mall of the Emirates Station. Trams network include 19 passenger stations, nine of which will be constructed under Phase I spread over population density and activity areas along the tram path.

Each tram measures 44 meters in length and has a capacity to load 300 passengers. The tram fleet comprises eight trains in Phase I plus 17 trains in Phase II making a total of 25 trains, enabling the tram to lift about 5000 passengers per hour per direction.

Public Transport

Through upgrading mass transit systems RTA managed to improve the percentage of trips made by mass transit modes from six per cent in 2005 to 16 per cent, including trips made by taxis, and is seeking to increase it further to 34 per cent by 2020; 17 per cent for the Metro and the remainder shared by public transport and marine transport.

In order to improve and expand the services rendered by public buses, RTA deployed articulated and double-deck buses raising the number of buses to about 1,593 buses. The new buses are manufactured according to Euro 4 and Euro 5 environment-friendly specifications and boast high levels of luxury and quality. They have custom-built low floor to ease the boarding and alighting and assist the use by special needs persons who have a designated entrance in the bus.

Buses are fitted with the latest passenger information systems and on-board monitoring systems. RTA has also constructed about 900 air-conditioned bus shelters for the use of public bus commuters distributed all over the Emirate. It also constructed several bus depots at Al Rawiyah, Jebel Ali and Al Khawaneej besides upgrading Al Awir station.

RTA efforts to upgrade public transport have contributed to increasing the ridership of public transport from 96 million passengers in 2006 to 120 million passengers by the end of 2009 and the number of public bus users during the period from January to September this year reached 73.48 million passengers.

RTA has also introduced public bus fleet traffic management system, and launched the Journey Planner, known as Wojhai, to ease the mobility of public transport users in Dubai. Dubai is the fifth city across the globe after London, New York, Munich and Melbourne, to apply the Journey Planner system. RTA also provided maps describing the journey route at the stations and the internal or external bus mounted display monitors.

Marine Transport

Marine transport modes are considered a key component of transport systems in the emirate.

Abras ferry about 20 million passengers per annum and considering the importance of this sector, RTA prepared an integrated plan for upgrading marine transport in the Emirate. The plan envisages operating the Creek lines, the coastal line along Jumeirah Beach and the new Islands service.

Over the past five years, RTA has achieved several key projects such as retrofitting 149 abra engines, revamping abra dockyards and marinas, and launching the 36-seater water bus which is set to ferry about 5 million commuters per annum over the next five years. The water bus extends 12 meters in length and four meters in width, weighs seven tons and travels at a speed of 10-12 knots. It is fitted with twin diesel-powered engines of 185 hp each, and manufactured at the highest world-class security and safety standards.

In May 2010, Sheikh Mohammed inaugurated the Water Taxi; the latest marine transport mode deployed on Dubai Creek and shores as an additional express transit mode integrated with the rest of transport systems in the Emirate.

It is characterized by an aerodynamic design combining the traditional abra shape, and modernity reflected in the roof emulating the shape of the Dubai Metro stations and capitalizing of the latest technology applicable in this field. It has a dual base structure with Catamaran Low Wash body, a smoothly sloping ceiling, and air-conditioned interior in addition to comfortable seats simulating aircraft business class seats as they are fitted with remotely controlled LCD monitors at the rear of the front seat, 45 degrees reclining seats and a food tray.

The water taxi can accommodate up to 11 passengers plus the driver, and has a design customized to meet the requirements of special needs and 20% of seats have been allocated for this category. These seats are foldable to provide ample space for the entry and exit of wheelchairs users without any disruption in addition to the full stability on-board the cabin.

The service is offered on demand through phone booking where the passenger(s) can wait at the agreeable boarding station and the alighting process can be at any location depending on the wish of the passenger at any of the water taxi stops. The water taxi can also be chartered for tourist purposes across Dubai Creek.

RTA is heading to the operation of ferries. “Ferry Dubai” each has a capacity to accommodate 100 passengers. It measures 32 meters in length and 7.6 meters in width and has a speed of 24 knots. It weighs about 20 tons and has twin diesel-powered engines of 450 hp.

Licensing

2010 was a breakthrough year in the achievements of the Licensing Agency as it witnessed the launch of several initiatives to uplift the level of drivers testing and licensing services, and improving the traffic safety standards of novice drivers.

The number of transactions processed online in drivers licensing, vehicles licensing and number plates increased by 21 per cent, and the number of customers visiting RTA service centres dropped, thanks to the availability of a wide range of e-services, by 35 per cent.

The estimated transaction process time dropped from 90 minutes to 10 minutes for renewal of vehicle registration, from 10 minutes to 2 minutes for opening a traffic file, and from 100 minutes to 15 minutes for renewal of the driving license.

RTA carried out a thorough overhaul of drivers training to bring it at par with the highest global standards. It unified the training modules at all driving institutes based on the highest international practices applicable at Sweden, Canada, and Australia, and also prepared 15 manuals for learners, instructors and examiners in Arabic, English and Urdu languages.

These unique books across the Middle East will be put at the disposal of all driving license applicants. It also trained 32 instructors representing the crème of instructors at various driving institutes; 16 of whom were trained on light vehicles and the other 16 on heavy buses. During this training, which was supervised by training experts from Victoria State at Australia, trainees received intensive training on the best method of delivering information to the trainee, the appropriate implementation of driving and traffic rules and the procedure that enables the trainee to be fully conversant with safe and defensive driving practices after obtaining the required driving licenses.

Customers can fully avail the driving license renewal and vehicle registration renewal services through RTA website, besides launching new services such as distinguished number plates and the online number plate auction.

RTA also signed an agreement for practicing training, qualifying and licensing drivers in the emirate with model driving institutes with the aim of setting the tasks and responsibilities between the RTA and institutes, and control the service level.

Dubai Taxi

As part of its strategic vision and in a bid to upgrade the level of services rendered to customers, the RTA took early action launch a number of plans and initiatives to upgrade the services of Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC) to enhance the operational efficiency of the fleet, which has reached 93 per cent during peak hours in 2010 compared to 2009.

Among these measures is the aligning of the regular maintenance timings to suit the peak hours of taxicabs, focusing on internal maintenance and repairs in DTC’s workshop covering 75 per cent, and launching several drivers motivational initiatives; such as the Ideal Driver Award (Drivers Performance System) amounting to two million dirham, and the Distinguished Driver Award. DTC also stepped up the monitoring campaigns of vehicles, and introduced a service for lifting drivers, on the same lines of RTA Awselni service, from DTC premises to their homes and vice versa through contracting with a company to offer three buses to run the service.

DTC also assigned due attention to customer service through heeding to their feedbacks and currently attend to carry out body washing of 1,500 vehicles per day and cabin cleaning of 25 vehicles per day.

DTC is also running a number of excellent services for the public such as the Airport Taxi, Ladies Taxi, District Taxi, Hatta Taxi, and Special Needs Taxi. Currently the fleet of Airport Taxi comprises 350 cabs deployed on Terminals 1, 2 and 3 manned by 800 trained drivers.

Sustained Drive

RTA is proceeding with the construction of the existing infrastructure projects, particularly mass transit systems, introduction of transportation policies and legislations to promote public transport,  broaden the application of modern traffic and transport technologies, and increase the educational substance delivered to road and transportation system users in a bid to promote the use of public transport. RTA is also seeking to improve the safety levels, reduce traffic accidents mortality rates, and introduce a package of initiatives and procedures to encourage short-distance walking and cycling.

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