Driving Dubai on the fast-track to being super-connected
The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is celebrating on November 1, 2015, its 10th anniversary with huge achievements despite multiple challenges encountered from the early days of establishing the RTA.
It had to tackle right from the beginning the transfer of tasks, assets and technological systems from the Dubai Municipality, General HQ of Dubai Police, and Dubai Transportation Corporation in a record time.
It also had to address the sourcing of competent administrative and technical cadres, ease the traffic congestion, improve the traffic safety level, and increase the ridership of public transport means.
Overall, it has managed to achieve more than 90% of its strategic plan covering matters related to upgrading the infrastructure of roads, public transit means, pedestrian facilities and traffic safety.
The flagship projects of the decade are the Dubai Metro and Dubai Tram, followed by the sprawling network of roads, underpasses, flyovers as well as public transit systems and a variety of marine transit modes.
Mattar Al Tayer, Director General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the RTA
Mattar Al Tayer, Director General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the RTA, offered thanks and appreciation to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai; 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 Deputy Chairman of the Executive Council, for the huge and continuous support they lend to the RTA.
“During the first months of establishing the RTA, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum endorsed the strategic plan of the RTA covering roads and public transport network in the tune of Dh75 billion.
His Highness directed all other government departments and entities to extend every support to the RTA during the establishment period. Multiple visits to the RTA were made by Sheikh Mohammed as well as Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum and Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, who were keen to launch such strategic projects like the Dubai Metro, Dubai Tram, marine transit modes and a variety of road projects.
The RTA embarked on sorting out solutions for challenges confronting the transportation system in Dubai; which focused on easing the traffic congestion involving a financial burden of about Dh5.9 billion worth of time wasted in traffic congestion, traffic accidents related fatalities of about 21.7 cases per 100,000 of population compared to five in countries like the UK and six in Sweden.
Challenges also included the limited use of mass transit systems, which was not more than 6 per cent compared to 40 per cent in developed countries and even hits 70 per cent in certain countries.
Challenges also included serving the requirements of the rapid urban and economic expansion of the Dubai where traffic growth rate clocked 13 per cent per annum compared to 2 to 3 per cent in European cities.
The annual growth of Dubai’s population was in excess of 6 per cent during the period 2005 – 2008 whereas the corresponding rate in most European cities was not more than 2 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 4 per cent in European cities.
To confront these challenges, the RTA developed a flexible organisational chart separating legislation from construction. It developed a comprehensive plan for upgrading roads network and public transit systems, set a model for forecasting the future traffic movement in the Emirate, and adopted quick solutions in more than 120 locations.
It has also undertaken concurrent projects and accomplished them in a record time such as the Floating Bridge, Al Garhoud Bridge, Dubai Metro, and the Business Bay Crossing. It has also developed a high-quality mass transit system comprising the metro, tram, buses and marine transit modes, besides adopting smart technologies to ease the mobility of people.
RTA’s achievements are highlighted by the construction and operation of the Dubai Metro, the longest driverless metro in the world. The idea of constructing the Dubai Metro was based on the solid belief in the vitality of Metro systems in providing a world-class infrastructure raising the profile of Dubai as the global hub for finance and business.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed envisioned the Metro as the backbone of a transport system linking vital areas in the Emirate and offering smooth and safe mobility for riders. Thus, the Dubai Metro was constructed with the highest-quality levels and deluxe finishing as His Highness said: “I want Dubai Metro stations to be like Burj Al Arab Hotel so that it will become the first mobility choice of community members.”
The Dubai Metro has 79 trains; each train consists of 5 coaches with a capacity of 643 riders (four riders per square metre).
The Dubai Metro applies the latest rail technologies including an air-conditioning system inside stations and trains compatible with climatic conditions of the urban Dubai. Trains are operated by an integrated electronic system enabling the control of accurate trip timing, reducing the time intervals between services, if needed, in a way enabling the operation of the service at a capacity accommodating up to 26,000 riders per hour per direction.
The fact that Dubai Metro has achieved huge success is reflected by indicators of operational efficiency, accuracy of service timing, and the highest safety standards at world class levels. From the start of operations in September 2009 till September 2015, the Dubai Metro has transported more than 656 million riders.
The construction of the Dubai Tram has added a new element to RTA’s efforts towards cementing the infrastructure of the Dubai Emirate. It is a brainchild of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to provide an advanced transit system to serve JBR, Marina, and Al Sufouh.
Such a project was vital in view of the changing profile of the area, high population density, high number of trips, and limited right-of-way for roads.
Thus, it was essential to develop an integrated solution to carry out radical improvements of roads network, intersections, and a mass transit system linked with the Dubai Metro and the Monorail of the Palm Jumeirah.
On November 11, 2014, Sheikh Mohammed inaugurated the formal operation of the Dubai Tram.
The tramway extends 11kms along Al Sufouh Road starting from the Marina up to the Tram Depot near the Dubai Police Academy. It comprises 11 stations focused on high population density and business activity areas. The fleet comprises 11 trams, each has a capacity to accommodate 292 riders.
The Dubai Tram is considered the first tram system outside Europe powered by ground (catenary free) electric cables throughout the entire line, the world’s first tram network to use platform screen doors fully-aligned with the tram’s doors opening and closing mechanism, the world's first tram project with fully air-conditioned stations, and the first tram that has gold class and coaches dedicated to women and children.
It boasts of high-class standards of interior finishing in coaches, and deluxe stations.
The tram is fitted with the latest technologies of transmitting and displaying information and entertainment materials.
Some tram stations are fitted with air-conditioned bridges as well as escalators, and lifts. The project design has been tailored to serve the needs of the disabled and seniors.
It goes without saying that the planning, designing, and construction of major roads and transport projects take long time before they can finally pay dividends after operation. However, during this short period, the RTA managed to achieve several mega achievements as the number of lanes crossing the Dubai Creek which soared from 19 lanes in 2006 to 48 lanes in 2015 reflecting a 153 per cent rise. Several vital projects have been constructed including the 13-lane Business Bay Crossing with a capacity of about 26,000 vehicles per hour.
It replaced the old Al Garhoud Bridge with a new one comprising 14 lanes, with a capacity of 32,000 vehicles per hour. The six-lane Floating Bridge has also been constructed using military technology, in addition to widening Al Maktoum Bridge from 9 to 11 lanes.
The length of roads network has extended from 8,715 lane-kilometers in 2006 to 13,335 lane-kilometers by the end of September 2015, recording an increase of 53%. The Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road has been widened from entrance of Sharjah up to the Arabian Ranches Interchange from 6 to 12 lanes, with a capacity of more than 24,000 vehicles per hour.
The Emirates Road has been improved as a new hub, consisting of 12 lanes, and 15 interchanges including 3 flyovers and 12 underpasses for turns.
The Emirates Road, which had only 4 lanes in the past, now spans 72 kilometers, extending from the entrance of Sharjah up to the entrance of Abu Dhabi.
The RTA also completed Al Khail Road Improvement and Widening Project, which extends about 15 km, starting from the intersection with Al Meydan Road to the intersection with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road, comprising 6 lanes in each direction. The then existing 4 roundabouts have been converted to multi-level free movement interchanges.
Work is underway to complete the construction of new parallel roads to the Sheikh Zayed Road project, with total length of about 31 kilometers. The project includes the construction of 23 bridges extending 8 km at interchanges to ensure the smooth traffic flow in the area.
The first interchange on Sheikh Zayed Road is one of the vital and sophisticated interchanges carried out by the RTA, where bridges span more than 3km, while the total length of tunnels is about 850 metres. The importance of the project lies in its vital location on Sheikh Zayed Road, in close vicinity of Burj Khalifa, and Dubai International Financial Centre.
The project, which connects these areas with the main streets including Sheikh Zayed Road and Dubai International Financial Centre, also provides free traffic movement in all directions. The RTA has replaced the old Arabian Ranches roundabout on Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road with a flyover consisting of 13 bridges and one underpass.
In addition, it broadened Umm Suqeim Road to include 4 lanes in each direction, and Al Qudra Road to two lanes in each direction. The RTA has also completed several interchanges such as Tecom, Al Sufouh, Emirates Hills, and the Palm Jumeirah entrances in addition to the interchange 5.5 on Sheikh Zayed Road, the intersection of Beirut Road with Al Nahda Road, and elevated bridges of the Financial Center Road, the first double-decker road in the region. Moreover, most phases of Al Ittihad Road broadening project have been completed. These road network improvement and expansion have increased speed rates on the main mobility hubs.
Dubai Water Canal
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in the presence of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council, and Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, inaugurated on October 2, 2013, the construction on the Dubai Water Canal project; which will link the Business Bay District with the Arabian Gulf.
The water canal, which crosses the heart of Dubai, adds multiple tourist attractions and a gorgeous outlook to Dubai city. Construction works started by building bridges crossing the canal on the Sheikh Zayed Road, Jumeirah Road and Al Wasl Road. The canal will also feature 5 marine transport stations.
The project will feature a cast of deluxe luxury houses, footpaths, and cycling tracks, as well as deluxe retail outlets, luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants.
Jumeirah Corniche extends 14 kilometres from the beach adjacent to 6 residential areas, behind Dubai Marine Beach Resort up to Burj Al Arab hotel.
The Corniche includes a walkway of 5 meters in width, a 4-meter wide running track, rest areas with commercial stalls, and shaded sitting areas overlooking the beach, as well as public and health facilities. The project features a distinctive beautiful touch thanks to the landscaping works, which will be further ameliorated and distributed in highly coordinated style, in addition to the decorative lighting with innovative stylish design.
The RTA has built cycling lanes of more than 178km long, of which 138km track extends from Seih Assalam up to Nad Al Sheba.
The RTA has implemented a series of quick solutions to improve traffic in more than 120 spots, which resulted in improved traffic safety and mobility at such locations in varying degrees.
The RTA has also taken several traffic safety measures at par with the world’s best practices, which proved effective, and resulted in an unprecedented reduction in road accidents fatality rate in Dubai emirate over the past ten years.
The roads safety promotion efforts made by the RTA in cooperation with the General Headquarters of Dubai Police contributed to reducing the traffic accidents fatality rate from 22 deaths per 100 thousand persons in 2006 to nearly 12.7 deaths per 100 thousand people in 2009. This downward trend continued in 2014 diving to about 3.5 deaths per 100 thousand persons, while pedestrian fatalities rate plummeted from 8.4 deaths per 100 thousand persons in 2006 to less than only one death case per 100 thousand persons in 2014.
The RTA implemented a number of initiatives to improve the traffic safety by studying and implementing the recommendations of traffic safety strategy during the period from 2008 to 2015, which resulted in lowering fatality rate by about 70%. To further ensure pedestrian safety, the RTA implemented the Strategic Plan for Pedestrians Safety, which brought down pedestrians fatality rate by 40% during the period from 2009 to 2014. The RTA constructed 100 footbridges, while work is up and running to construct 17 footbridges during the period from 2015 to 2017.
The RTA had also inspected the traffic safety elements in all new road projects all over the emirate, and had proactively inspected the traffic safety elements in existing roads with a special focus on roadside designs. This move contributed to diminishing fatality rate by 39% during the period from 2006 to 2014, besides analysing and tackling traffic accidents hotspots, as no less than 70 locations are studied annually, which resulted in reducing fatality by 30%.
The RTA culminated its efforts to scoop a number of coveted international and regional traffic safety awards, including the Prince Michael International Award for Traffic Safety in 2012, Gulf Traffic Award for Traffic Safety Achievements in 2009 and 2013, and the IRF award for traffic safety achievements.
Thanks to its advanced mass transit systems, the RTA managed to increase the share of public transport means in the mobility of people from less than 6% in 2006 to about 14% in 2014, and is still seeking to reach the target of 30% in 2030. In order to improve and broaden public bus services, the RTA deployed standard, articulated and double-decker buses as well as eco-friendly buses fitted with state-of-the-art engines conforming to Euro IV & V standards. The RTA also opened more than 252 routes in the emirate, and improved the efficiency of public buses by accessing new areas.
The public bus fleet in Dubai soared to 1512 buses, including 170 double-decker buses, 996 standard buses, and 346 articulated buses. The RTA has prepared comprehensive plans for conducting trips as per preset timetables, and attached utmost attention to drivers, periodic maintenance, inspection and surveillance, in addition to security and safety standards.
New integrated bus depots had been built in Jebel Ali, Al Khawaneej, Al Rawiyyah and Al Awir. An automated system named Automated Vehicle Management System,' was also developed to control buses movement.
It had been designed in line with the world's best practices, covering a monitoring and follow-up area of 83 million square meters. This system has contributed to activating communication between the Control Center and bus drivers.
To ensure convenience for bus users, and avoid scorching summers, the RTA has constructed 895 air-conditioned bus shelters for passengers in a bid to offer first-class services and ensure comfort for bus users. The RTA is yet poised to install additional 400 air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned bus shelters in different areas in Dubai, in keeping with the demand of public transport users, thus bringing the total number of air-conditioned bus shelters to 1295. Moreover, solar-powered bus shelters have been installed as innovative solutions in places lacking electric power.
The RTA had also announced the launch of the first green bus in Dubai with clean-environment technology, powered by biofuels produced from re-refining edible oil.
The marine transport sector is an integral part of mass transit systems in Dubai as it lifts about 13 million riders every year. Due to its importance of the marine transit modes, which constitute a key part of the public transport system in the emirate, the RTA had charted a comprehensive plan to upgrade marine transport systems. The plan includes establishing marine lines in Dubai Creek, and along the coastline of Jumeirah beaches to serve tourists in the emirate, not to mention the lines linking the city center to the man-made islands such as Palm Jumeirah, World Islands and the tourist resorts on the Arabian Gulf, as part of the plan to integrate marine transport with other means of transport.
On 4 March 2011, Dubai Ferry was inaugurated, the latest and largest RTA's marine transport mode which can accommodate 100 passengers. It is the third project in RTA's strategic plan intended to upgrade the marine transit system, besides the Water Bus and the Water Taxi. The plan also included modernizing the traditional Abras.
In May 2010, the Water Taxi was inaugurated, adding a fast means of transport, integrated with other mass transit systems in the emirate.
The Water Taxi is characterized by its sleek design, smooth roof, and central air-conditioning system, in addition to its comfortable reclining seat similar the business class in airplanes, with remotely-controlled LCD TVs fitted in behind the seat. Each Water Taxi has a capacity of 11 passengers, in addition to the operator. The design of the Water Taxi has also taken into account the requirements of the disabled.
Over the past ten years, the RTA has completed a number of key projects, including the retrofitting of 149 abras. The fleet has been beefed up to reach 175 abras, with abra stations & marinas renovated.
The RTA has launched the Water Bus which measures 12 metres in length, 4 metres in width, weighs 7 tons, and can accommodate 36 passengers. In August 2015, the RTA launched 5 modern Abras emulating the design of traditional abras. They are eco-friendly and operate on octane fuel, which produces lower carbon emissions.
As part of its strategic vision to prop up the level of service offerings, the RTA has introduced a host of plans and initiatives to uplift the level of services of taxicabs in Dubai, which amount today to 9927 vehicles (including the vehicles of Dubai Taxi Corporation and franchise companies). This sector offers quality and diverse services to meet the needs of all community segments.
Dubai Taxi Corporation, which has recently celebrated its 20 anniversary, was the first to establish a systematic taxi service in Dubai. It accounts for the lion's share of the market, and is the first entity in the Middle East to establish a Booking & Dispatch system, an integrated vehicles tracking system via a wireless network. Dubai Taxi Corporation operates more than 4,600 vehicles driven by approximately 11,000 cabbies from 38 nationalities.
Dubai Taxi Corporation is a flagship provider of exclusive services such as Airport Taxi, Ladies Taxi and VIP Taxi. It is also the first entity to offer services to the people with special needs in the UAE. It has made many achievements, rendering it one of the world’s top three entities in taxi services offering.
Since inception, the RTA has been keen on operating environmentally-friendly public transport. In this regard, the Dubai Taxi Corporation has started operating hybrid taxis powered by both eco-friendly fuel and electricity, as part of a comprehensive plan to curb pollution caused by vehicle emissions in Dubai.
In 2008, the RTA started the tentative operation of 20 hybrid vehicles to assess their feasibility. The idea proved practicable and the first 20 hybrid vehicles were officially inaugurated in September 2013. The number of hybrid vehicles jumped to 145 in 2015.
In April of 2015, the RTA started the investment in school transport service through its investment arm Dubai Taxi Corporation. Starting from the academic year 2015 – 2016, 111 world-class and eco-friendly buses were deployed to transport private schools students.
The school transportation buses were equipped by state-of-the-art technologies such as Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) and Geographical Positioning Systems (GPS) compatible with smart geo-addressing system (Makani) of Dubai Municipality, and the Tracking System through the Operations Control Center. All buses are fitted with technologies compatible with the environmental requirements thanks to their state-of-the-art engines conforming to Euro IV & V standards, using diesel fuel with only 50 ppm sulfur content. The buses have deluxe interior finishing, noise-free environment, ample space, and luxurious seats that ensure students' convenience, in addition to a hydraulic suspension system that ensures students easy boarding and alighting.
The services on offer by the Licensing Agency witnessed a quantum leap, be it in terms of the number of registered vehicles, driving licenses or customers’ service delivery. The number of vehicles registered in Dubai hiked from 740,000 vehicles in 2006, to 1,526,667 vehicles by the end of September 2015, while the total number of driving licenses issued topped 2.007 million licenses up to the end of last September.
To keep pace with the rising demand for licensing services, the RTA launched several initiatives to improve the quality of drivers' training & licensing services such as raising the traffic awareness of novice drivers, and integration with the federal traffic system, besides developing & diversifying RTA's customer service offering outlets. The licensing services are now offered through new and innovative channels, namely smart applications, call center, RTA's website, and RTA trusted agents in addition to the RTA's traditional service centers and service providers. Currently 49 different services are offered via the smart app (drivers and vehicles), such as issuing certificates, renewing driving licenses, renewing vehicles ownership and selling plates online, in addition to the commercial licensing services, certificates validation services, among other services offered via RTA's website or call center. Customers are no longer required to attend in person to receive the service; however there are more than 100 services that require the presence of customers at trusted agents such as insurance companies and eye-testing centers.
The RTA has thoroughly revamped the drivers training, bringing it at par with the highest international standards. The training syllabus is standardized in all driving institutes, bringing it at par with world's best practices in Sweden, Canada and Australia.
The RTA has also prepared the 15 booklets for instructors, candidates and examiners in Arabic, English and Urdu languages. These booklets, the first of their kind in the Middle East, are now accessible to all driving license applicants.
The RTA has taken the pains of providing premium customer services, and is keen to diversify the services offering outlets highlighted by smart apps where 173 RTA's main services have been shifted to smart services offered via 10 smart apps. This falls in line with the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, by migrating to the smart government ahead of schedule. The RTA apps are unique, smart, innovative, creative and user-friendly in a way that gives users satisfaction, as proven by the huge download rate of RTA apps which has clocked 3.667 million downloads.
The RTA further broadened its smart services in October 2015 by launching the Smart Mall App in five metro stations. The App, which is the first of its kind worldwide, allows users to do shopping via an interactive innovative screen. It has also launched 100 smart air-conditioned bus shelters for public transport users, where the public can enjoy free internet connection, in addition to a variety of other services.
The RTA adopted innovative solutions to face the transportation challenges in Dubai. Thanks to the support of the wise leadership, the RTA has managed to create innovative customer services to bring happiness to the public. It has a standing innovation committee whose mission is to develop plans, design programs and launch initiatives to contribute to implementing the leadership's vision of rendering Dubai the most innovative city in the world.
The RTA also established a research, development and innovation section in 2014 and launched an annual scientific research award. It adopted the innovation strategy, which is currently being developed by an international consultant in keeping with the Government drive. It had also launched the Innovation Lab Initiative to adopt the world's best practices in various RTA operations, which would contribute to the realization of RTA’s vision of ensuring ‘Safe and Smooth Transport for All.’
The RTA has recently started the project of transforming 100 air-conditioned bus stations into smart stations that enable passengers to enjoy a diverse array of RTA services. It has launched the Smart Mall initiative in 5 Metro stations; and as part of its efforts to utilize the latest technologies in smart mobility, the RTA is currently considering the use of smart autonomous vehicles in Dubai to be used in Expo 2020.
The RTA is going ahead with its drive to meet the requirements of the Dubai Strategic Plan 2021, and prioritize the construction of infrastructure projects as spelled out in these plans. The RTA is poised to launch a wide-ranging matrix of projects, including the Route 2020 Project of extending the Dubai Metro Red Line from Nakheel Harbour & Tower station to Expo 2020 site, in addition to the project of constructing a network of highways, as well as entry and exits leading to Expo site.
The projects also include upgrading Airport Road, Al Wasl and Jumeirah Roads, and the International City Road, in addition to the parallel roads project at the Gardens, as well as the Academic City Road Improvement Project, Al Fay Street Improvement Project, among many other mass transit projects.
The RTA also seeks to implement transport policies and legislations to encourage the use of mass transit systems in cooperation with the local and federal concerned bodies. It also intends to broaden the scope of traffic systems & modern transportation technologies, and raise awareness of users of road networks and transportation systems towards encouraging the use of mass transit means, promoting safety levels, reducing traffic accidents fatality rates and implementing a set of initiatives & procedures to encourage walking and cycling in short trips.
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