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05 December 2023

Dubai Tram 100-day milestones: 1m commuters...

Dubai Tram is 100 days old today. (Supplied)

By Majorie van Leijen

Dubai Tram became officially operational on November 11 last year. Today, February 19, the Tram has been in service for 100 days. 

Emirates 24|7 takes a look back at these early days of the latest addition to the emirate’s transport network. 

The number of passengers has been higher than expected, said Muhammad Mudharrab, Director of Rail at Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

Dubai Tram serves some of the popular tourist and residential destinations in Dubai, such as Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR). 

The month of December saw a surprising number of passengers, with a recorded 320,795 passengers commuting through the Tram. In January, the number of passengers was 301,299, and in November 210,658 riders were counted.

Added up, this means 832,752 passengers got on the Tram between November-January. In the first 100 days, this number has likely to have hit the million-mark. 

The number of passengers recorded in the first three months was 7 per cent higher than expected, and in November the number exceeded expectations with as much as 14 per cent, Mudharrab said.

“People are excited to try the new Tram and visit an area that they may not have travelled to before.”

Dubai Marina station has proven to be the most popular station on Dubai Tram, followed by Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT). This is in accordance with the prediction that Dubai Tram would prove specifically popular in these areas, which were previously difficult to access.

“One of the successes of Dubai Tram is that on weekends, more people are using the Tram to reach the JBR and Marina areas,” pointed Mudharrab out.

Dubai Tram penetrates the area at various points, other than Dubai Metro, which serves the area along Sheikh Zayed Road. Reaching the area by car can also prove quite troublesome due to limited parking spaces and high traffic volumes, especially during the weekend.

However, the success does not only stem from the appeal to the short-term visitor; residents and regular travelers to the areas make eager use of the Tram as well. In fact, 80 per cent of the Tram user is a regular user, while 20 per cent is a short-term visitor or tourist, said Mudharrab.

Especially residents in JBR have been grateful with the latest addition to their community. With only a limited number of options to get out of the crowded streets during rush hour, most used to opt for the cab, to get to a nearby destination or to the nearest Metro station.

However, hailing a cab often proved to be a daunting task. “It used to take me 30 minutes to find a taxi, but it was the only option for me to get to office. Now I am taking the Tram. It is not as fast as a taxi but at least I do not have to wait for it,” said Shelly Wayne, an American resident in JBR.

Traffic awareness

Although Dubai Tram has proven to be a success in the area, there are challenges too. Public awareness, specifically among road users regarding the road signs, traffic signals, and junctions pertaining to tram operations is one of those challenges, said Mudharrab.

On December 17, an accident involving Dubai Tram and a vehicle occurred in JBR. A motorist took a left turn while the traffic light was red, mistaking the traffic light for traffic heading straight to be his directive. A tram approached at the same time and a clash was the result.

A week later, the RTA announced it would close the left and U-turn at 5 main intersections in Dubai Marina and JBR. “The RTA recently conducted a comprehensive study through a specialist international consultancy firm to assess the current situation as regards the overlapping tram and vehicular traffic at five junctions at the Marina and the JBR. Based on the findings of the study, the RTA has endorsed the blocking of leftward turns and U-turns in five junctions,” said Mattar Al Tayer, Executive Director of the RTA at the time.

A potential risk also unfolds at the pedestrian crossing on Tram stations, where passengers who have just disembarked the tram are eager to cross the track immediately.

According to the traffic rules introduced with the launch of the Tram, the latter always has right of way. Pedestrians crossing the tracks must always look before they move, and wait if the Tram is passing by. But this does not always happen, say security staff at the stations.

“Pedestrians often cross right after they have come out of the Tram, and do not wait for the Tram to pass. Or, they come down from the Metro bridge and run onto the track to catch the Tram, without watching if it is moving or not,” said a security staff.

As a temporary measure, pedestrian crossings are cordoned off, leaving only little space for the pedestrian to pass through, he explained. 

The loop

Another challenge came with an improvement made to the Tram route in December. While passengers were served by a new route within a route, the Tram directions became a little more complicated too.

After a month of operations, a new route was incorporated enabling passengers to make short and convenient trips within Dubai Marina, JLT and JBR area. The route encompasses the loop that Dubai Tram makes between the stations 1-4, and does not extend beyond these stations.

This made it all the more important for passengers to understand the directions of the Tram route, as displayed on the platform screens. There were now two different routes, and choosing the wrong route could lose the passenger a lot of time.

However, the platform screens are everything but clear, report Tram users. “The destination reads Al Sufouh or JLT. I do not know what that means,” said Liesl Carr, a South African resident of Dubai.

Apart from the destination there is mention of front or rear, other indicators which ring few bells among the commuters. The mention of a rear or front train approaching is a temporary display which will soon be changed, said Muhammad when the Tram was introduced.

“In a couple of weeks, the display of information will be updated, and these terms will no longer be displayed. Instead, the final destination will be mentioned, which is either JBR or Al Sufouh,” he explained at the time.