DUBAI // Taxis will stop paying the Salik road toll from Dec 2, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced yesterday. The RTA said it would scrap the Dh4 charge to make the taxi service more attractive to customers. The decision takes effect on Dec 2, the UAE's 37th National Day. The authority also announced it would allocate 200 new taxis to a new "district zone" covering some of the busiest parts of the city, including Satwa, Karama and Port Saeed, areas in which it is notoriously difficult to find taxis. The special taxis, which will have a distinguishing banner, will be allowed to pick up passengers only within the zone even if that means returning to the zone empty.
All city taxis and franchised taxi companies will be exempt from the Salik toll, which has been passed on to customers, said Essa Abdul-Rahman al Dossari, the chief executive of the RTA's public transport agency. "This step helps promote the ideal tourist and civilised profile of Dubai as it entails a considerable impact on taxi passengers by taking them to their intended destinations in a prompt and smooth manner," he said.
The RTA introduced the Salik toll on July 1, 2007, to discourage traffic from travelling on especially congested routes. Vehicles passing the electronic toll gates are automatically charged Dh4, up to a maximum of Dh24. Two toll gates were opened initially and two more were introduced in September this year. Thirty special taxis are already working in the "district zone" during a trial phase and all 200 will be deployed in the next three months. The RTA conducted field studies to identify districts with high demand for taxis and specified 15 areas. The taxis will pick up passengers only in Satwa, Hudaiba, Jafliah, Mankhool, Karama, Rifaah, Umm Harir, Khubaib, Hamriya, Riqqa, Al-Nasr, Muraqqabat, Abu Hail, Hor Al-Anz, and Port Saeed.
"RTA is constantly seeking to keep pace with developments in the transport industry through offering innovative solutions capable of improving the mechanism of all RTA operations," Mr Dossari said. "This will improve the smooth, quick and excellent conduct of transactions to serve the largest possible number of clients." Brian Johnson, a commuter who works in Satwa, welcomed the decision to allocate special taxis for specific areas. "I live in the Marina and don't have a car so I rely heavily on taxis. I am glad they are doing something about it because getting a taxi here at 5pm is next to impossible. I try and get a lift as often as possible to the Fairmount Hotel to find a taxi but it does not always work out and I end up waiting maybe two hours sometimes for a cab," he said.
Amanda Fletcher, 23, a commuter who usually takes a taxi to work, said the decision to scrap the taxi toll would save her Dh40 a week because she passes though the Mall of the Emirates Salik gate morning and evening. "It all adds up," said Ms Fletcher, who recently moved to Dubai. "Every month that's Dh160 which could cover a few days' grocery shopping. I was surprised at the amount of traffic in Dubai, even if there was a toll on Sheikh Zayed Road. I think it is a good idea for the commuter but I'm not sure if it will do anything about the traffic jams."
The RTA also announced yesterday that it had approved five companies to supply its Dh8.6 billion order for 1,616 buses. The buses will include standard size, double-deckers and articulated vehicles. Modern technologies on board will include bus stop announcements, global positioning system devices to track buses linked to the RTA's control centre, and internal and external monitors. The number of buses operating in Dubai is expected to reach 2,500 by the end of 2009.
They will be used as "feeders" at Metro stops when the new lines start operating from September 2009. "This will contribute to raising the number of person trips made by mass transit modes to 30 per cent by 2020," Mr Dossari said. email@example.com