ABU DHABI // Residents on Reem Island could be taking the bus to work by the end of the year.
The new service will be an extension of Route 7 from Marina Mall. Buses every 10 minutes will serve five destinations on the island, including Sun and Sky Towers, Marina Square and the Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi.
“Next year for the first quarter we will focus on service changes in the city of Abu Dhabi,” said Saeed Al Hameli, general manager of the bus division at the Department of Transport. “We will run more services to the suburbs.
“Right now we are looking at new services to Reem Island. We are working with the developer to introduce them.”
The department runs 99 routes and a fleet of about 570 buses.
A new service starts today from Abu Dhabi city via Mussaffah Bus Station to Tarif, about 90 kilometres west of the city. Tickets cost Dh8.
It offers an alternative to express intercity routes, which have no intermediate stops and are more expensive.
Fares in the city were doubled this month from Dh1 to Dh2, and raised on a per kilometere basis for regional and intercity services.
“There is a certain group of people for whom that is a hefty increase so we are trying to put in different layers of bus networks,” said Jit Fen Tock, acting director of planning and development of the bus division.
With bus coverage established across the emirate, the department will focus on connectivity and expanding passenger numbers with routes that target different users.
“One of our challenges is public transport perceptions, especially with a very car-orientated country,” Mr Al Hameli said.
Buses need passengers from every level of society to increase usage, he said. “My target it is to put the bus as the first choice of transport. We need everybody in.”
A card system will be introduced by the end of 2013 that can gather information about how people use services.
Users will swipe a card as they board and leave the bus, and payment will be deducted for the exact distance travelled. This will enable the department to track passenger numbers and journey lengths.
There were 35 million passenger journeys in the first half of 2012, up from 34 million in the first half of 2011. The department is on track to hit its target of 67 million this year.
This month’s fare increases will support the upgrade to automated vehicle management systems that will produce data to plan and manage routes.
Fares that reflect distance travelled are the third stage of establishing a culture of public transport in Abu Dhabi.
The first stage was free travel when buses were introduced in 2008, to familiarise the public with the service. The second stage was flat fares.
“It’s not good because we are getting a small salary,” said Nayomi Nayomi, a personal assistant from Sri Lanka. She earns Dh2,800 a month and will spend an extra Dh200 on fares after the increase.
Marivic Barbas, 31, a systems consultant from the Philippines, thought the new fares were reasonable. “For me the increase is just right,” she said.
Ms Barbas owned a car but has taken the bus regularly since a bad crash.“It’s more convenient and less stressful and the facility is safe.
“I can work while travelling, I can maximise my time. I think the common mentality here is people are too impatient to wait for the availability of the bus. But for people who are practical, it’s economical.”
Buses will be the main mode of transport until the metro is introduced. At that time, the metro service will serve as the main transport corridor.
“When you have a metro in place buses will become feeder systems to the metro,” Mr Tock said.