DUBAI // Dubai is to triple its bus service amid concerns people will not use the new metro system if they have to walk to stations. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) yesterday said it would increase its bus fleet to 2,000 from 600 by the time the Red Line opened in September. It will also raise the number of bus stops to 1,500 from 500 by 2010, putting every resident within a stone's throw of an air-conditioned shelter.
The RTA acknowledges people are unlikely to use the Dh15.5 billion (US$4.2bn) driverless metro system if they had to walk more than a few minutes to a station, particularly in summer months. "People say they like the idea of the metro, but that they live far away from it and do not want to walk a long time, especially in the summer," an RTA spokesman said yesterday. "We have planned it so that from anywhere in Dubai you will be no more than 400 metres from an air-conditioned bus stop, which is walkable in any temperature. The structure of public transport will be like the skeleton of a fish, with the metro as the backbone and the bus routes as the bones coming away from it."
People living in Dubai said they would be wary of giving up their cars for the metro if the additional bus routes were not in place. "I live more than a kilometre from the metro line and it would be too far to walk in the summer," said Dylan Reedie, 32, who lives in Al Barsha. "If there's a bus every five minutes I'd definitely consider it, as the traffic can be really bad getting to work, but I'll probably wait and see how smoothly it all fits together before giving up the car for good."
The design of the crescent-shaped bus shelters, which feature vending machines, ATMs, and a button allowing passengers to signal to the bus driver that they are inside without having to step out of the air-conditioning, was recently commended at the Gulf Engineering Forum in Qatar, where the RTA was given the Gulf Engineers Excellence and Creativity Award. "They are designed to keep in mind the heritage of the region, but the award was not just for how they look - it is for all the other aspects which will help encourage people to use them," the RTA spokesman said.
"They and the buses have been specifically designed for Dubai to make them convenient for users - some will have coffee shops and wi-fi access. They are state-of-the-art. "This is a public-private partnership; the land is owned by the RTA but the shelters are being built and operated by private companies. We are starting to do a lot more of our projects in this way, both to help stimulate the economy and to involve the private sector more in the development of Dubai."
The metro's 52km Red Line, which stretches the length of Sheikh Zayed Road between Al Rashidiya and Jebel Ali, is expected to carry about 27,000 passengers an hour in each direction on 42 trains, stopping at Burj Dubai and Internet City among other stations. firstname.lastname@example.org