753b1d28cda49210VgnVCM200000e66411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2008-Q2Motorists to be priced out of driving653b1d28cda49210VgnVCM200000e66411ac____Motorists to be priced out of drivingAs transport officials introduce financial penalties to lure people out of cars and on to public transport, motorists cry foul.As transport officials introduce financial penalties to lure people out of cars and on to public transport, motorists cry foul.<p>As transport officials introduce financial penalties to lure people out of their cars and on to public transport, motorists are crying foul claiming the cost of driving in the city is already too high.
The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) aims to increase use of public transport seven-fold over the next 12 years by encouraging motorists to use a new multibillion dirham, integrated mass transport system which includes water transport, taxis, buses and the Dubai Metro, due to open in September next year.</p>
<p>Motorists will face increasingly widespread and expensive road-use charges - levied though the existing Salik (toll) system - as well as high parking and vehicle registration fees.
But several motorists said driving in Dubai was expensive enough already.
Officials publicly admit the measures are intended to hit people in the pocket, in turn forcing lower-income drivers on to public transport.
Ibrahim Orabi, 23, from Egypt, works as a driver and finds it hard enough to afford the existing Salik charges.</p>
<p>He described the proposed price rises as "outrageous".
"Yes, the roads are too busy which is very annoying, but it is not a good idea to make things even more expensive. It's outrageous.
"I can barely afford to run my car as it is, and I do my best to avoid the Salik gates when I can. What am I supposed to do when they make parking more expensive and make Salik more widespread? I'll have no choice but to give up driving, which is my livelihood - where does that leave me?"</p>
<p>The RTA's vision of separating motorists from their vehicles comes from a realisation that Dubai's roads are unable to cope with the vast number of cars in the city, particularly during the morning and evening commuter rush-hours.
An upgraded mass transit system will incorporate the Metro, taxis, buses and an extensive water transport network stretching from the creek to the Palm and World island developments along the coast.</p>
<p>Additionally, there are about Dh9billion (US$2.45bn) of road improvement projects under way.
Abdul Redha Abu al Hassan, the director of rail planning at the RTA, said improved infrastructure and the provision of a world-class luxury public transport system alone would not solve congestion in a city which boasts the highest car ownership rate in the world (541 vehicles per 1,000 residents). Forcing people off the roads by increasing costs is the other method.</p>
<p>But David Latino, 29, who works in IT and lives in Dubai Marina, is sceptical. "OK, it will reduce the number of cars on the road for people who can still afford to drive, but what about the people who can't?" he said.
"Certainly, if public transport stayed at the standard we have here today, it would be a terrible situation for those people forced to use it, but I suppose if they improve it, so it's more on a par with Paris, that makes it more bearable.</p>
<p>"Traffic is a big problem in this city. I chose to live close to where I work in internet City purely because of traffic issues.
"I used to live in Abu Dhabi and the traffic was much better. I find the worst situation is driving towards the airport in the early evening. It's just a nightmare."
The controversial Salik road toll was launched amid much confusion last summer and is generally credited with reducing the density of traffic along the Sheikh Zayed Road.</p>
<p>The system, however, was plagued by teething problems in the early days.
A shortage of Salik tags and a backlog of orders from car rental companies meant many frustrated motorists were passing through the gates illegally from day one. The RTA eventually waived all fines incurred in the first few weeks.
Motorists avoiding the toll gates then faced heavy traffic jams on alternative routes which had previously been relatively uncongested.</p>
<p>This was particularly true of the crowded central business districts of Deira and Bur Dubai.
The number of motorists using Al Shindagha Tunnel and Al Maktoum Bridge increased manifold after Salik was launched, as drivers attempted to avoid the Dh4 charge.
Abdulla Al Taheri, a 38-year-old Emirati airline captain, said he was happy with driving costs at the current level.
"I think traffic is getting better as they are building new bridges and widening roads around the city. My view is that the current prices of running a car are reasonable, and I wouldn't want to see them go up any more.</p>
<p>"I believe Salik is a good idea, and it's made a positive difference, but not for everywhere. It is fine where it is, but it doesn't need to be put in other places."
However, some motorists agreed with the planned strategy.
Mimi Yang, 35, a Korean American living in Dubai Marina, said: "I don't really have any complaints about that. It's fair enough, if it alleviates the problem of congestion."
Reghu Rethinaswamy, 36, a landscaping supervisor originally from India, faces a daily commute between his home in Sharjah and his office in Al Barsha. He said: "There's far too much traffic in Dubai.</p>
<p>"I spend up to two hours commuting every morning and again in the evening, and I get very angry and frustrated and it makes me so tired.
"I think what they're proposing is a good idea. As an engineering company we need our vehicles to be able to move around the city more easily."
Jalal Alghani, 50, a company executive, said: "Most of the time, I'm stuck in traffic and parking is a big problem.
"Dubai is becoming more expensive than New York and London, and that's just part of the inconvenience we have to put up with.</p>
<p>"It sounds like by putting up the price of driving they're just trying to solve the problem of traffic jams so you could say it's a necessary evil."
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