x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

People need other options besides cars

Buses, trams, metros, even shaded walkways are needed, and soon. These all should at least be in the planning stages for short-term implementation, because ... we're getting to the saturation point for vehicles in our major centres.

'Traffic has been a lot worse on the drive from Abu Dhabi to Dubai lately," said a colleague wryly this week.

My first reaction was, "well, that's what you get for living in Dubai". But then, I started to think about it, and he's right. I've had to make the trip quite a few times recently, and especially depending on the time of day, it can be a frustrating experience.

And, let's not forget inside the two cities themselves; there are times when it's not even worth going downtown in Abu Dhabi considering the length of time it takes to get anywhere. If there's anything I hate, it's watching the same signal light change from green to red two or three times in front of me before I can crawl my car up to it and pass through. Ugh. When will they finally perfect the flying car?

Luckily, there may be hope on the horizon. Well, in some form, anyway.

On Sunday, engineers and senior GCC officials will be meeting for a three-day conference in Dubai to discuss the increase in traffic congestion and try to come up with possible solutions. Around 600 experts will attend the biennial Gulf Engineering Forum to focus on projects to help the constantly increasing flow of traffic in the region.

Well, let's hope they find some solutions, and quick. But to find solutions, you must first come to the root of the problem.

Here's at least a large part of it: both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are growing rapidly, and with more people come more cars, especially in this country.

According to Ibrahim Yousef Ramel, the CEO of Saaed, there was a 20 per cent increase in new car registrations last year in the capital, and a 12 per cent growth in new driver registrations.

Dubai is even worse, according to a recent article that cites Dubai Statistics Centre data. Apparently, there is a 70 per cent jump in car registrations this year, numbering 890,002 in just the first three quarters of 2010. This also means that there is about one car for every two residents in Dubai.

The population is rising in the UAE, and that's going to make an impact on our roads. Did you know that, at last count in 2008, we stood at more than eight million people and counting? That's more than double what the population was in 2005.

And with all these people coming in, you can't just lay down more roads, or widen existing ones. Eventually - as we're seeing now - there will just be too many cars, which will affect not only the driving but the parking (don't even get me started on that; that's an entirely different Air Bag for another time).

I've said it before, I'll say it again: people need other options besides cars. Buses, trams, metros, even shaded walkways are needed, and soon. These all should at least be in the planning stages for short-term implementation, because - and as a car guy, I hate to say this - we're getting to the saturation point for vehicles in our major centres.

There are people who don't want to own a car in this country, believe it or not, and they pine for affordable and convenient public transportation. In fact, even I would take a bus or Metro if it was easier.

Umm, just don't ask me to give up my car or motorcycle - but I'll keep those for the weekends, honest.