x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Bus lanes are given the green light

Passengers happy as decision is another step in attracting more people to leave cars and use public transport around the capital.

A dedicated lane will help speedier movement of buses in the capital.
A dedicated lane will help speedier movement of buses in the capital.

ABU DHABI // Bus users and transport experts have welcomed plans for bus-only lanes on two streets in the capital's congested city centre. The Executive Committee approved the lanes on Zayed the First and Hamdan streets on Wednesday, along with Department of Transport projects to construct more air-conditioned bus shelters in the emirate and to improve a road connecting the towns of Madinat Zayed and Gayathi in Al Gharbia.

Farida Ahmad Siddiqui, 64, who uses the bus regularly to get around town, said a separate bus lane was a good idea because the road was already choked with traffic. Ms Siddiqui, from Canada, said: "We wouldn't have a problem with a separate lane. It is more difficult to drive with a bus in the way." Loveena, a teacher at Al Nahda National School for Boys, who takes a bus to and from the school near Mohammed bin Khalifa and Fourth streets, said she thought a bus-only lane would make travelling easier and stop the practice of some motorists parking in the lay-bys that are intended for buses and taxis. With taxis and sometimes private vehicles stopping there, buses must stop on the road and either wait for vehicles to clear the lay-by or drop passengers off away from the kerb.

"Everyone travels on the [lay-bys] now," she said. "If they stick to the rules, it would be better." The report on the bus lanes did not provide details such as when the department would introduce them, whether an additional lane would be created for the buses or existing lane converted or whether taxis would also be allowed to use the lanes. An e-mail requesting details from the department about the bus lanes and the air conditioned bus shelters was not responded to yesterday.

An objective of the Department of Transport's Surface Transport Master Plan, released in April last year, is to get more people on public transport and out of their cars. The plan, which includes a metro and tram system, would see between 25 and 35 per cent of residents travelling regularly by public transport in the next 20 years. Kailish Tiwari, a bus rapid transit expert working with KEO International Consultants in Abu Dhabi, said bus-only lanes will help reach this goal. He expected the DoT would be doing detailed traffic impact studies to ensure that it did not disrupt traffic.

"One has to do a very detailed study, otherwise it will be total chaos," Mr Tiwari said. "It is a very good idea and if it is not done properly in the first place then they will never be able to implement it." Taking an existing vehicle lane and making it for buses only without creating extra capacity was controversial, he said, and had caused problems in the Indian town of Pune recently. Mr Tiwari, who was part of a team which implemented high-occupancy vehicle lanes in the Australian cities of Adelaide and Sydney, said that priority traffic signals for buses, as well as strict enforcement to keep private cars out of the lanes, were essential for a bus rapid-transit network to work.

The Roads and Transport Authority is building dedicated bus and taxi lanes on four roads in the city centre at a cost of Dh8.5 million. Police are fining drivers Dh600 for improper use of the lane. The department is also planning for 480 air conditioned bus shelters, according to WAM, the state news agency. The first shelter was opened last summer with the department saying there would be 80 operating by September. Some were connected to generators at first, as the department waited for the Abu Dhabi Distribution Company to connect them to a power source.

It was not clear how many of those shelters are now operating. The department will also be upgrading a road between Madinat Zayed and Gayathi from a single lane in each direction to two lanes which will be separated by a median strip. mchung@thenational.ae