x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Clearer roads inspire moves to new communities

Residents of newer communities in Dubai have mostly welcomed the building of an extensive road network in the city as alternatives to the crowded Sheikh Zayed Road.

DUBAI // A move from Bur Dubai or Deira to Jumeirah Islands or Motor City was once viewed as leaving the heart of the city for the middle of nowhere.
Today, that perception has changed as road connections have improved, granting faster access into and out of the new communities.
Those who have made the jump are recommending a move away from the city centre. Residents of the newer communities have mostly welcomed the building of an extensive road network as alternatives to the crowded Sheikh Zayed Road.
Making sure access to those developments and others is free of hassles is an important part of the allure of these communities, helping property prices rise through consistent demand.
Keeping roadways up to date and building new streets are vital to keeping people flowing into the more modern areas of New Dubai, said Jesse Downs, the director of research at the property consultancy Landmark Advisory.
"Infrastructure and property trends go hand in hand," she said. "The new highway interchange at the intersection of Emirates Road and Umm Suqeim Road has helped solidify the demand for areas like Arabian Ranches and Motor City."
Ms Downs also cited accessibility as a decisive factor that can tip the scales when people go house hunting. That proved true for the former Bur Dubai resident Jagruti Kothari, who moved to Jumeirah Islands last month.
A change in work location for Mrs Kothari's jeweller husband from the Gold Souk to Jumeirah Lakes Towers prompted the family to search for a new home. Getting into and out of the community easily were high on the family's shopping list because of problems near their former home, she said.
"Traffic was awful then. It was a nightmare," she recalled. "But [the] Al Khail and Emirates roads have made travel easy. We chose Jumeirah Islands because of its proximity to everything from grocery shopping to schools."
Nida Yusuf, the mother of a 10-month-old baby, initially found it tough to settle into Motor City two years ago, after relocating from downtown Dubai. Her point of view changed after roadway improvements eased local travel.
"I did feel we made a mistake when we moved here. It was quite a hassle," she said. "The feeling did change six months ago. Emirates Road has made it very easy to take me anywhere I want to go."
Many long-time Dubai residents, including Nabil Hamade, a Beirut-born engineer, supported the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority's (RTA's) road network plans. His support came with a catch, as he believed it was time to plan for the future, with more pedestrian-friendly initiatives.
"I believe the biggest accomplishment of the RTA is planning and execution of the roads and bridges expansion project," he said. "Access to downtown and financial districts have become some of the best in the world compared to Jeddah, Riyadh, or Beirut. What is missing now is more friendly roadways for pedestrians, joggers and bikers."
However good the roads might be, connectivity and access to public transportation are lacking in some new communities. While Jumeirah Islands has bus service to the Ibn Battuta Metro stop, Motor City residents must walk 10 minutes to the nearest bus stop in Arabian Ranches.
"This infrastructure should have been set up before residents moved in," Mrs Kothari said. "People require more buses. It would make life easier."
Both Mrs Kothari and Mrs Yusuf said they believed they were in better places than friends who live in New Dubai developments such as Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) and Dubai Marina, which suffer from clogged roads, insufficient exits and constant construction work.
The recurring complaint from residents there was that glitches in slightly older developments have not yet been fixed, while at the same time roads to newer communities were under construction.
"There must be more entrances into JLT and the Marina," said Patricia Graaf, a bank employee and JLT resident.
"To get to one building you need to go all the way around [the access road]. It's ridiculous and irritating. Construction here never seems to end, so why aren't there more exits?"
Motorists must enter the residences from the east or west, and can only exit to the west and north. The transport authority said it was working toward addressing residents' complaints.
"We are aware of the situation and appropriate steps are being considered," said an RTA official who declined to be named.
Ms Downs, however, warned that those concerns must be addressed sooner rather than later because the JLT and Marina areas will become much more populous over the next decade as the rest of their development is completed.
"At that time, there probably won't be sufficient parking and roads to support car ownership ratios," she said. "Without viable transportation alternatives and infrastructure improvements, the area will not reach its full potential."
 
Dh2.2bn for upgrades
The RTA set aside Dh2.29 billion this year for upgrading Dubai's roads. The emirate's government will continue to extend its roads network in the belief that infrastructure investment is the core driver of any cosmopolitan city, Mattar al Tayer, the chairman of the RTA board, told the RTA monthly magazine Al Masar this year.
Of the total RTA allocation of Dh10.7 billion for the year, Dh2.8 billion was its operational budget and Dh7.9 billion was its capital and project budget for new and existing projects. About 29 per cent of the budget was spent on roads and traffic projects, and the rest on rail, public transport, licensing and marine agencies. The RTA's revenue forecast for this year is Dh3.3 billion.
 
rtalwar@thenational.ae