x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Thousands register for carpool network

Roads and Transport Authority scheme aims to ease Dubai's traffic, tackle illegal taxis and help cut exhaust emissions.

DUBAI // Almost 6,000 people in two months have registered in an online programme that legalises carpooling, the Roads and Transport Authority said. The authority's Sharekni.ae was launched on July 21 to ease Dubai's traffic, tackle illegal taxis and help cut exhaust emissions. Peyman Younes, a spokesman for the RTA, said: "So far, 5,800 individuals have registered on the site, which is a good number for a new concept like this. Of those, 110 are actually now sharing lifts through the scheme. The others are waiting for other users with matching journey criteria to come up. The site enables commuters to register their details without charge. They can then use a search engine to identify drivers and other passengers in their area who will be taking the same route. A permit is then issued, allowing them to share lifts with up to three other people. "Carpooling is a very new concept especially for this region with many nationalities, so it needs time to be accepted. In other, developed countries you have people living in the same neighbourhood who know each other well, whereas here that is not generally the case, which makes it more difficult. "I think it will become a lot more popular with time, and we're very happy with the response." Mr Younes said the highest number of registrations had come from Filipinos, followed by Pakistanis and Indians, with a handful of UAE nationals signing up so far. Most participants were using the scheme for relatively short journeys, including commuting between Dubai and Sharjah. Dubai has the highest rate of car ownership of any city in the world, and the RTA sees carpooling as part of the overall long-term solution to the emirate's traffic woes. "There's no single magic solution, which is why we're tackling it through various transport initiatives that include carpooling," said Mr Younes. "Every little bit helps. We are co-ordinating with other emirates and the Ministry of Interior for journeys which involve travelling from Dubai to other emirates." He warned that RTA inspectors were constantly on the lookout for motorists who were carpooling without licences - an offence which carries a fine. In the past, several motorists have complained they were unfairly fined up to Dh5,000 (US$1,362) for running illegal taxi services when they gave colleagues lifts to work. Sharekni.ae enables users to select their fellow carpoolers according to their sex, nationality, age, profession and location. Passengers who change jobs and location can change their carpool rides by updating their online profiles and searching for other available seats. arichardson@thenational.ae