x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Waiting for the bus just got cooler

Abu Dhabi unveils its first air-conditioned bus shelter, the first of 170 to be opened by the summer.

This woman said that Abu Dhabi's first air-conditioned bus stop was a little on the chilly side.
This woman said that Abu Dhabi's first air-conditioned bus stop was a little on the chilly side.

ABU DHABI // The Government unveiled the emirate's first air-conditioned bus shelter yesterday, the first of 170 to be opened by the summer. The shelter near the UAE Central Bank building on Bainunah Street has eight seats with standing room for another 16 people. It includes a security camera and will eventually require a "smart card" to gain entry. Travellers would swipe the card to open the shelter.

Saeed al Hameli, the general manager of buses for the Department of Transport (DoT), said: "This air-conditioned shelter has been designed carefully to not have people sleeping in it or using it for relaxing. That's why we are having a camera in each shelter." The shelter's monitor shows route maps and provides information about the city. Passengers would also be able to log on to the internet and send an e-mail from the monitor. In future the monitors could display estimated wait times and journey times.

The DoT said it welcomed feedback on the shelters, as it is planning to build another 550 shelters in addition to the 170 to opened by summer. The department announced plans for the shelters in May, naming Stroer Concept Outdoor winners of a contract to install and maintain them over the next 10 years. The company is a partnership of the German firm Stroer Group and Concept Outdoor, a UAE enterprise.

Companies will have various advertising options at the new shelters: on top of the bus shelter, on an advertising column or on a billboard at the bus stop. Confirming earlier announcements, Mr Hameli said yesterday that customers would have to start paying for bus service in January. Mr Hameli said his department had devised a fare structure and it was awaiting approval from the Executive Council.

He said he would announce the fares next month and a public awareness campaign would be launched to prepare the public to pay the new fares. The bus service has proved popular since its introduction in June, with an estimated 50,000 people using it on a daily basis, according to surveys done by the department. "The objective was to provide the first six months free of charge to attract the public and to increase awareness of public transport.

"If we were to keep it free, yes it would serve the purpose," he added. "It would bring a lot of people, but we have to bring also a culture change." Paying a cheap fare helps passengers appreciate the value of the service, he said. Before the end of the year the department is to introduce four more routes for the island, taking the total to 11. The new routes will include an improved bus service to Abu Dhabi International Airport.

The DoT is also refurbishing 120 of the buses that operate on existing routes to suburbs such as Musaffah and Baniyas. One hundred air-conditioned, wheelchair-accessible buses from the German company MAN are to be delivered next month. The high- quality buses with space for about 60 passengers will begin operating early next year, replacing the existing fleet of 115 turqoise-green buses that passengers have been using since June. Those buses will be moved to Abu Dhabi's suburbs.

An additional 400 buses are on order with MAN and Mercedes, and as more arrive, the service will expand to include Al Ain and Al Gharbia, Mr Hameli said. By the end of 2009 there will be about 750 air-conditioned buses operating around the emirate, compared with today's fleet of about 270. By 2010, that number will reach 1,360 and there will also be 37 bus stations and six maintenance depots in the emirate.

Improving the bus service is part of larger plans that include an integrated transport network for the emirate, the details of which are to be set out next February in the department's Surface Transport Master Plan. mchung@thenational.ae