x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Website to register carpoolers

New website to help ease Dubai's traffic woes by helping prospective carpoolers register and find one another.

Traffic builds up on Sheikh Zayed road.
Traffic builds up on Sheikh Zayed road.

DUBAI // Carpool lanes to help reduce traffic chaos could appear on Dubai's roads if a new website for legally registering would-be car sharers is successful, a senior transport official said. The online service, Sharekni.ae, aims to make carpooling legal and encourage people to share their vehicles to ease Dubai's frequent gridlock. It is expected to reduce traffic, help to eliminate illegal taxis and cut exhaust fumes. The site, set up by the Roads & Transport Authority (RTA), 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 match their journey criteria. Dubai has the highest rate of car ownership of any city in the world, and the RTA sees carpooling as part of the solution to the emirate's notorious traffic woes. "Carpool lanes are on the cards for Dubai, but we will have to see how successful this new scheme is and when most of the current public transport work is complete," Peyman Younes, a spokesman for the RTA, said yesterday. "First we address the illegality of carpooling by introducing this new scheme making it legal for people to share rides. Later, after we achieve more success, we will introduce carpooling lanes. "Traffic congestion on the roads of Dubai will be reduced during rush hour, more parking spots would be available, people would save more money sharing their journey and the levels of carbon dioxide on the streets would be reduced, making it more pleasant for residents that live in congested areas." The online procedure effectively legalises carpooling for the first time for people who register. In the past, several motorists have complained they were unfairly fined up to Dh5,000 (US$1,362) for allegedly running an illegal taxi service when they gave colleagues a lift to work. "As long as those who are sharing have the sharekni permit, then they have nothing to worry about while in other emirates," said Mohammed bin Fahad, the RTA's acting director of planning and business development. "We are ensuring those who share rides are safe and free from danger and exploitation. Drivers could only have a maximum of four people registered as passengers at any one time and are only allowed to take four people at a time." He warned that carpooling remained illegal for those who did not register. According to RTA figures, there are 541 cars for every 1,000 residents, with an average of 1.3 people per car. The website will enable 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 ride by updating their online profile and searching for other available seats. Driver registration and permits would have to be renewed every six months. The RTA said it would co-ordinate with other emirates and the Ministry of Interior for journeys from Dubai to other emirates. There would be no added incentives for drivers to carpool such as Salik exemptions. The website offers the option to register complaints against other drivers or passengers they considered unreliable, who might then be banned from using the scheme. "Passengers or drivers who receive multiple complaints will be blacklisted and will not be able to re-register," said Mr Fahad. The Abu Dhabi Government is examining proposals for similar registration schemes to regulate carpooling as part of the capital's long-term transport plan to cope with a booming population and tourism sector. shafez@thenational.ae