The Context for Public Transport Development in the Gulf States: Unique Challenges and Perspectives

The Context for Public Transport Development in the Gulf States: Unique Challenges and Perspectives


A B Clarke, S Luke, G Vitt, Mott MacDonald, UK; A M Garib, Abu Dhabi Municipality, UAE


The aim of this paper is to explore the context and highlight public transport initiatives in the Gulf States. It will identify features of PT development in the Gulf to inform initiatives in Europe and elsewhere in the Middle East


The aim of this paper is to explore the context and highlight key public transport initiatives in the Gulf with a focus on Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. It will identify the unique challenges and perspectives to be considered in the development of public transport in the Gulf States. The paper will identify possible features of public transport development in the Gulf, which could inform similar initiatives in Europe and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The paper will examine some of the unique features in planning for transport in the Gulf including:

? The cultural use of the car and the perception of public transport (especially bus) as a ?low class? form of travel. Whilst this is not unique to the Gulf the perceptions of public transport and preferences for private transport are particularly strong in the region. The paper will examine the cultural and social reasons for this as well as examining marketing and other social measures that are being used to help change public opinion. Cultural perceptions also require the development of very high quality public transport systems and the paper will identify some of the key quality features being introduced. These include features such as air conditioned bus stops and designated vehicles/carriages for ?VIPs?, women and children.
? The socio-economic characteristics of the population ? with about 85% of the population being expatriate, ranging from ?cheap? foreign labour to the rich banking sector creates unique challenges in passenger affordability and user requirements. Schemes such as metro projects also need to consider longer term population trends and the paper will discuss how these factors have been considered in transport planning.
? The climate. This is a critical consideration as summer temperatures can rise to nearly 50oC. The issues of station access/egress and interchange cannot be under estimated and is a strong factor in people choosing to drive. Iniatives to address the climactic effects will be highlighted; including stop density, network development, vehicles fleet and infrastructure specifications (e.g. air conditioned bus stops).
? Very rapid development growth. For example Abu Dhabi is forecast to treble in population by 2020. Unprecedented wealth and growth is leading to massive pressure on the transportation system that was developed for roads only. Most development has occurred in the last forty year and the paper will illustrate the implications when transport planning and provision has not been able to keep up with pace of growth.

The unique historical and cultural character forms a basis in which development and transport initiatives planned in the next 10 years will be presented. Case studies of how proposed schemes will address the unique challenges faced in the Gulf will be examined. Some of the key public transport developments underway include two 'Metro' lines (the Red and Green Lines) currently under construction. Another line is in advanced planning (the Purple Lines) with a Blue Line to follow that would create the world?s largest fully automated metro system [the metro is a twin track underground and elevated driverless light rail system]. Concurrently, developers are proposing around 7-9 tram and monorail systems to connect to the Metro system.

The paper will highlight these Case Studies including the possible application of state of the art Ultra Light Rail and Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) technologies. Other initiatives in progress include the growth of the Dubai bus network and the Palm Monorail [a 5.3km automatic / driverless system serving the world?s largest manmade island development]. In addition the paper will discuss some of the challenges in forecasting passenger demand in an operating situation where little empirical, post facto, evidence of use is available to validate forecasts.

The paper will conclude by identifying the implications for other countries facing similar challenges in the Middle East and also lessons learnt that could be applicable within a general European context.


Association for European Transport