Abu Dhabi has experienced a remarkable transformation in transport infrastructure systems over the past five years. This rapid development has been fueled by the Abu Dhabi Vision 2030 to develop a world-class transport system.
Launched in 2007 under the visionary leadership of H.H Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vision 2030 marks a new era for government and public sectors in Abu Dhabi. One of the key pillars of this plan is to develop a premium transport infrastructure in Abu Dhabi to attract an increasing number of people, businesses, and investment to the city.
The arduous task of developing an international-standard transport system in the capital rests with the Department of Transport (DoT), with the support of key stakeholders from across Abu Dhabi’s public sector. The DoT’s vision is to deliver an effective transport system that contributes to the economic growth, quality of life, and environmental sustainability to the Emirate. The Department works with many governmental stakeholders to coordinate strategies, plans, and initiatives to meet the increasing demand for efficient public transport in the city.
Since its inception in 2008, the Abu Dhabi DoT has focused on enhancing the quality and coverage of its bus services at all levels. At present, the DoT operates around 575 world-class buses for more than 170,000 commuters within different regions of Abu Dhabi Emirate.
The DoT’s Strategic Transportation Evaluation & Assessment Model (STEAM) estimates the demand for public transport in Abu Dhabi, and according to the data provided below, this is on the rise. The most important statistic to note is the 24.4% increase in demand for cargo transport.
In 2014, in response to growing requirements from commuters for bus services in the western and eastern regions, the DoT announced nine new routes to service these areas. Amongst other expansion plans, the DoT has also launched new highway interchange projects to upgrade the road network around the new airport terminal complex. The objective of these projects is to provide world-class sustainable and integrated transport infrastructure in accordance with the Abu Dhabi 2030 Vision and its Surface Transport Master Plan (STMP).
Plans for an Abu Dhabi Metro Rail System as well as an LRT (light rail transit, better known as a tram) are in the pipeline and will aim to serve a substantial proportion of passengers and improve the inter connectivity of the public transport network.Once live, these systems are expected to help relieve traffic congestion on highway networks by providing optimal connectivity between Abu Dhabi Island, its suburbs, and communities such as Saadiyat Island, Yas Island, and Al Raha Beach.
Abu Dhabi boasts an extensive bus network which has increased under the STMP; currently, low-income workers and tourists utilize public transport, but local residents rely primarily on private modes of transportation.
Internationally, the currently accepted target, for public transport usage is around twenty percent, however, in the Middle East this is difficult to achieve due to the intense summer heat. Here, public transport usage comprises just nine percent of all travel, well below the international benchmark.
As of the end of 2011, the Bus Office at the Department of Transport in Abu Dhabi operates around 650 buses on over 95 service routes catering to more than fifty million passengers within the different regions of Abu Dhabi. In an effort to further facilitate the use of public buses in Emirate, the DoT introduced a group of cards and passes at extremely affordable rates in November 2012 called the OjraBus Passes and have recently begun the installation of automated card systems in prime locations.
More recently, the DoT has also introduced a free Park-and-Ride service for all commuters coming from areas off the island including other cities. The service, which has been running for just over a year now, encourages drivers to leave their cars at Zayed Sports City and catch a free shuttle bus to various parts of the city center. The buses, which are equipped with Wi-Fi, run every 15 to 20 minutes from 6 am to 9 pm, Sunday to Thursday. Surprisingly enough, this great free service is still highly underutilized. It looks like it will take some more time and effort to change people‘s perceptions about public transport and get people to see the benefits in this excellence public service.
The DoT has proposed an extensive plan to expand the public transport network using various other modes. The time frame for the implementation of this plan spans the next five to ten years, and parallels the growth of public transport in the Emirate.
Specifically, the DoT plans to develop rail, metro, and tram services that will connect inner areas of the region, as well as public taxies, to support ever growing transport demands.
Finally, the DoT has completed a comprehensive water transport feasibility study in Abu Dhabi which includes the assessment of all aspects required for a modern water transport system. This is a viable alternative given the Emirate’s geographical setting and high degree of flexibility, and the system’s low operational costs in comparison to other transport modes, with an additional advantage of its appeal to tourists.
Snapshot from the Surface Transport Master Plan (2009): Diverse forms of transportation complement each other and allow greater regional access. The STMP has been subject to change as revised demand and planning data come available.
Road congestion is a major problem in many Gulf cities, and Abu Dhabi is no exception.The availability of low-cost fuel in addition to the influx of foreign cars has led to a large number of private vehicles on the roads, resulting in overcrowding.Pollution,heat, blowing sand, and dust all pose a significant challenge to public transport use in the Gulf States.
The flourishing tourism sector in Abu Dhabi has resulted in an increased demand for regional transport, although current public transport fleet and routes are effectively catering to these needs, they must expand further to meet anticipated future demands.
The DoT has an exceptional role in meeting transport sector challenges to deliver an effective system that contributes to the economic growth, quality of life, and environmental sustainability of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
To meet increasing demands, the DoT has undertaken a number of initiatives such as the STMP, a detailed strategic plan for roads, public transport, parking, and other transportation considerations to interlink various parts of Abu Dhabi through trams, rails, and buses. Projects to improve and expand the transport infrastructure in the region include the establishment of new routes connecting the Emirate’s Eastern and Western regions. This move will bolster economic development in the more isolated Western Region and improve mobility. In early 2014, at a cost of AED 100 million the DoT has started introducing 360 air conditioned shelters throughout the city. An AED 13-million project is also underway to install traffic signals to relieve congestion and allow drivers easier access to malls and other high-traffic areas.The upgrading of the road network around the new Airport Terminal Complex has already commenced in anticipation of increased flow.Additional to these projects, in 2014 the DoT also launched nine new services, and modified 26 existing services to improve satisfaction among public transport users and attract additional business.
The DoT also initiated its Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan to create a safer and greener city by doubling the number of dedicated pedestrian and cycling paths by 2020. The plan also has provisions to promote and encourage healthier mobility options of walking and cycling by introducing shaded pathways, bike-share services, and convenient parking stations close to public transport terminals.
An efficient public transport system is a vital contribution to Abu Dhabi’s economy. Whilst expansion is necessary for the creation of a sustainable city, as detailed in the Abu Dhabi Vision 2030, its implementation poses a considerable challenge.Major effort is required to change existing perceptions and cultural barriers to using public transport. Citizens and residents must be encouraged to switch to public transportation through creative campaigns that demonstrate individual and community benefits, and planned in such a way that it saves travelers time and money,while offering comfort and convenience.
Improvement and expansion of the public transport infrastructure, via careful planning will continue to provide jobs within the city,however,the key outcome is to support the sustainability directives of the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030. Government entities must continue to collaborate to make better public transportation a progressive reality.by