Traffic solutions are an interlinked issue

Integrated transport plans and strategies covering all possible modes of transport, not just vehicular movement, are required

Dubai: One of the reasons why Dubai’s massive expenditure on infrastructure seems insufficient could be the increasing number of vehicles. However, experts suggest another possibility: planning in isolation.

In other words, given that a major portion of Dubai’s traffic is linked to Sharjah and the Northern Emirates, infrastructure planning should happen in coordination with the neighbouring emirates, they said. Planning in Dubai-specific terms may not yield the desired results if the quality of infrastructure in other emirates connected to it is not on a par.

“The UAE is interlinked and there is a great deal of regional inter-dependencies across the emirates. As such, implementing traffic management infrastructure without taking into consideration the contributory factors and root causes is not going to lead to any significant long-term benefits,” said Dr Zulfiqar Ali, a London-based traffic engineer and a regular feature in Dubai’s annual traffic- and transport-related conferences.

“A planning process disassociated from such aspects will only achieve a congestion further down the line by transferring the problem elsewhere along the strategic routes,” he said.

Dr Ali added that the cost of delays, due to congestion in terms of economy and environmental impact, and driver frustration are the key drivers to assess transport infrastructure planning across the region.

“Studies and assessment need to be done collectively across the emirates to ensure future transport plans are developed based on an understanding of regional policies, their impact on transport network and having a collective and co-ordinated approach in managing and controlling growth in traffic,” he said.

He emphasised the importance of having integrated transport plans and strategies that look at all possible modes of transport and not just the vehicular movements.

Martin Tillman, director, Strategic Planning and Advisory, at Aecom, a major international transport engineering firm, concurs with Dr Ali’s viewpoint.

“A multi-modal approach is generally recommended to ensure travel choices are available to all residents and visitors. This includes roads but is also to be supplemented with public transit provision such as metro, bus, marine, car sharing, carpooling, and relatively newer modes of transport such as Bus Rapid Transit and Group Rapid Transit, all potentially using alternative fuel types such as electric power. It is also important to recognise that all trips begin and end with walking and to encourage provision of walkways with shading if possible,” said Tillman, who is based in Dubai and is also a regular feature of the transport expert panels of most conferences in the city.

He suggested that Dubai could use certain congestion-relief concepts as short-term immediate solutions like use of hard shoulder during peak hours, variable speed limits as well as staggered working and school hours.

“Congestion-relief concepts at various stages of testing around the world include ramp metering which restricts access to freeways at peak times, peak shoulder running which is the use of the hard shoulder for general traffic, and variable speed limits which can help increase capacity by reducing headways at busy times to increase throughput. Another concept is staggered working and school hours to spread peak demand over a longer period of time,” he added.

Congestion-relief concepts

Short-term immediate solutions: Use of hard shoulder during peak hours

Variable speed limits

Staggered working and school hours

Long-term congestion-relief concepts

Multi-modal approach with public transit provision such as metro, bus, marine, car sharing, carpooling

Relatively newer modes of transport such as Bus Rapid Transit and Group Rapid Transit


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