Positive drive: RTA’s expansion plans for Dubai
The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) of Dubai has been executing, managing, and enhancing transport and traffic projects in the emirate since its inception in 2005. With exemplary public transport services such as the Dubai Metro and Dubai Tram to its credit, and its drive to incorporate sustainable and technologically advanced features into the heart of Dubai, the organisation had received plenty of praise and accolades for its achievements. We speak to RTA officials to gain a better understanding of the current and upcoming plans of the organisation, especially with the advent of Expo 2020.
The Dubai Metro was launched as part of a comprehensive strategy which aims to increase the share of public transit to 30% by the year 2030. RTA has developed a Rail Master Plan, which defines future rail routes required to serve the growth and developments in Dubai.
Future plans for Dubai Metro include the improvement of the current service, as well as the development of new extensions; Route 2020, currently under construction, will connect the Dubai Metro Redline from Nakheel Harbour and Towers Station to Expo 2020 site (in Dubai South District), with an additional 15km of tracks and seven new stations. The line will be operational in 2020, serving existing and future developments beside the Expo site along the proposed route.
The Dubai Metro was declared by Guinness World Records to be the world’s longest fully automated driverless metro system with a route length of 75km, a record since then overtaken by Vancouver SkyTrain and Singapore MRT; the Red Line, at 52.1km, remains the world’s longest driverless single metro line.
An additional 50 new trains will be added to Dubai metro fleet by year 2020, to cater to the Expo 2020 requirements and to increase the frequency of the current metro services, which will help in providing better and efficient public transport facilities.
Other planned metro-related projects include the Green Line Extension which is going to extend the current services of Dubai Metro Green Line to new developing suburbs; namely the Lagoons, International City, Silicon Oasis, and Academic City. Another key development includes extending the Red Line from Rashidiya district to the Mirdif area.
Meanwhile, RTA is currently updating the existing Dubai Rail Master Plan for rail projects required to serve the developments in Dubai for the next 20 years.
RTA has registered rapid progress in improving the quality of public transport in the emirate of Dubai since its inception in 2005.
In 2018, RTA aims to continue to create new links, expanding the network coverage, and alleviating crowding and increasing capacity on high performing routes. It also plans to optimise the resource utilisation in line with the demand pattern.
In addition, major projects such as the Share Mobility Master Plan (SMMP) and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), aim to identify the increase in bus services to correspond with population growth and travel demand. Other strategies include introduction of additional exclusive bus lanes to reduce the travel time and enhance the appeal of public transport; linking all new developments with bus routes; improving modal-integration; and enhancing the reach and quality of public transport product information.
Comprehensive public transport plans are being worked out to efficiently cater to the travel demand estimated to be generated during Expo 2020. Bus services have been calculated to support the extension of Red metro line to Expo 2020 venue, including dedicated bus services from strategic locations in the city to the event venue.
Furthermore, enhancement of feeder bus network between metro stations and neighborhoods, and high-frequency shuttle buses between Expo metro station/parking lots and various locations within the venue will help facilitate easy movement for all visitors. Strong taxi presence at hotels housing Expo delegates/exhibitors and visitors, plus exclusive bus lanes will save travellers time to and from the site.
There are also plans to purchase a new bus fleet and construction of new depots to accommodate the expected increase in demand, to be used in the network expansion in the future.
Dubai Water Canal
The Dubai Water Canal is one of the most important tourism projects in Dubai, transforming the landscape and features of the emirate, which has established itself as a shining example for cities around the world. This landmark is expected to attract more than 30 million visitors per year.
Dubai Water Canal project contributes to upgrading the social infrastructure of the emirate of Dubai, in terms of quality public health of the community, offering opportunities for leisure, attracting millions of visitors, both residents and tourists, and adding value to the surrounding areas as well as breath-taking views.
The 3.2km canal extension ranges 80-120m in width and cuts through Dubai’s main artery, the Sheikh Zayed Road, across Safa Park and into the residential Jumeirah district, eventually meeting the Arabian Gulf. This adds 6.4km of waterfront and creates 80,000sqm for public space and facilities, plus a 3km running track, 12km cycling path, and a boardwalk with smart lighting utilising LED lights— a first for a Dubai road project, which has resulted in nearly 33% lesser power consumption.
There is also a mechanical waterfall, where the canal meets the Sheikh Zayed Road Bridge. This motion-operated cascade pumps water through the bridge in a constant flow, visible from the boardwalk, and can be switched off when a sensor detects a boat nearby. This is the first time such a water feature has been implemented in the GCC.
Five pedestrian bridges are available— including three across the canal with a unique design— allowing public movements to either side of the canal at key points, allowing photographers and viewers the opportunity to admire water vessels passing by below.
A man-made peninsula, formed at the end of the canal, will serve as an extension of Jumeirah Beach Park, adding a kilometre of sandy beach and increasing the recreational activity space in the area.
The Dubai Water Canal has opened up new marine transport options using the Dubai Ferry, Water Taxi, Water Bus, and Abras, connecting the historic areas of Deira and Bur Dubai through the extended waterway of Dubai Creek, Business Bay, and Dubai Water Canal. At the recently held Dubai International Boat Show, RTA introduced the newly air-conditioned abra.
RTA intends to turn the waterway into a first-class marine transport hub, with five stations serving six million passengers annually. Four additional stations are available in the Business Bay Canal, and one million riders are expected to use Dubai Canal’s marine transport by 2020.
The future is now
One of RTA’s most recent drives—and one that has been garnering plenty of attention— is autonomous vehicles. At the recently held World Government Summit 2018, RTA launched the tests of the world’s first autonomous pods. The autonomous pods are designed to travel short and medium distances in dedicated lanes. They can be coupled in 15 to 20 seconds or detached, depending on the destination of riders, in five seconds. The autonomous pods are fitted with cameras and electromechanical technologies, and each pod measures 2.87m in length, 2.24m in width and 2.82m in height. It weighs about 1500kg and has a capacity to accommodate ten riders (six seated, four standing). The autonomous pod is fitted with a battery that supports three hours of operation; which is chargeable in three hours. Its average speed is 20km/h.
The autonomous pods have three protection systems in order to ensure full control and avoid crashing into any body. The main system comprises 3D cameras, and the second one is a standby system based on ordinary cameras, and the last is operated manually by the operator.
NOL Card is an electronic ticketing card used across Dubai’s metro, buses, water buses, tram, and even to pay for RTA’s paid parking, reducing dependency on physical cash and paper, besides providing convenience. In 2013, RTA partnered up with telecommunications providers Etisalat and du (which provides Wi-Fi services across metro and bus stations in Dubai), to launch Smart NOL, which allows users to make use of Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology to turn their smartphones into a NOL card, with no extra fee.
RTA is also in talks with VIMANA, a blockchain airspace category creator, to take forward the latter’s fleet of vertical take-off and landing autonomous aerial vehicles (VTOL AAVs). A dominant player in the $1tn blockchain airspace market, VIMANA has designed a breakthrough, patent-pending technology, that allows the company to combine capabilities of an airplane, helicopter, and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on a single platform, and use blockchain technology to operate its aircraft and enable blockchain applications in the air at the same time. VIMANA’s fleet of VTOL AAVs are a marvel of aerospace engineering, designed to be localised by “smart cities” (like Dubai) via licensing deals, to enable local mass production.
Community takes precedence
RTA attaches great importance to road safety, given its vision of safe and smooth transport for all. It aims to enhance transport and traffic safety to reduce accidents and fatalities. RTA has already taken steps to reduce the speed limits of roads that witness elevated traffic volumes. RTA works closely with Dubai Police, as well as other federal authorities, to reduce the occurrence of accidents, including hosting training programmes. RTA is also actively involved in social and humanitarian causes.
One of their ‘Day for Dubai’ initiatives included ‘Kiswat Khair’ (fine clothing), aimed at grouping efforts of RTA volunteers to recycle discarded clothes of the organisation’s parking attendants, bus drivers, taxi drivers, and technical cadres. Volunteers will sort out, adjust, and repair these clothes, and iron them to make them presentable. They will be distributed in collaboration with Red Crescent societies and other concerned parties to those in need.