Dubai should focus on creating sustainable transport options and on convincing more and more residents to switch away from motorcars, transport experts have said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the recent Michelin Bibendum Challenge event in China, Kulveer Ranger, former director of Environment and Digital London at the Mayor of London’s Office and an expert on sustainable transport said that the emirate will draw international scrutiny ahead of the World Expo 2020, which it will host.
“When the world comes to an expo and journalists come, they are looking beyond the glitz and glamour – they are looking for what it’s built on. What’s the future, what are the ethics, is it sustainable? So the city’s reputation is at stake,” he explained.
Sustainability is one of the sub-themes of Expo 2020 and the government has begun taking efforts to boost public transport options in the emirate.
Last month, it inaugurated the Dubai Tram, the first tramway system in the region, which runs for 10.6 km in its first phase and aims to reduce congestion in the Dubai Marina and Al Sufouh areas.
Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) also confirmed that in the first half of 2014, about 146 million people used public transport including the metro, buses and marine transport. More than 262.5 million journeys in the city were made using public transport, up 37 per cent compared to the same period last year, it said.
The share of public transport in Dubai is also expected to hit 14 per cent by the end of this year, up from six per cent in 2006 and 13 per cent in 2013, according to the RTA. The emirate further aims to boost the share of public transport usage to 30 per cent by 2030.
However, Ranger, who has worked previously in Dubai, stated that more needed to be done.
According to him, the local population is more geared towards the personal mobility of the motorcar and is not as yet being challenged to see its problems. While there is a direct challenge in terms of capacity, the addition of an extra lane or a road offers a short-term solution.
“I don’t think at this point a city like Dubai is seeing sustainable mobility as a priority. When the priority is expansion and growth, sometimes you sacrifice sustainability on the altar of growth. But there comes a tipping point where you see the consequences – pollution, quality of life, impact on health, congestion – they are all by-products of rapid expansive growth,” he explained.
Thanks to subsidised fuel prices and high temperatures, most people prefer the flexibility of using their own vehicles. A further cultural dimension also exists with gas guzzling cars considered a social status symbol amongst the higher income segment of the population.
Michael Fahy, director of Sustainable Mobility at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, admitted that there is one exclusive socio-economic group in the region that may never make the switch away from a high-end/luxury car.
But he opined that tailor-made solutions are required to suit the demands of the rest of the population.
“For instance, one of the things you could introduce is an executive bus service aimed at office goers that provides a better service in terms of quality and offers nice and comfortable air conditioned seats – basically trying to compare with what the car offers.
“How many people drive from downtown Dubai to Jebel Ali everyday and how many of those people can you take out of a car if you introduce such a service? There’s an opportunity,” he added.
Florent Menegaux, COO of Michelin, also stressed that the idea of sustainable transport is not to deselect any option.
“When we look at the changing and shifting modes of transport, we have to be collaborative and all-inclusive.
“It’s true that when you have a level of comfort [while travelling], it’s difficult to change. But it can be done by explaining, showing and demonstrating through experiences. Moving from your personal car to a public transportation system shouldn’t be a pain. It should a choice that you make,” he added.