Should RTA stand for ‘Ride That Automobile’? A fair number of Dubai residents are reluctant to use public transport despite various efforts on part of the RTA. Speaking as someone who has been using Dubai’s public transport system for over 10 years, I personally appreciate the efforts the RTA has made.
10 years ago, I needed to pay extra fare if I wanted to transfer buses, carry exact change, board only from the front of the bus and worst of all I was very restricted in terms of potential destinations. The last two years have seen the introduction of air-conditioned bus shelters, larger buses, closer adherence to schedules and most notably the metro.
With the summer heat upon us, air-conditioned bus shelters are in theory a great way to encourage people to use public transport. Speak to anyone who has actually entered one of these bus shelters and you will be guaranteed an earful of complaints. The irony of seeing a ‘Please keep the door closed’ sign above a bus shelter with a missing door is not lost on me. Nevertheless, most mornings you see people who make use of these shelters while waiting for the bus. They are of course standing behind bus shelters, rather than inside them, for the sake of shade. They will all concur that stepping into a bus shelter (with an intact door) is an economical substitute for a sauna.
Yet, it is hard to chide the RTA for the lack of air conditioning when you consider the negative impact on the environment. Logically speaking, one associates public transport with preserving the environment rather than the opposite. However, it is perhaps fair to question them about the decline of service on Friday mornings. With the introduction of the metro, the RTA has cancelled and tweaked many bus routes. Metro service begins in the early afternoon, and with parallel bus services being declared redundant, using the public transport for what should typically be a 15-minute journey, will instead become a 2-hour journey.
While I applaud the RTA for progress and efforts it has made over the years, I believe a lot more issues need to be addressed in order to increase ridership. In the last week alone; I was kicked out of a bus because the driver did not want to finish his route and overcharged due to a glitch in the automated fare system. While I might not have an alternative, the RTA will need to work harder to earn the trust of car owners.
Presently, despite woes of limited parking spots, heavy traffic and rising petrol prices; most of Dubai’s population appears to believe driving is a more viable option than using the bus or metro. I would not be surprised if the people responsible for running the RTA also choose to ‘Ride That Automobile’.