LEAVING THE RAT RACE

Abu Dhabi 2016 | TRANSPORT | FOCUS: COMMUTER INFRASTRUCTURE

Abu Dhabi has little public transport to speak of; hence, the development of an integrated transport solution to provide its citizens with numerous methods of transport throughout the Emirate by 2030.

Current commuter trends revolve around cars and taxis, simply because there is no recognized alternative that has been implemented across the Emirate. This has presented three key issues: environmental, economic, and the development of tourism. The Surface Transport Master Plan (STMP) was produced to address these issues and implement a transport infrastructure across Abu Dhabi.

The main factor the project must take into account is the growing population, as the Emirate looks to reach 5.2 million people, with 3.1 million of those living in the city itself, by 2030—the year the STMP will be fully operational. This equates to the Emirate's population doubling, and the city population more than tripling between 2008 and 2030. At the time of inception, The Department of Transport (DoT) estimated that the annual cost of time spent in congested traffic in the capital would be AED2.5 billion by 2015.
The STMP was commissioned in February 2008, as the transportation pillar of Plan Abu Dhabi 2030. The $68 billion project lays out a blueprint for an integrated transport system that examines the development of a metro line and a rail line around the city, the latter coming under the Etihad Rail project. The transport network, once completed, will serve 832,000 new daily commuters and remove 400,000 daily trips by road, effectively making 105,000 automobiles redundant. This will go toward saving 22,050 tons of carbon emissions annually.

The STMP is designed to connect several modes of transport together across the city, which will include 340km of tramline, enhanced bus services, and 131km of metro, complemented by the Etihad Rail and the GCC Railway.

The plan intends to have a train line linking the industrial zones, Mussafah, and Masdar, with the Central Business District (CBD) that runs along the Corniche. Tramlines will provide accessibility across the city, with stops every 500m, linking the CBD with Yas and the airport. There will be a higher concentration of stops in Capital City, which will be linked with Mussafah through the metro and will run back to the city through Zayed Sports City/ADNEC to the CBD. There will also be a train line running from Capital City through to Saadiyat via Suwa and Reem.

The Corniche will be highly connected with 12 metro stops that run from Marina Mall through to Saadiyat. The STMP aims to develop the economy, protecting the environment and enhancing tourism, as Abu Dhabi prepares itself for 7.9 million annual tourists by 2030; a huge increase from 1.8 million in 2008. Perhaps the greatest challenge is to change people's attitudes toward modes of transport for those living in the city. This will be addressed through developing a high level of comfort and ease of use. There will also be integrated fare systems, electronic ticketing, shaded or passively cooled tram and bus stops, and air conditioned metro systems for the city workers.

The whole network should fit together seamlessly with the metro facilitating high-speed transit around the city. The tram will connect commuters from the metro stations, which will be 3-5km apart in less densely populated areas, with their end destination. The aim is for no one to walk further than 300m for a tram station, with bus and taxi stations provided at key tram stations.

The economic benefits will materialize as commuters spend less time in traffic, as trips per day grow to 10 million by 2030, making it imperative to keep the majority of people off the roads. The plan also includes a train line for freight, which will relieve pressure from commuter routes while maintaining supply to the economy. In terms of enabling the tourism industry, the focus falls on connecting Abu Dhabi's tourist attractions in the most effective manner, thus making it possible to travel from the Corniche to Yas Island, for example, in comfort and speed, a trigger for driving revenue through the tourism sector.

As the predominant Emirate of a forward- thinking nation, Abu Dhabi sees the reward in staying green—keeping urban areas pleasant to enjoy, while reaping long-term economic benefits from such policies.