A host of innovations in Dubai’s transport system are setting benchmarks for the rest of the world
Often it is big, incomprehensible numbers that dominate the way we, as passengers and users, chart the progress of our transport systems. Be that the tens of millions of passengers passing through airports, or the figures of thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions being thrown around in environmental debates. However, another type of number is revolutionising the way people are thinking about and planning their travel in Dubai. Early this year, all Dubai residents were issued a unique 10-digit number for Dubai Municipality’s electronic map application, Makani, which provides the user with precise locations within an accuracy of one metre.
This is just one of the advancements that the emirate has seen in terms of travel, which tends to be most known for the scope of its airports. There, too, progress is still being made – 2014 saw 13.2 million visitors enter Dubai, a rise of six per cent over the 66.4 million travellers it handled in 2013. Last year, Dubai International overtook Heathrow as the busiest airport in the world, clocking 70.5 million passengers compared with Heathrow’s 68.1 million. It expects 79 million passengers this year, and plans to boost its annual capacity to 90 million passengers with the opening of a new hall for arrivals and departures as part of a US$7.8bn expansion plan.
Dubai’s domestic transport systems on the ground are also expanding. Adding to the emirate’s Metro, whose two lines provided 27 million more passenger trips in 2014 than in 2013, is the implementation of bus- and taxi-only lanes, which have resulted in a visible easing off of traffic congestion and a drop in carbon emissions.
The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has also introduced the Green Bus, which has led to a 34 per cent reduction in carbon emissions and a seven per cent reduction in the price of fuel. The fleet was projected to be expanded to 118 by the end of 2014. The RTA is also trialling an electricity-powered bus for nine months this year, which can cover up to 200 kilometres with a full battery at a speed of 100km per hour.
Bridges, both for automobiles and in the form of pedestrian walkways, are increasingly being used to expand Dubai’s transport infrastructure. The Dh475m Bluewaters project, which will link the Bluewaters festivities island with the Sheikh Zayed Road, is perhaps the best example of the large scale and level of innovation that is going into improving the city’s infrastructure and the individual’s travel experience. The 1,400m-long construction will reduce congestion and emissions as well as implementing smaller-scale, ultramodern features such as the two lanes of driverless cars linking the Nakheel Harbour and Tower Metro station to the island.
Plans are in place for more than 40 new bridges across the emirate, including the Dh2bn Dubai Water Canal project, which includes a bridge on Sheikh Zayed Road over the creek extension canal. A Dh200 million bridge aimed at reducing traffic congestion around Nakheel’s International City was also approved last year.
One thing that is clear about Dubai’s transport systems, is that they are not going to stop progressing any time soon. A dizzying number of projects are announced each month proving the city’s appetite for travel innovation. It’s hard not to read the numerous new bridges in construction as emblematic of Dubai’s innovative spirit for development. The world watches as Dubai bridges gaps not only in the physical infrastructure of, but also bridging gaps to future methods of transport, where hi-tech modernisation will benefit passengers, providers and the environment alike.