Bus only lanes in Abu Dhabi
The introduction of bus-only lanes, upgrading 40 bus stations and creating pedestrian access will make public transport services more attractive, ease congestion and keep people safe on Abu Dhabi’s roads, experts say.
“Bus-only lanes may be new to Abu Dhabi, but there are widely and successfully used in other parts of the world, sometimes as a shared lane with taxis,” said Phil Clarke, principal road safety consultant at Transport Research Laboratory – UAE.
“This can lead to more reliable journey times and adherence to timetables for buses and quicker journeys for those travelling by taxi.”
Glenn Havinoviski, a US-based transport expert, agreed, saying prioritising bus operations was commendable.
“It’s an excellent and efficient approach to improving mobility, especially in the central area of Abu Dhabi which suffers from limited parking and high levels of congestion.”
Well-planned bus services with convenient routes and schedules provide much more flexibility in picking up and dropping off passengers near their residences, work places or other destinations such as shopping malls, he said.
In 2010, Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority introduced phase one of the bus and taxi lane system on a 6 kilometre stretch from Al Mankhool Street towards Al Ghubaiba Street.
A year later, the project was extended to include parts of Naif Street and Ittihad Street in the direction from Sharjah towards Dubai, heading to Al Nahda interchange.
“Preferential lane treatments and improved bus stations and transfer points should also be accompanied by prioritised traffic signal operations which reduce delays for buses at signalised junctions,” Mr Havinoviski said.
The Abu Dhabi Executive Council recently approved plans to improve pedestrian crossings at a cost of Dh30 million.
“The pedestrian crossing issues whether at junctions or on overhead crossings have long been a concern I’ve had within Abu Dhabi city,” said Mr Havinoviski of US transport management Iteris who previously worked in Abu Dhabi. “Generally, there aren’t enough of them.”
He suggested creating improved pedestrian access from bus stops and stations to office buildings, malls and other destinations.
“Enclosed air-conditioned walkways and moving sidewalks from bus stations to destinations would be very useful – as would improved pedestrian crossings at convenient mid-block locations,” he said.
Anything which improves the ability for pedestrians to safely cross roads is welcome, Mr Clarke said.
“It should make it easier for people to walk about, especially if they are transferring from one travel mode to another, from taxi to bus,” he said.
Abu Dhabi is striving to improve traffic safety and become one of safest cities in the world, said a 24-year-old Emirati retail supervisor, who did not wish to be named.
“The government is making Abu Dhabi a lot safer for both tourists and residents, and at the same time encourage more people to use public transport,” she said.
However, many still choose to scramble to cross traffic in front of the Madinat Zayed shopping mall on Muroor road, said Neil Duran, 40, a Filipino salesman.
“There’s a lack of pedestrian discipline,” he said. “Instead of using the pedestrian underpass, many people, mostly labourers, cross the street from undesignated areas.”
Improving access to and the quality and affordability of public transport and journey time reliability all help to encourage use of public transport as an alternative to private cars, Mr Clarke said.
“However whatever is done, there will still be people who choose to drive themselves for various reasons,” he said. “The key is to provide choice.”
Increased modes and use of public transport can help to ease congestion.
“Statistically, public transport is safer than private car use, but the vulnerability increases during the first and last sections of the journey,” Mr Clarke said.
“That’s when somebody is going to and from the public transport mode, perhaps as a pedestrian walking to a bus stop or taxi rank, or from a bus stop to work.”
Another approach to addressing transport issues is introducing an integrated corridor management, or ICM, according to Mr Havinoviski.
“It not only addresses the major commuter route for travellers in cars, but also improves public transport services and streets that run parallel to and connect with the major commuter route,” he said.
“Some key ICM elements are providing park and ride facilities in suburban areas and real-time updates on the next bus, next boat and next train information.”