Light-rail, water taxis in ramped-up Abu Dhabi transport strategy

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By Manal Ismail  www.thenational.ae

Officials yesterday revealed updated transport plans for the capital that include a light rail network downtown, dedicated bus lanes with double the buses and stops every 300 metres, 8,000 taxis by next year and water transport to Reem Island and the Corniche by late 2013.

Abu DhabiThe Department of Transportation (DoT) outlined these and other initiatives during the first day of an international exhibition on urban transport in Dubai.

Transport officials said the integration, speed and convenience of the network were the factors that would motivate commuters to choose public transportation over their private vehicles.

“If it were up to us, we’d have 100 per cent of commuters taking public transport and not a single private vehicle in the city,” said Saeed al Hameli, general manager of the Bus Office at the DoT.

The network, which is part of the 2030 Standard Transport Master Plan, includes an expansion of the public bus network, a light-rail transit (LRT) system, a metro, a high-speed rail and water transport.

The LRT will have its own designated lane in the transportation network and travel at maximum speeds of 100kph.

It will be integrated into the transport infrastructure, officials said, but its speed would allow it to pass cars and private vehicles at traffic lights and intersections, making it an attractive and viable alternative to private cars.

Officials said a feasibility study indicated the need for an LRT in downtown Abu Dhabi, however specific locations would be announced at a later date. The feasibility study for the LRT, metro and tram is scheduled for completion before the end of the year.

“We are in the process of conducting over 50 studies to determine what methods of transport are absolutely required, and in what areas,” Mr al Hameli said. “Based on this, we will release more information on the exact cost, location and dates.”

Another way to convince residents to take public transport was to make the system accessible, he said.

For example, in addition to expanding the public bus fleet from 600 to 1,360 by 2013, planned routes will ensure that bus stops are only 300 metres apart. Dedicated bus lanes, which will ease traffic flow and congestion, will be installed in the emirate by next year.

All old buses are being phased out and new buses will be special-needs friendly and have dedicated ladies’ sections. There are currently about 10 million passenger trips per months and the DoT wants to increase this by 30 per cent.

Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) would service those who live in rural, outlying areas or areas of low passenger demand, officials said. The DRT network will consist of minibus and taxi services that individuals can order through a call centre. The call centre then sends a request to on-board receiving units inside the minibuses. Full implementation of the DRT is planned for 2016.

A vehicle replacement programme is scheduled for next year that will see 8,000 TransAd taxis across six franchises replaced with new vehicles. Drivers will also undertake training and on-road inspectors will monitor taxi activity.

Water transport makes up an extensive part of the elaborate public transport system, and includes water taxis, which will accommodate up to 12 passengers, and ferries, which will accommodate up to 100 passengers. Initial routes will begin to Reem Island and along the Corniche in late 2013. Routes will later extend to Yas Island, Al Raha and Saadiyat Island.

Car and passenger ferry services between the mainland and Delma Island started operations in March last year. In the first year, more than 85,000 passengers and 20,000 cars took advantage of the services.

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