The Road and Trans[port Authority, or RTA as it is fondly called, has managed to be in the news from the word go; not a surprise in a city where perhaps the challenge to private and public transport will remain the number one issue for the next decade and more. Indeed the forward thinking of Dubai has meant the establishment of a separate authority for handling the critical aspects of transport within the city. At the heart of any strategy has to be the positioning of a comprehensive transport system that can carry the massive growth within the Emirate into the next many decades.
The announcement of the Light Railway project, or Metro as it is now known as, is an important aspect of any strategy into the future. However, the strategy has an essential element missing in the transport conundrum; the link to Sharjah and the Northern Emirates. Any analysis of Dubai peak traffic pattern will show that a major portion of the traffic comes through from Sharjah and Ajman into Dubai and onto Jebel Ali. As plans stand now there is no link towards Sharjah this defeating the purpose of a Metro system where it is needed most.
Some may argue that the strategy is that Sharjah residents will drive to the Rashidyia station and then connect to the Dubai Metro system. Nice idea in theory but try and think of someone living at al Khan area in Sharjah; why should this person drive to Al Mulla Plaza then South to Rashidyia to get on to the system? In country where commuters have become lazy expecting a two stop solution for a single route journey will simply not happen. Test it, ask your neighbor to walk 100 meters at four in the afternoon! I rest my case.
The second important element of the RTA strategy is to impose a toll, SALIK, on Sh Zayed Road with the intention that the more commonly frequented entry points onto Sh Zayed Road would be tolled thus moving traffic on to the secondary and tertiary road network. This is a good idea if the alternate exists, but this does not completely make sense if the alternate system is not up and running. I would imagine that once Dubai Metro was functioning on Sh Zayed road then it makes perfect sense to have a toll to reduce the number of cars on the road, but in the present circumstances its just a license to print money.
There is no denying that the job before the RTA is a gigantic one but it must consider some assistance from the private sector and allow some secondary mass transport solutions to be made from the private sector. This could be in the form of connecting load lines of APM systems and other light mass transport connections that assist the RTA. Once the entire system is in place then by all means we can consider the introduction of a toll on any particular road. Till then, my advice for whatever it is worth, hold back.