Abu Dhabi Releases Ambitious Transport Plan

» Emirate state’s public transportation system would include a wide variety of modesAbu Dhabi Transport Plan

Abu Dhabi’s Department of Transport has released its preliminary surface transportation plan by U.K. consulting firm Steer Davies Gleave. The plan is based on the proposal released last year by the city’s Urban Planning Council called Plan 2030, which describes a reinvented, walkable, and green metropolis. (Watch the incredible video produced by SquintOpera.)

The surface transport plan would focus transportation in two areas: the Capital City District (Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates) and the Downtown/Waterfront District, where the city has begun the construction of a huge arts complex on Saadiyat Island, which will include branches of New York University, the Guggenheim, and the Louvre.

Abu Dhabi’s future, hope the city’s planners, will be sustainable and result in a pedestrian-oriented, less polluted environment. As a result, the plan envisions tramways running throughout the city, with many parallel lines along the waterfront. In certain districts, the city plans personal rapid transit service, which would supplement the streetcar system. Medium-distance routes would be covered by the multi-lined metro network, with 53 stations. Long-distance journeys to Dubai and Qatar will be provided by regional rail.

The city’s efforts to greatly expand its offering of public transportation is a direct response to Dubai’s equally grand efforts to develop a metro and tram system. The real question is whether either city will be able to create transit systems that encourage redevelopment that is more pedestrian-friendly – after all, both are currently overwhelmed by automotive traffic and relatively difficult to walk around in. The elevated rapid transit system that Dubai is currently building won’t help matters much unless the skyscrapers along the city’s famed Sheikh Zayed Road are redesigned to be less car-oriented. Abu Dhabi seems likely to face similar obstacles, though its growth has been less extreme than that of Dubai’s, so it might have more control over the way development is undertaken.

One wonders, too, whether the economic crisis will put a damper on the wealth and expansion of these two desert metropolises. Then they might start acting more like most Western cities, where budget restrictions make it nearly impossible to imagine subway expansion.

Image above: Abu Dhabi Surface Transport Master Plan, from ConstructionWeek Online.

2 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Kyle

    This is a serious plan. Although the economies of Dubai and to a much lesser extent Abu Dhabi are having problems, the government is still flush with cash and can afford to do these projects. If they have a plan and believe their economies will be back on the right foot again in a few years, then they will realize that now is the time to build these projects.

    The traffic is horrible in the UAE and they know that this transportation is needed regardless of the current economic picture. Plus, the Abu Dhabi economy still receives the majority of its revenue from oil and the current price isn’t adversely having an effect; it’s just no longer a boom.

    If they really do start to struggle, they could implement any form of tax. Currently, there isn’t a single tax in the UAE, so how hard is it to implement a very small sales or income tax? It may be a hard sell to raise taxes in some countries, but when the tax is “0″ how hard of a sell is that, plus the leaders aren’t elected, so they can do as they please.

    The one aspect I would like to hear more about is the train to Qatar. For this to happen, they would have to go through Saudi Arabia and that isn’t going to happen. Does anyone have anymore details?

  • Dubai will need to learn from the transformation of the Las Vegas Strip, where one of the most car-oriented landscapes anywhere (praised at the time by Robert Venture in Learning from Las Vegas has now been remodeled to create pedestrian-intensive spaces that make much of the strip walkable. The strip has an elevated monorail too, but its effect is minor compared to the transformation of urban design.

    For more see:

    http://urbanist.typepad.com/creature_of_the_shade/2007/06/learning_from_l.html

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