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Abu Dhabi

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.