ANALYSIS: Dubai Tram impact
Though Dubai Tram launched to great fanfare and even fireworks last month, its official inauguration was met with a degree of exasperation as the same commuters who had put up with extensive roadworks throughout the $1bn construction had to accept police enforced road closures for several hours.
Not even pedestrians were allowed to cross roads on either side of the tram lines around the Marina and JBR area for the duration of the red carpet event, meaning many potential customers of the city’s latest mode of transport were less than charmed by their first encounter.
Nevertheless, if the tram is going to “change the way people spend their weekdays and weekend” as Dubai’s Roads & Transport Authority’s CEO Mattar Al Tayer recently foretold – or at least make getting around a maddeningly congested city even a little bit easier – residents will happily forgive and forget.
Technical faults aside, hopefully boiling down to just inevitable teething problems, the integration of the tram system into Dubai life enjoyed a smooth start with many users taking to social media to praise the new service.
Construction Week was among the first riders on the morning of 12 November and spoke to other early birds about what difference the tram will make to their lives.
“I shall be using it every day to get to and from work. I used to walk ... but, for me, it cuts a 30 minute daily journey down to less than 10 so I am all in favour,” said engineer Miguel Roger.
Clearly, if you normally walk to work then the time saved by using the tram makes sense. But how does the tram compare if you’re one of the hordes flagging down a cab each morning? Potentially there could be less competition for taxis, coupled with fewer cars on the roads if motorists swap their cars for NOL cards, so congestion would naturally reduce.
This would does however mean that taxi drivers could lose out on fares and many who regularly ferry commuters to their offices from the surrounding area have voiced concerns.
One driver though, who asked not to be named, did not share this concern, instead stating: “I hope the tram means I will not have so many ten dirham journeys now where I am waiting in traffic for a long time.”
He added that he wanted more of his customers to be travelling longer distances as word spreads about the local convenience of hopping on and off the tram.
With a journey from Jumeiriah Beach Residence 1 station (outside Sadaf) to Media City costing a little over ten
dirhams by cab and three dirhams by tram with an NOL card, this does seem a logical outcome – providing the market for the tram is the same as it is for taxis.
Matthew Jackson, a business development manager, told Logistics Middle East: “In London everyone uses the Tube because taxis are so expensive but most people are on a decent wage here compared to back home and with Dubai taxis being so cheap, it’s going to be tourists using it for the novelty value and residents who want to spend far less money.”
He added: “I don’t see the tram competing with taxis and Uber, which offers a nicer journey, For me, I’m not looking to get somewhere for three dirhams; I’m looking to get around quickly and comfortably. The most exciting thing about the tram opening is it will now hopefully be less hassle for taxis and Ubers to get to JBR.”
One thing everyone we spoke to agrees upon is that the tram offers reliability, meaning an end to waiting and wondering how long it will take to hail a cab and then having the possibility of encountering heavy traffic or a diversion en route.
In some areas during certain times, simply choosing the convenience of a taxi is not an option and above all the tram will address this availability issue that has been brought to the RTA’s attention in the past.
Dubai Tram provides an inexpensive way of getting from A to B if you’re travelling within the radius of the 11 stations built so far, regardless of rush hour or driver changeover periods, which should not be undervalued in any fast-growing city.