The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the fastest growing regions across the globe especially in terms of infrastructural development. As a result, there is need to launch a master plan in the development of sustainable transport network that can propel the region to prosperity in the 21st century. Therefore, it is upon policy makers to come up with sound policies that can be implemented within specific timelines in regards to establishing sustainable transport network in the UAE. For instance, policy makers can begin by surveying the needs of the UAE in terms of transport network. The transport needs should be projected into the future so that sustainability can be attained. For example, sustainable transport should be viewed from a broad perspective and not just channels of transport such as road network, rail transport, or air transport. It should also be approached from the perspective of revenue generation so that the entire system can be self-supportive. As it stands now, the mobility needs of the UAE population are rapidly changing and therefore, policy makers are struggling to meet the rising demand for sustainable transport system. In this case, sustainability in the transport system is being explored in terms of environmental, social and economical perspectives.
In order for world cities to meet sustainable transport objectives, Sustainable Urban Transport Project has come up with master plan for urban settlements across the globe. Some of the broad areas of concern that are addressed by the project include capacity building and training, offering policy advice on sustainable transport systems, sharing data on international experience and taking part in drafting policies that are in tandem with the needs of specific cities and urban set ups.
If the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is to grow economically, viable transport networks ought to be developed. Both the ease of mobility and access to various spots within the UAE are integral in accelerating development. Nonetheless, there are myriads of challenges that are still posed by well developed transport systems. For example, transport systems contribute towards environmental degradation through the emission of greenhouse gases. Such gases have significantly worsened the state of global warming and climate change or variability. In addition, well developed transport systems consume a lot of energy.
In the United Arab Emirates, both fronts have posed gross challenge to the transportation sector. However, it is also vital to recall that economic development has been hampered in some regions within the UAE due to transport networks that are inefficient and underdeveloped. As already mentioned above, excess carbon emissions and huge consumption of energy have been noted as some of the challenges facing the UAE transport network. Whereas the global average in terms of energy use was estimated at 27 percent in 2008, the United Arab Emirates consumed close to 32 percent of its energy reserves. On the same note, the road sub sector was found to utilize about 14 percent of energy across the world compared to 18 percent rate in the United Arab Emirates alone. From these figures, it is evident that sustainable transport system should be made a priority in this region so that both economical development and social well being are attained simultaneously.
Trends and drivers
It is perhaps necessary to explore the current trends and drivers that are either inhibiting or propelling sustainable transport system in the United Arab Emirates. Rapid growth in population has been experienced in the wider UAE over the past few decades. This growth in population has mainly been contributed by the influx of expatriates from other regions who come to seek employment opportunities. The natural growth in population among the inhabitants of the UAE has also been on the upward trend. The same period has also been accompanied by expedited growth in urbanization. It is estimated that quite a huge chunk of the population reside in urban settlements even though most of the indigenous groups are found in rural settlements. Nonetheless, the urban population has been swelling each year. This is why planning for sustainable transport system is instrumental.
From the above experience, it can be observed that congestion and high traffic volume are growing problems each passing day. The towns and cities in this region are also under pressure in terms of resource utilization in the transport sub sector. As it stands now, road networks are continually expanded and upgraded as part and parcel of responding to the aforementioned pressures in the transport sector. However, such policy responses have promoted rampant use of personal cars on the roads as well as the pace of urbanization. Consequently, the challenges associated urban transport systems have been multiplied in various ways. In other words, instead of resolving the impending challenges in the road transport system, a negative feedback loop has been created due to compounding of the same problems. Worse still; governments in the UAE are allocating extremely high budgets to the public transport networks. For a considerable length of time, the public transport system was not funded adequately.
It is equally important to underscore the fact that the UAE enjoys significant subsidy on car fuels which further promotes extensive use of automobiles. As a result, the utilization of private vehicle has gone beyond that of the public transport system. This implies that energy use in this region is proportionately high compared to the rest of the world. From this outset, it can be seen that unless policy makers come up with a viable transport system, the overall effect will be disastrous to the region in the near future. It is crucial to balance economic growth and emerging challenges at any given time.
When it comes to sustainable transport system, there are quite a number of elements that should be put into consideration. For instance, a transport system that is deemed sustainable should be affordable to users. It should also minimize the emission of waste products. In addition, sustainability should go along with variety in terms of choice to be made by users. Finally, it ought to be viable for generations to come and also safe for use.
Therefore, the current road transport system that is dominating the UAE transport network should be eased down. A transport network that is reliable, efficient and multi-model should be adopted so that the pressure exerted in the road network is reduced to the minimum. There is no way such a region will expedite economic development by relying on a single mode of transport. For example, railway transport is an excellent choice that can be adopted in the UAE. It can assist in alleviating frequent congestion on the UAE roads. Passenger and goods train can both be used to facilitate cheap and reliable means of transport. Hence, policy makers should works towards diverting some of the funds used in road construction to railway line constructions. Both metro and light rail systems can be integrated on the mainland transport network. In particular, plans should be put in place for assessing the current transport needs based on individual destinations within the UAE before such giant projects can be initiated.
The most remote destinations of urban settlements should also be covered by well devised network of public transport buses. This approach has been embraced and adopted in Dubai. In other terms, each route should be covered according to the demand of the population. In addition, a public information portal that is online should accompany such a complex transport network so that travelers are provided with updated information regarding various routes, timetables for departures and arrivals as well as the available alternatives in case of unexpected delays. Real time information should be made available to passengers and motorists.
The public transport alternative should be made cheaper than using personal vehicles. Hence, transport policy such as adoption of road tolls can be used to minimize private transport on roads. If the cost of using a personal vehicle is higher than that of a public transport system, quite a significant number of private cars will be eliminated from the UAE roads. This will consequently minimize congestion and high flow of traffic. If intelligent toll zones are introduced in specific routes, it will discourage personal transportation. Moreover, fuel prices should not be subsidized as it is the case now.
Finally, goods and services that are demanded at the local level can be provided on the spot without involving an extensive transport system. This implies that factories can be built in strategic locations in order to avoid long distance transportation of products. Authorities in the UAE can also work together towards enhancing multilateral ties in the provision of affordable air transport using light aircrafts in order to reduce traffic demand.