Thursday, September 14, 2006

Toll tales

Has the Roads and Transport Authority come to its senses? Last December I blogged about my take on the RTA (then Dubai Municipality) commissioning a study including proposals for tolls for traffic entering Dubai. According to today's Gulf News, "Reports about the road tolls in Dubai are baseless..." says Maitha Mohammad Bin Udai, the Chief Executive Officer. And 7Days confirms it, at least for now.

My guess is that the comprehensive study has shown that imposing a congestion charge without providing a viable alternative means of travel would do absolutely nothing to reduce traffic. According to the Gulf News, Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the RTA, said "We will not do it for the sake of collecting money." However, "Never believe anything until it's officially denied."

Incidentally, who exactly is the CEO of the RTA? Maitha Mohammed Bin Udai or Mattar Al Tayer? Come on, Gulf News: it's Make Your Mind Up Time!

Everyone who lives here must know about the dreaded Sharjah Schlep*. This traffic jam impacts on all roads leading from Sharjah into Dubai every morning. My spies advise me that a senior Sharjah police officer wishes to see ramp metering installed on the merge ramp that takes traffic from Al Ta'awon in Sharjah on to the Dubai-bound Al Ittihad Road at Al Khan interchange. I think this is a brilliant idea...for revenue-raising. It would of course do nothing to relieve congestion.

Ramp metering works by limiting the amount of traffic entering the main road. Detector loops measure the amount of traffic on the main road, and control traffic signals on a merge sliproad. The busier the main road is, the less additional traffic is allowed to merge. More red and less green time. Logically, if the main road is completely gridlocked, there is zero spare capacity and the sliproad will be on permanent red. Drivers will assume that if they never turn green, the signals must be broken. Echo and the Sunnymen**, among others, will be tempted to push past the red light and thus get popped by the enforcement camera. K-ching! Several thousand per day times Dh200 is a sizeable chunk of change. (How much does running a red light cost in Sharjah? I know it involves Dh500 and vehicle confiscation in Dubai.)

Actually, there's a thought. Impound the car of everyone who runs the red light on the metered ramp, and very soon there'll be minimal traffic driving into Dubai from Sharjah. I'd better stop now before I produce any more half-baked ideas that become government policy.

* Thank you, Mme Cyn.
** Thank you, Secret Dubai.

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