Friday, April 03, 2009

Sports cars need not apply

This has probably been done to death by Alexander on Fake Plastic Souks. As at today, eight posts. They're a good read: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight.

It even got picked up by the Khaleej Times. So I though I’d wade into the same subject matter and, as it were, kick it while it’s down.

The situation in brief for the benefit of any reader who’s unfamiliar with the political and socio-economic geography of this part of the United Arab Emirates is as follows. Dubai and Sharjah are adjacent emirates. The common border runs approximately east from the coast in a straightish line into the desert. Both emirates have developed residential areas near the coast, and Sharjah also has a dense industrial area in the immediate hinterland.

Residential rentals in Sharjah tend to be rather lower than in Dubai, which means that an awful lot of people choose, or are financially obliged, to live in Sharjah even if they work in Dubai. The lack of any meaningful inter-emirate public transport system means that each and every employee has to commute by road. Further restrictions imposed by legislators limit the scope for car pooling, which does nothing to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

Which road? Al Ittihad Road is the nearest major highway connecting the two emirates. Despite its immense capacity and current schemes to upgrade it, Al Ittihad Road remains a traffic congestion hotspot during the peak hours. Perhaps a mere two lanes through one of the underpasses has something to do with this.

More roads connecting Dubai and Sharjah run parallel and further inland. The problem with these, from the point of view of a commuting Sharjah resident, is the need to negotiate the industrial area - which is generally entirely gridlocked during rush hours.

The solution identified by Alexander and others is to go yet further inland, beyond University City. A dumb-bell interchange on the Sharjah-Kalba road appears to offer an obvious link across the border. All it needs is a few metres of asphalt to complete this missing link. But no. Dubai RTA chooses to station a fleet of earthmoving machinery to block any attempt to cross the border at this location. Not even intrepid 4x4 drivers can negotiate the concrete barriers, bunds and ditches. And it’s all in the name of safety. Allegedly, it would be dangerous to drive beneath the overhead electricity cables that are strung along the border. This is tosh (what sort of tosh, Keef?) unless you’re driving a double-decker bus with a flagpole stuck on its roof.

The actual reason, in the Goat’s opinion, is to do with traffic congestion.

What would happen if, in a fantasy parallel universe, the interchange were connected to the Dubai highway network? Well firstly, Alexander would write a blog about how his snicket had been vindicated. And the container depot operator next to the interchange would be able to get all Dubai collections and deliveries conveniently in and out of his gate without having to drag down to National Paints roundabout or out to the Outer Ring Road. Gradually more and more Sharjah residents would learn about this traffic-free alternative road to work.

The additional inbound traffic would overload Dubai’s already crowded highway network, and the entire city (rather than just Satwa at 8pm) would become horribly broken. Then one day, Academic City Road would suddenly be as busy as the Emirates Road; all routes into Dubai city from Academic City Road would become congested and every junction would grind to a capacity-limited halt.

Dubai’s policy, then, is to limit the influx of ‘foreign’ cars by placing choke points at every entry. The underpass near Al Mullah Plaza is limited to two lanes in each direction. Edited on 4th April to add: As pointed by The Wizard of D, the underpass at Al Mullah Plaza is indeed three lanes in each direction. There is even an additional new Sharjah-bound underpass, whose purpose is to remove traffic from Dubai and dump it next door. However, adjacent entry points are very effectively choked by Sharjah’s industrial area, and from other directions there are no major adjacent conurbations.

The apparently obvious solution is to provide decent public transport links between the emirates. If that ever became flesh and dwelt among us, even more Dubai workers would find less expensive Sharjah rents attractive enough to warrant a move. Loss of rental income by Dubai makes provision of such public transport facilities a vanishingly remote possibility. Moreover, Sharjah rents would rise to prohibitive Dubaiesque levels and there’d be even more ‘fleeing’ expats.



Media Junkie said...

wow. sounds plausible. which is sad.

Keefieboy said...

The usual sort. Disingenuous.

The Wizard of D said...

Small correction.

The underpass at Al Mulla is back to 3 lanes with another 3 lane underpass just opened... right next to it.

Your argument though is fantastic.

Rose in Dubai said...

That's been my argument all along. Every time they widen the roads all that happens is we get a short fat traffic jam instead of a long thin one at all the usual choke points.

I'm buying a microlight!

Grumpy Goat said...

@TWoD: You're right about Al Mullah Plaza. I've made a small correction to the text.

ZeTallGerman said...

Yep, I totally agree. I used to use the sandy snicket, but now I take the very convenient... ah! I'm not telling ;-) But I often thought about what would happen if the short-cut were to become a road that connects into the back-end of Khawaneej and Mizhar. For one, the residents of this sleepy, non-expatriate-overrun area wouldn't be happy campers. And secondly, the Khawaneej Road leads directly to the back of Mirdif and subsequently: Dubai Airport (which is already a huge jam every morning with commuters that have battled National *Pains* & Emirates Road). So, the moral of the story is: you can't please everyone.

alexander... said...

How about the status quo?

Everyone can get stuck on the Ittihad and Emirates roads and I'll use me snicket.

We're all happy. Ye've all got one less Pajero in front of you, I've got 2,000 less aggressive, lane-swapping, angry bozos toting Starbucks holders filled with instant coffee in front of me...



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