Riyadh residents hope metro to end suffocating traffic jams

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Commuters make about 8 million trips each day in the Saudi capital city. — Courtesy photo



Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — The residents of Riyadh dream of roaming the streets of the Saudi capital freely by the end of 2018 without the need to negotiate the grueling crowd of motorists they got accustomed to over the years.

Riyadh is one of the most developed state capitals in the world. The city is home to 8 million people and some 2 million vehicles ply its streets during rush hours, Al-Hayat newspaper reported.

According to recent statistics released by the General Directorate of Traffic, 8 million trips take place in the city each day and its roads are busy until late at night.

Work on the King Abdulaziz Public Transportation Project, which includes the Riyadh Metro and an expanded bus network, began in late 2013.

There are many reasons that cause the traffic jams in Riyadh, the most important of which is the large number of commuters who use private cars to travel in the absence of appropriate public transportation means.

Road safety experts attribute the reason for the traffic congestion to the protracted delay in carrying out several projects inside the capital, followed by the long-drawn-out implementation of road works.

Meanwhile, some people argue that the reasons for the chaotic traffic situation in the city are purely "behavioral". They say the drivers do not respect traffic rules, jump red lights and drive at crazy speeds without heeding the consequences or the inconvenience to fellow drivers.

On the other hand, there are others who blame the capital's suffocation on the large number of expatriate workers, 60 percent of whom own vehicles, in the city. These people call for restrictions and controls on acquisition of vehicles by expatriates.

The Saudi economy suffers heavy losses due to the traffic congestion, which is attributed by noted Saudi economist Ihsan Buhaliga to a lack of measures to ensure smooth traffic flow especially during peak hours. He points out traffic movement on the fast lanes and at roundabouts in Riyadh is often disrupted due to simple accidents between two cars.

"If we estimate the cost of every minute delayed on the roads is one riyal, we will find that we are wasting tens of millions of riyals a day and billions a year on the road," Buhaliga said.

The residents of Riyadh hope that the metro project would put an end to the traffic problem in the streets of their city. They believe it would change the quality of their life for the better. Official estimates expect the metro to absorb 3.6 million passengers a day and contribute to reducing the traffic congestion in the city by 75 percent.

In order to achieve this, there needs to be a radical change in the transportation culture. The authorities should mount an aggressive campaign to encourage private car owners to abandon their vehicles for the daily commute and use the metro instead in order to minimize the traffic jams.

The work on the largest transportation project of its kind in the entire Middle East region began in late 2013 at a cost of $22.5 billion and is expected to be complete by the end of 2018. It includes six railway lines with a total length of 176 kilometers and is complemented by a massive 150-km long bus network.

The estimated cost of a metro ticket is SR25 and many hope Saudis and expatriates would make use of the metro for their daily commute instead of private vehicles as the railway network links most of the densely populated areas in the capital, including commercial centers, universities and government offices.

All the metro stations will be air-conditioned and will have free Wi-Fi.


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