Commuters worried as RTA looks for ride-sharing alternatives
Dubai - Dubai suspended issuing of permits for car-pooling to prevent misuse.
Published: Sat 30 Jun 2018, 11:23 PM
The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai has suspended issuing permits for 'Sharekni' or carpooling and motorists who are into car-sharing are left in limbo. The RTA, however, has assured them that the authority is studying alternatives to cater to their needs.
For motorists, the money they save from reduced petrol usage is one of the best reasons to carpool. Carpooling also doesn't just benefit their wallets, it also lessens their stress as driving duties are done on alternate days and car-sharing helps reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
Dubai resident James Arriola said he has been saving at least Dh200 per month of petrol money because of carpooling.
"Early last year, when I used to drive alone to work in Jebel Ali Techno Park from my house in Al Barsha, I used to spend at least Dh200 per week to fill up the tank of my compact SUV. But when I shared ride with my flatmate, who also work in JAFZA, I saved at least Dh50 every week.
Now, if we don't continue sharing ride, I will again accumulate Dh200 additional expense every month," Arriola noted.
But the RTA is currently reviewing the masterplan for shared transport mobility in Dubai that's why Sharekni, the online platform where motorists register for the permits, was suspended, according to Mohammed Abubaker Al Hashmi, RTA's director for planning and business development.
Al Hashmi said the move was also "in response to activities by some firms and individuals who promote their services via smart apps or online ads without being licensed to do so".
However, the RTA's effort to curb illegal transport system has also affected those who are legally doing the carpooling.
"Illegal transport is very common in high-density areas," Filipino expat Andrei Avila admitted. "People engage in carlift (illegal transport in local parlance) because they want to save money. But there are also those who comply with the rules and get proper permits. I don't think these law-abiding motorists should suffer the inconvenience. I hope the RTA will restore issuing permits for carpooling," he added.
No timeframe, however, has been given when Sharekni will be back.
"The RTA is evaluating its services and preparing the mechanism for new services whilst identifying the requirements for each transport mode," Al Hashmi told Khaleej Times.
At the same time, the agency calls on the public to be aware about the use of illegal or unlicensed transit means as they constitute grave risks to the security and safety of riders. "Operating illegal transport service in Dubai can attract a fine ranging from Dh5,000 to Dh50,000 and carpooling without any permit might amount to illegal transport," according to the RTA.
AlternativesSo, what are the alternatives for the public who want to still engage in ride-sharing?
Al Hashmi replied: "In the meantime, for passengers' safety and security purposes, the RTA urges commuters to avail of its services which include smart car rental (ekar and Udrive), taxis, limousine and e-Hail services to reach their destinations and connect with different public transport modes."
Carpooling, however, is most popular among parents who do school run and this means some parents have to discontinue ride-sharing in the meantime.
When asked what can be an alternative to students' carpooling, Al Hashmi replied: "School bus."
"The RTA has introduced the 'School Transport Law' in Dubai, which governs school transport activities, whilst putting into place the highest standards of safety and security to ensure the safe commute of students using school buses. These features include tracking of the bus, and other onboard bus safety standards and specifications which need to be followed by the transport providers. Hence we encourage parents to use school bus transport over car-pooling," he explained.
One parent, Filipino expat Richard dela Cruz, agreed to this option. A father of three school-going kids, he said: "Based on my own experience, the kids are more disciplined when they take the bus to school.
"Carpooling is cheaper but I feel that my kids are safer when they take the bus than share a ride," he added.
Illegal transport can attract finesAccording to Law 6, 2016, with reference to the regulations of carpooling, commuters can car pool for commuting as friends, family or colleagues from home to work and back or any other destination as long as there is no exchange of fee/fare/charges between the driver and the passenger.
Illegal or unlicensed transit constitutes grave risks to the security and safety of riders. According to the RTA, operating illegal transport service in Dubai can attract a fine ranging from Dh5,000 to Dh50,000.
Advantages of the scheme> More economical - By sharing the cost of driving with other riders, motorists save money.
> Less stress - When you're not the one driving, you can read, listen to music, or simply just relax.
> Environment- friendly - Carpooling means less use of petrol, which translates into cleaner air and safer communities
> Prolongs the life of your car - Shared driving means fewer miles on each car
> Lessens traffic congestion - When motorists carpool, there are fewer cars on the road.