Dubai - The Dubai Metro is the most popular mode of transport in the city.
It was exactly at the 9th second of the 9th minute at 9pm on September 9, 2009, when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, tapped the first Dubai Metro card to officially start the operations of the region's first and the world's longest driverless metro rail transport system.
The excitement was palpable: Fireworks lit up the sky and people gathered around to witness the historic event as Sheikh Mohammed, senior government officials, dignitaries, VIPs and members of the Press took the maiden Metro ride from the Mall of the Emirates station towards Rashidiya Station on the Red Line.
A decade following its inaugural run, there is no doubt that the Metro has transformed the way people move across the metropolis.
It has been dutifully fulfilling its purpose as the backbone of a public transport system linking vital parts of Dubai by providing safe and smooth transport for residents and tourists.
From a "mere" 6.89 million rides recorded on its first year of operations, the Metro ridership has jumped almost 600 per cent to 38.88 million rides in 2010. In August 2017, it reached its one-billion mark and, at present, the Metro has 49 stations - 29 on the Red Line and 20 on the Green Line - clocking in around 600,000 rides daily.
The Metro is also the main showpiece of Dubai's ambitious plan to revamp mass transit systems and raise the share of public transport in the people's mobility to as much as 30 per cent by 2030.
'Riding a driverless train seemed scary at first'
According to Mattar Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the board of executive directors of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), Dubai residents were initially afraid to take the Metro when it first began its operation back in September 2009 because it has no driver.
He said the initial daily riders of Dubai Metro were just between 30,000 to 40,000 - a far cry from its current daily ridership of around 600,000. So, he ordered to place someone in front of the Metro train to pretend as the driver.
Al Tayer's trick worked and ridership picked up to around 120,000 daily. Now, the Dubai Metro is the most popular mode of transport in the city.
How life changed
'I no longer have to squeeze myself inside a bus'
Indian expat Beena Saji, 48
"When I first came here in 2003, the only mode of public transport was taking a bus. Although the cost back then was just Dh1, it was quite inconvenient for me as every day I had to squeeze myself inside the bus. Then Metro came and it was such a breeze for me and my children, who are both working in Dubai, to travel from home to work
'It helped riders beat daily stress'
Layal Charara, Lebanese expat
"Public transportation can move more people in less space than individual automobiles, thus easing traffic congestion, which in turn reduces air pollution. The Metro has helped riders avoid the daily stress that comes with driving in highly congested areas."
'Safer than driving a car'
Umme Qizra Aleem, PR executive
"Taking the bus, train, light rail, or other transit options is safer than driving a car, not only in terms of the safety of the vehicles - which are maintained much more regularly than a personal car - but also in terms of the driving habits and training of the operators.
'From hours of commute to 15 minutes'
Jayendra Gurdasani, Indian national
"The Metro is a big help to me because I do not own a car. So travelling to work would require me to either take the abra or the bus and then, walk quite a distance to reach the office. Now I reach my destination in just 15 minutes. Before the metro, there was a lot of traffic. It was tiresome. Now travelling is easier and less time consuming."
'I've taken Metros in 34 countries, this is the best'
Dubai resident and Filipino expat, Dr Angelo Santos,
"I cannot be thankful enough for the service, convenience, comfort, affordability, efficiency and cleanliness that Dubai Metro renders to the riding public. Having been to 34 countries and have taken the metro and subways in most destinations that I go to, I can honestly say that Dubai Metro is the best in the world."
The plan for the Metro was set to motion on May 29, 2005, when the Dubai Municipality signed a Dh12.45billion contract with Dubai Rapid Link. Construction work officially began on March 21, 2006 but the initial idea of the project dates back to 1997, when Dubai was planning a solution to meet the increasing traffic needs.
July 2005: The design and construction contract of the Dubai Metro was awarded.
21 March 2006: His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai inaugurates the construction works of the Dubai Metro
29 July 2006: The casting of the first concrete pillar of the Dubai Metro viaduct between the sixth and seventh interchanges on the Sheikh Zayed Road.
10 January 2007: Sheikh Mohammed launched drilling of the Tunnels of the Dubai Metro Project. The move heralded the start of tunnelling works from the Union Station in the direction of Dubai Creek destined to Bujrjuman Metro Station.
7 March 2008: The first batch of the Dubai Metro carriages, comprising of 10 coaches, arrived at Jebel Ali Port.
20 September 2008: Sheikh Mohammed takes a test ride from Jebel Ali Station (now called UAE Exchange station) to Ibn Battuta Station
9 September 2009: Sheikh Mohammed opened the official operation of the Dubai Metro Red Line
13 October 2010: Sheikh Mohammed opened the official technical operation of the Dubai Metro Green Line
Year on year ridership
2009 - 6.89M
2010 - 38.88M (almost 600% jump)
2011 - 77.98M
2012 - 109.49M
2013 - 137.75M
2014 - 164.3M
2015 - 174.52M
2016 - 191.32M
2017 - 200.08M
2018 - 204.40M
2019 - 101.68M (1st half of 2019)
> The Metro's first stop was the Dubai International Financial Centre Station. Sheikh Mohammed placed a golden commemorative coin at the station.
> Other Metro stations also have legacy markets: , Khalid Bin Walid Station (Burjuman) - an Etched Poem; Union Square Station - Time Capsule (Message to the Future); Dubai Airport Terminal 3 Station - Mosaic Portrait; and Rashidiya Station - a LEGO Sculpture.
> The Union Station is considered to be world's largest underground metro station at 25,000 sq metres
> 69 minutes - travel time from Rashidiya to UAE Exchange Metro Station on the Red Line
> 99.9 per cent punctuality mark of Dubai Metro
> There are five themes used in the Metro interiors: heritage, earth, air, fire and water
> 22.5km is the total distance of the Green Line
> 52.1km is the length of the Red Line
> 20 is the total number of wheels that a Metro train runs on
> 750 volts is the direct current that Dubai Metro runs on
> 80 per cent of the water used to wash the trains is recycled
> 643 is the maximum number of passengers that can be accommodated on a single track
> 4000 CCTV cameras have been installed across trains and stations on the Dubai Metro
> Dh300 fine for falling asleep on Dubai Metro
The construction for Dubai Metro's extension project is right on track. Route 2020 is set to begin commercial operations on May 20, 2020 - five months before the inauguration of the highly anticipated Dubai Expo 2020.
When completed, the 15km Metro extension will link the Nakheel Harbour and Tower station on the Metro's Red Line to the Expo 2020 site, passing through Dubai Investments Park, Discovery Gardens, Al Furjan and Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Route 2020 will not only transport the Expo visitors, but will also serve around 270,000 residents living in those fast-growing communities.