Dubai-Sharjah traffic rush could cost Dh12 billion
Traffic jam on Shaikh zayad road, from Abu Dhabi toward Dubai near Al Barsha toll gate.
Dubai - The big story for today weighs the economic cost of traffic congestions on Dubai and Sharjah route.
You know you're stuck in Dubai-Sharjah traffic when the radio starts playing the top 50 song hits, and you get to hear all 50 of them, said Tabassum Rajput.
A makeup artist, who travels to Dubai from Sharjah for work every other day, Rajput told KT she usually hangs around in Dubai till traffic "normalises" before heading home. Social media may be filled with funny posts on getting stuck - morning and evening - in jams, but residents are a frustrated lot.
A driver commuting between Sharjah and Dubai spends an average of 20 hours a week in traffic - more than 80 hours a month, and close to 1,000 hours a year.
The economic cost
According to the Dubai Statistical Center, Dubai's population was around 2.4 million in 2014. The Road and Transport Authority of Dubai (RTA) estimates there are 540 vehicles registered per 1,000 residents in Dubai. This ratio is one of the highest in the world. The RTA also believes there are approximately 1.4 million vehicles registered in the city, and that Dubai has a Travel Time Index (TTI) of 1.69 (TTI measures average time in peak hours in comparison to off-peak hours: higher the index, higher the congestion). According to RTA, in 2014, traffic congestion cost Dubai's economy around Dh4.6 billion in lost time and fuel.
"The population and vehicles registered in the UAE have been growing," said Alp Eke, director, senior economist for the MENA region - Market Insights & Strategy, NBAD. "Considering the overall population estimates, urban population figures, growth in the number of vehicles registered, and various indexes such as TTI, the cost of traffic congestion on the UAE economy in 2014 could easily be in excess of Dh10 billion. The economic impact of traffic congestion in lost time and fuel in the UAE last year could have been as high as Dh12 billion, almost 1 per cent of the country's GDP. Obviously, the environmental impact is harder to calculate and is extremely high."
These estimates prove that investments in infrastructure to help de-congest roads will result in economic and environmental benefits, he added. But, "increasing the available roads is not the only solution. We must learn to use resources efficiently. The public has to made aware of the environmental and economic impact. Use of public transport must be encouraged, and the number of vehicles in traffic jams must be reduced by increasing occupancy rates of each vehicle."
Traffic woes and health issues
"Due to the nature of my job, I have to travel almost daily to clients, a majority of who are located in Dubai," said Sadia Akbar. "So, that means leave early every day, and get stuck in traffic for a minimum of one hour and 30 minutes. yet, I never reach on time ever!"
Like Rajput, Akbar deliberately sits late to avoid traffic on her way back to Sharjah.
Sherouk Zakaria, another Sharjah resident who works in Dubai, described the traffic as "brutal" and "more horrible than last year." "It consumes your energy before your day even starts, and it interferes with a lot of my planning. I start my work at 7:30am, which means waking up by 5am and leaving by 6am max! When I used to leave by that time last year, I would reach Dubai in 30 minutes. Now it takes me an hour and sometimes and an hour and 15 minutes. I barely get enough sleep during the week because of how early I have to leave my house," she said.
Traffic jams cost you money. According to Texas Transportation Institute, each hour stuck in traffic costs about $21 in wasted time and fuel. In addition, daily health hazards are well documented. Medical specialists explain that as your car slows to a crawl, your heart rate picks up, your breathing intensifies, and your blood pressure shoots up. Drivers become more irritable and may behave aggressively.
Many drivers pointed out there are very few routes between Sharjah and Dubai. As a result, the existing ones are always jam-packed. Badriya Al Raeesi, a senior relationship manager who works in Emmar Square, close to Dubai Mall, said, "I live in Ajman, and I usually reach home around 9pm if I leave at 7pm or so; two hours is just a norm nowadays. It's frustrating because the amount of time spent in traffic can be utilised in more useful ways!