13 September, 2009

#MyMetroExp - Will I ditch my car?

Last night, I decided to take the metro. I didn't want to just go on a round-trip without a purpose. I wanted to actually go do some shopping at Mall of the Emirates. I start from the Golden Sands area, where there is a distinct lack of bus stations. You would have to walk on to Kuwait street before you can see any bus stations. It seemed easier to simply walk around 6pm.

Sweating, but still excited, I reached the Burjuman metro station. At this point, I am desperate for some cool air. Nope. It is steaming hot in there. Took the escalator down, still hoping to get hit by the cool air we all love. It didn't hit me until I reached the last 3 steps of the escalator. The station looks nice. Proceeded to look for signs. Jebel Ali. Cool. Turned right and placed my card on the machine to open up the door. Nice.

A set of stairs awaited us, blocked by security as the train has yet to arrive. I'm not sure why that is necessary and/or if there is a better way than having people stranded on the stairs. As we went down, I tried to once again, follow the signs. Gold class. Cool, here we go. Train arrived, stepped inside and ah.. looks nice.

The Gold Class cabin is.. well, only one cabin. It also filled up very quickly. In fact, the majority of those in Gold class were not paying the gold class fare. They just walked up and took a seat. I don't know why the doors between cabins remain open or how they intend to police this. If I could pay the lowest rate and go sit up in Gold Class, what is there to stop me?

Novelty riders are usually equipped with cameras and smiles. Around here, we also have the loud and obnoxious types. The kind of behavior you would expect from teenagers, but acted out by full grown adults. I found that most annoying, but cannot blame it on the metro itself. These types of people will eventually go away. I don't think we will continue to have people speak loudly, run around the cabin holding on to your seat, rocking it, etc. It did, however, take away from the otherwise smooth ride.

We reached the Mall of the Emirates station. This is when the chaos ensued. As we stepped into the station, I can see a massive amount of people surrounding what looked like an Information desk. I looked for signs. Exit. Cool, I walked up to it. There stood a guy who barked at us, "You can't just walk up here! Go over there!" The workers are obviously frustrated. We are following signs. It says exit everywhere! Exit to WHAT? Where he stood, it had an exit sign above him. He pointed to where the crowds were.

Apparently, exiting was a major bottleneck. I think one of the machines broke, adding to that, people are still trying to figure out how to take a magnetic card and make it touch a pad. It's a learning curve, but it took me 8 minutes to get out of there.

By this time, I was frustrated. After I was done with the shopping, I realized something very important. There is noway in hell I'm going to walk 2kms carrying this. Good thing I had a car parked in my office at DMC. I decided to ditch the metro, took a cab to my office's parking lot and drove back home.

I am not trying to take away from Dubai's achievement. Having a mass transit system is not something to take lightly. This is a huge deal. I was sincerely hoping to get rid of my car and take up public transportation. I genuinely wanted to. It just isn't practical enough for me. Bus stations aren't enough and the weather doesn't help.

As it turns out, I won't be ditching my car any time soon. This worries me, because, if people like me, who really want to use public transportation are not going to get onboard.. how is the RTA planning on getting people off their cars and into the metro?


Jhani said...

I Think, this is very early to decide about the metro benefits, as you rode on 3rd day only.i was rode on second day and enjoy the travel, purchased the NOL card, used it in train and station connected local busses too. metro already catched the attention of the public, no dout people will be habitated to travel in Dubai Metro very soon.

Proud Emirati said...

Well written but I 2nd Jhani, it is too early to judge whether the metro will be really useful of not. Don't forget the metro feeders too !

Anonymous said...

yup too early.

On Friday evening me and a friend decided to visit the metro. Since the Station next to Dubai Mall is not yet open we drove to DIFC. When we reached the station a crowd was already gathering outside. Apparently there was a technical issue and the metro was closed for the day. Later I learned that some people got stranded in the train for more than 3 hours. That day I decided to wait for another 6 months... :)

B.D. said...

Certainly a percentage of the population have good placement to metro and feeder buses on either end of their commute, so these will probably go for metro. That no. will increase as more of the stations open up. Not being one who can make use of the feeder buses, I've tried the regular buses and have found they are nightmarish. The routes they take are mysterious and illogical and it is next to impossible to get reliable info whether from the stops, the RTA helplines, the drivers or other passengers.

I've realized there is only one way to find out where the buses actually run--just get on and lose about 3 hours out of your day. At a rate of 1 bus adventure per day, I'm bound to find something in a week or two.

Viper said...

how is the RTA planning on getting people off their cars and into the metro?

i think its very easy once things settle down on the metro, make salik every where near the metro and maybe make it more expensive to use roads

Dubai Jazz said...

A well written account indeed.

I rode the metro on Friday from the Khaled BW station and had more or less the same experience. Except that I was riding just for the heck of it. So when I saw the security guy holding people OUT at the Mall of the Emirates station I turned around immediately, 'cause I figured by the look of the masses trying to get in that if I went inside the mall it'd take me hours to get back inside the station.

One of the nol machines was already out of service, and the other had a massive queue leading to it. But couple of RTA personnel with some sense put up a folding table with stacks of cards and started selling to help ease the pressure on the counter and the working machine. So that helped. I was back on the platform within minutes. And although we were told there's a train every 10 minutes, we had to wait more than 20 minutes for one to arrive. By that time the platform filled up pretty good. And a nice lady from the RTA kept asking people not to lean in on the glass. Some people brought their children along, even small children on baby carriages. One little kid had the hallmarks of a Pavarotti-like future, he kept crying like crazy and made his parents' life miserable.

Most of the passengers brought cameras with them, one douche even had a tripod on board. We waited 10 more minutes until the train moved away from the MOE station. I think the air conditioning was a little more intense that it should be. And the smell of the spank new plastic seats and interior finishings of the train was nice and overpowering. So I can't tell whether the other passengers smelled or not. I hope not. And it's still early to judge. As well as it's still early to judge the metro. Technical glitches are bound to happen no matter how many test runs you do.

Stained said...

Looking at the number of people who travelled on Day 2 and 3, I wasn't surprised to see problems sprouting all over the place. I was smart enough to go early in the morning to avoid all the hassle Day 2...I had a great time and I shall use it once I get over this stupid flu....

I do agree that is system is not ready. I feel they hurried the whole launch without training the staff adequately and doing enough test runs with actual people...

Hopefully by next year it'll be all smothered out cause if these issues continued, I'd take the Dubai Bus over it...

B.D...the Dubai bus is not that hard to figure out. I use them frequently and find the maps quite helpful. You should look up the details on the RTA site which surprisingly is pretty good for bus routes...

BuJ said...

Guys, bloggers, dubai residents: STOP and THINK.

Do you think it's wise (or fair) to judge the metro before it even celebrated it's 1 week-old anniversary with 10 stations yet? Remember for it to be the metro it was intended, the full Red and Green lines should be running, and also all stations should be open. This is a must, to reduce overcrowding at the smaller number of existing nodes (i.e. stations).

A project that took 4 years to build and many years before that to design cannot be dismissed in just one trip. Imagine what the Londoners thought 200 years ago when their crappy slow train ran between Baker Street and Marylborne station for the first time? How can you explain more that to the more than 1 million people that use the London metro daily?

We have a world class metro here, what we now need is:

1- Mature and educated users.
2- Bouncers excluding people who want to use it as a roller coaster. You can always go to Hili park in Al Ain.
3- Time, lots of time, to sort out the teething problems.

You cannot expect a baby to go from learning words like "baba" and then to recite the whole Quran or Shakespeare's works in one go. Then you call the baby stupid! oh boy.. ok i better stop.

samuraisam said...

measuredPR: Great post and some really great comments from people so far.

Anonymous said...


No one is dismissing anything here. I was simply recounting my experience and pointing out areas that I felt needed attention.

And yes, I think it is fair to recount experiences from day 1. We expect a lot from Dubai.

Dubai is like the A student whose parents are constantly pushing. "You scored 98% on your math test? What HAPPENED?!". You know.. those parents :)

Most of the issues I have found so far are people-centric, so I would imagine they would change by time. However, I still think the number of buses and stations need to exponentially increase.

BuJ said...

Hi MeasuredPR.. One additional point to answer your question if I will ditch my car?

I don't think the point is to reduce car ownership, but to discourage its use in urban areas where the metro exists.

If Dubai follows the German model that would be great. High car ownership (Germans won't let go of their cars), but low car usage in cities.

We still need cars if we are to go to RAK or Al Ain (and until a UAE-wide rail network is built). However, personally if I could take the metro instead of my car to get to my work/mall/place of interest then I would keep my car at home (but won't ditch it just yet).

I think that's the big battle, rather than just ditching cars.

Personally I cannot wait till the green line opens coz that's more fun as it goes to more older parts of Dubai and is more underground by percentage of track length. Imagine an evening in Bastakiya or Al Ras or a walk near the Gold souk without worrying about traffic or parking :) I might even ditch the motorbike (for the night) to visit Sh Saeed's house via metro :)

BuJ said...

Lol @ Anon :)

98% hahaha!!

btw, a lot of the delays were due to people not used to the metro.. and those leaning on the emergency stop buttons! duh!

but then, do we believe everything the RTA tells us?

Proud Emirati said...

Instead of wasting ur time B.D. here are the bus routs and the metro feeders.



nzm said...

BuJ said:
If Dubai follows the German model that would be great. High car ownership (Germans won't let go of their cars), but low car usage in cities.

Hey BuJ - it would be great if it could happen like this in Dubai. The difference being, to take Berlin as an example, the metro covers the whole city. You can pop into it and appear out of it just about anywhere in the city. Same with Barcelona where we are.

Dubai Metro is pretty much on one or two tracks - and pretty straight ones at that - when compared to most other cities' metro systems. It's going to have to rely really heavily on bus connections to make it work like other cities.

Insh'allah that it works - and I hope that it does.

Anonymous said...

Is the weather in Berlin or London or Mumbai like the weather in Dubai?

Between April to September?

Till then, I will use the Metro on my off days, nights and weekends

Ford said...

BuJ - Interesting reference to the London Underground opening. This article, from The Guardian, about the opening day of 'that crappy slow train' shows that really, not much has changed in 146 years! For Kings Cross, read Mall of the Emirate; Paddington, Rashadiya and Farringdon, NHT!

Opening of the Metropolitan Railway to the public

Sunday 11 January 1863 18.14 GMT

Yesterday the Metropolitan (underground) Railway was opened to the public, and many thousands were enabled to indulge their curiosity in reference to this mode of travelling under the streets of the metropolis.

The trains commenced running as early as six o'clock in the morning from the Paddington (Bishop's-road) station, and the Farringdon-street terminus, in order to accommodate workmen, and there was a goodly muster of that class of the public, who availed themselves of the advantages of the line in reaching their respective places of employment.

At eight o'clock the desire to travel underground in the direction of the City began to manifest itself at the various stations along the line; and by nine it became equally evident to the authorities that neither the locomotive power nor the rolling stock at their disposal was at all in proportion to the requirements of the opening day.

From this time, and throughout the morning, every station became crowded with anxious travellers who were admitted in sections; but poor were the chances of a place to those who ventured to take their tickets at any point below Baker-street, the occupants being, with but very rare exceptions, "long distance," or terminus, passengers.

This circumstance tended to increase the numbers at every station every minute, until there became sufficient to fill any train of empties which might be sent to overflow; and we believe we are correct in stating that ultimately a number of the Great Western narrow gauge carriages as well as engines, were brought into requisition, and by this means the temporary wants of the public were accommodated...

Dubai Jazz said...


This is a little off-topic. But here's a part from the article you've posted which i thought was interesting :

"..in order to accommodate workmen, and there was a goodly muster of that class of the public, who availed themselves of the advantages.."

The language. "class" is one word that is not acceptable these days when referring to certain people in the media.

Some things do change with time!

BuJ said...


thanks for that! of course u know more about germany than I do,.. but from my reading somewhere i read that this is what they are trying to do. rather than attempt the impossible by building the "metro-rome" in a day, they simply will build the metro bit by bit and try to allow most people to avoid car use only in the areas with metro coverage.

I went to Barcelona in 2007.. but do not rate its public transport very highly. we just took taxis, i guess since they were cheap(er). I don't even remember if they have a metro! except to cross a street.

A good example of what Dubai can do is adopt the Rome model. They have just 4 lines i believe with huge distances between stations. This is due to areas which they cannot put a metro in for archelogical reasons. Anyway, they have EXCELLENT bus services there between the metro stations. In fact Rome traffic is as bad as Dubai, even worse in places, and the busses were so good.

Ford I loved your article :)

I read a lot about the London Underground when I used to work in London.. also as an engineer, I get to wet my appetite with such stuff there. Ah oh, that was the past.. but still, lovely to read the old article :)

DJ, we still have classes, even in the UK, and we still have slavery but we don't like to use either words.

Conclusion: Until people understand that mass-transit systems take years and decades before they are fully operational we won't find many people approving of our metro. What the RTA's done is just finished the first checkpoint in a long race. Also you cannot magically fix the problem by shoving money and building a metro. You need to solve the problem wholistically, as a whole. Some readers already pointed out that buses are critical to the RTA's success. This is true, and other factors are: Pedestrianisation of streets (e.g. what if Khalid bin Waleed st was 100% pedestrianised?) people would be forced to take the bus/metro. Consider: Trams, car pooling, incentives for smaller cars, motorcycles, bicycles, etc

Only until we explore all these options can we really claim to move forward in this area.

Finally (i know i've rambled on), the number of cyclists in London has more than doubled in the last 5 yrs, yet the winter months in london have not been warmer or dryer (considerably). This is caused by the government providing more cycle lanes and parking, and people becoming more health conscious, and the ever rising cost of transport, even by tube.

nzm said...

BuJ: Come to Barcelona again, and we'll show you a great transport system. For only €1.70, we can use tram, train, bus and metro within the city for 1hr 15mins until we have to pay another €1.70. It's great! We don't have a car - don't need one.

See Alexander's post as to what needs to be addressed before the Dubai Metro does become an effective alternative to car usage.

Yes, it will take time to develop a complex metro system for Dubai, but then again, surely it should have been something that was thought and started sometime back in the early 2000s when the boom hit Dubai? I know, I have perfect 20/20 hindsight! ;.)

nzm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nzm said...

And you're right about Rome - we were there in January and used metro and bus to get around the city. It was easy, buses were plentiful and very easy to navigate. ;.)

measuredPR said...


Barcelona's bus system is great. It is literally 3 minute walks between every bus stop. I loved getting around in buses. I haven't used a taxi there at all.

I don't think it's easy for Dubai to do something similar, as it would actually require adding pavements to make streets pedestrian friendly.

Look at TECOM developments. There are vast areas that simply don't have a place for people to WALK to get to the bus stop. It's all a bit odd. So this will take some time to get put together..

If anything though, I think there is a top-level determination to make public transportation a serious and viable option. That is where it starts and it makes everything else fall in place. It's just not going to happen overnight.

ĄηğэĻĭšTїÇ said...

My Metro 1st exp was smooth awesome an superb http://angelistiic.blogspot.com/2009/09/dubai-metro-1st-experience.html

Ditching my car would be hard but this doesnt mean I wont use the metro surely I to go say from bur dubai to deira .. Instead of driving from Jumeirah to burjman I would take the metro which will drop me there in less time :)

nzm said...


Oh yeah, that pavement issue is deadly. The number of times that I had to step onto the road to navigate around the DIC and risk getting run over took about 5 years off my life!

I once tried to walk from my office in the DIC to my apartment in Dubai Marina 1. Not a long distance, for sure.

But with the construction, lack of pavements and the speed of the cars, it was a nightmare. Added to that, every second car tried to stop and pick me up - but they weren't acts of kindness, they were asking me how much did I cost! I never tried to walk home again!

measuredPR said...


Hahahahahah.. I remember a year ago, it was pouring at night. I was working late and was heading home. I can see a woman taking a real beating by the rain, standing at the bus stop. My instinct told me to stop and give her a ride, but my sense told me to keep driving. The last thing I needed was having someone take me for one of your "how much?" crew. I felt bad about it, but I thought I had little choice.

I still kind of feel bad about it. That's just life.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for public transport but hearing the mixed (and overpoweringly negative) reviews of the Metro, would anyone recommend it for an important journey at this early teething stages, i.e. using it to get to a job interview? In theory I can use it to get to what might be a prospective employer but am feeling I may not want to risk getting stranded in the station and loose precious first impression points. Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I would love to know from someone what happens in their mind when they ask 'how much'.
And who all do they ask.
From my experience any female is fair game - I've been dressed frumpily for grocery shopping in the most misshapen, faded clothes, wearing boring glasses and still got rather persistent err... hopefuls?
I mean, can't you sort of tell, whether she is going to respond in numbers or run! In most cases?
On the other hand, I've had some perfectly respectable, rather gruff home drops when I was waiting for a cab in an unlikely place.
So measuredPR, even if the hopefuls are clueless about who is approachable women seem to be able to tell. Don't let it stop you next time.

Anonymous said...

Come to Paris it has the most sophisticated metro system in the world, yet u only pay one euro for one entry ticket. One entry ticket means u can go anywhere in the city as long as u don't exit the system.You can also purchase yearly cards, monthly, weekly, etc. which will make each ride even cheaper!!!!

Auto Professionals said...

Good for you, your saving money and helping the planet.

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