Posted by: Barrak Al-Babtain | June 14, 2009

Traffic in Kuwait

“KUWAIT CITY, June 12: MP Dr Waleed Al-Tabtabaei has forwarded questions to Interior Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Khalid Al-Sabah on the preparation and implementation of action plans to address the worsening traffic problems in the country, reports Al-Shahid daily. Al-Tabtabaei argued the government should prioritize transportation to ease people’s movement from one location to another. He said Kuwait is currently facing serious traffic problems that have been adversely affecting individuals, groups, companies and the national economy in general. He decried situations in which people spend three to four hours battling traffic congestion in a country whose population is less than three million.”

-Arab Times

traffic

(Jan-Michael Breider)

Kuwait, along with most developing nations, has seen its growth restricted by crippling traffic jams. As with other major problems in Kuwait, it has been worsening exponentially because of a total lack of planning and forethought. We at re:kuwait will not wait any longer and are proposing our own solutions.

At the heart of it, the problem is simple. There are too many cars on the road. Therefore, the solutions will either be to reduce the number of cars or to build more roads. For years, traffic problems in the United States have seen them invest heavily into building more and more highways. The problem with this is that more highways will eventually generate increased demand for cars. This will clog up all the new highways and the traffic persists. This is not a solution for Kuwait, not only because it doesn’t really solve the traffic problem, but that we simply don’t have the room to build new highways where they’re needed.

It becomes clear then that the only solution is to reduce the demand for cars and provide alternate means of transportation. This won’t be easy, as the status-quo will be defended by highway contractors, automobile dealers and the services that depend on them.

We have to be persistent and fight back by arguing that reducing traffic not only ensures a better economy and quality of life but will lower our overall carbon emissions  and reduce our domestic consumption of oil. This requires a comprehensive solution. There are six ways we can lower automobile demand:

1: Abolish the fuel subsidy. Kuwait sells gasoline to the gas stations at a much lower price than its market value. This is called a subsidy, which means that the government is subsidizing (lowering) the price of gasoline for its citizens. Our government does this to alleviate the cost burden from its citizens. A fuel subsidy is in place in many developing countries as well as in almost all oil exporters.

Fuel Subsidies

As you can see, Kuwait sells its gasoline at around 1 dollar per gallon. Germany and other developed (and oil importing) nations sell gasoline 7 or 8 times the price in Kuwait. They do the opposite of us, they tax the fuel that is sold in gas stations. This reduces the demand for driving by artificially increasing the price. I’m not suggesting that we implement a fuel tax, but that we should simply abolish the subsidy. This means that the Kuwait Oil Company is not losing money by selling domestic oil at a loss while also reducing automobile demand. The revenue generated by this would be reinvested into alternate means of transportation as well as an increase in wages. This would cause some inflation, but the reduced traffic would more than make up for that by increasing productivity.

2: Provide alternate transportation modes. What are the alternatives to driving in Kuwait? To get from point A to B you have very little choice but to drive. Our suburban residential areas were designed to only be accessible by automobiles. The bus system has gotten a lot better these past few years, but they suffer just as much as cars in traffic. We need several new modes of transportation that overlap and provide alternatives so people can use the modes that appeal to them and provide the least resistance. The only way this would work is if driving becomes so unappealing that people would be willing to use mass transit. Right now, I believe we have reached this tipping point. Let’s imagine that the Kuwait Metro has been built and that the stations are well designed and strategically placed. People would begin to gradually alter their living, work and transportation patterns. Workplaces close to a Metro station would become more desirable. Residential projects will advertise that they are a walking distance from a Metro station. People would mix up their transportation routes, driving to a station, parking their car and using the Metro the rest of the way.

KuwaitMetro112

The only way the Metro would be successful is if the stations are placed very close together in the dense areas (Salmiya, Hawalli, the City, etc). It has to be a comfortable 5 minute walk from one station to the next. This creates a network in the dense areas where every location is walking distance away from a transportation node. This would mean that having a car in these areas is entirely optional. You do not have to have a car to live. The suburbs would be served with massive Park and Ride stations around the perimeter (and one in the center) of the residential areas. On the Metro map above, these stations are Bayan, Mishref, Shuhada, 5th Ring Road, 6th Ring Road and Damascus. Every mall, university campus and major hospital would have a Metro station that would link them to the system. This project is essential to the progressive development of our nation and its implementation should not be delayed.

3: Invest in RFID technology. RFID (Radio-Frequency IDentification) is an emerging field of technology where small amounts of information are stored on a cheap microchip which transmits that information through radio waves to an RFID scanner. Dubai has already implemented this technology to serve its toll booths by allowing cars to drive through the toll without having to stop to pay. Their system (called Salik) requires every car in Dubai to install an RFID sticker.

salik3

The sensor on the toll booth reads every car that passes underneath and deducts the fee from that drivers’ account. In Kuwait, we do not have a desperate need for toll booths, and implementing them would be counterproductive. We can use this technology for other purposes, such as:

-Replacing all the speed cameras with RFID sensors. An RFID system would have no way to measure the speed of a car as it rushes past. All it can do is scan the chip and download the License plate number and the exact time the car went past. A second RFID scanner further down the road does the exact same thing. A database would record the exact time each specific car has passed every scanner. The distance between Sensor 1 and Sensor 2 is divided by the time it has taken the car to go past them, revealing the average speed of the car. If the average speed is above the speed limit on that stretch of road, the driver would be fined accordingly. This is a completely automated system. Here is an quick example of how it would work:

Distance between Sensor 1 and 2 = 4km and the speed limit is 120km/h:


Picture-1


-Congestion Charge.
This is a flexible method for adjusting the cost of driving. It is similar to a toll booth in that it charges people to use the road, but it does not have a fixed value. In times of heavy traffic (rush hour) the charge would be highest. When traffic is low, the charge would be zero. This would force people to find alternate methods during rush hour and add more incentive to use mass transit and other means. The cost of using the road would be shown on the big automated signs that have been installed which currently serve little purpose. This system should only be implemented if the traffic is especially bad in a specific road and diverting commuters to other routes would solve the problem.

-Interactive online traffic map. Once the system is implemented it is possible to use the information to map real time traffic patterns. An interactive traffic map can be automatically generated and updated in real time. This would be published online so people can plan their routes. If possible, it would be integrated into car navigation systems so your route would be automatically adjusted based on traffic patterns. Software would be developed to create web and iPhone apps that take advantage of the open source traffic information. The technology exists in metro areas in the United States. This is not science fiction.

The variables are comparatively tiny and the vast number of calculations do not have to occur in real time. The RFID system only has to record the time and location while the calculations can be done remotely and at any time. This would be of immense benefit for the safety of commuters, as it would mean that reckless drivers can no longer simply slow down at each fixed camera and speed away once past. Anyone that has spent time in the rural areas of the United States would know that a similar method has already been in place for many years. One traffic cop would wait for a car to pass, and record the exact time on a stop watch. He would describe the car to his partner through his radio a kilometer or two down the road. His partner would use a stopwatch to record the time it takes for that car to go past him, and a quick calculation would reveal the average speed of the car, even if the driver slowed down when he saw the police car. It works really well, but unless the process is automated, it is impossible to implement in high density situations.

4: Fuel cost stickers. A new law should be implemented that requires a sticker to be placed on every car in every showroom showing the average amount of money the owner would be expected to pay in fuel costs per year. MPG is incomprehensible for most buyers and hides the true cost. It seems arbitrary and is hard to quantify. When a prospective buyer compares two cars they would instantly be able to see the different fuel costs involved. For example, on one side an SUV that would cost 2000KD per year and on the other a hybrid that costs 300KD per year. The buyer would add this cost to the final sticker price and make a much more informed decision. This would add a visible incentive for buying more fuel efficient cars. This demand would also mean that car dealers would import more fuel efficient cars and market them aggressively. We consume less gasoline and export more crude oil. Everybody wins.

5: Migratory traffic. The way the urban plan of Kuwait City was devised has created large districts that are very specialized. This high degree of segregated zoning creates innumerable social, cultural and transportation problems. The Business district are evacuated after work hours. The Entertainment districts flooded on weekends. There is no quick solution to this problem. What is required is a sustained effort to decentralize Kuwait and create more mixed use development which would fragment the city and allow for a less predictable traffic and transportation network. We have to educate the relevant authorities that strict zoning laws and suburban sprawl create far more problems than they solve. We need to start rethinking how we organize Kuwait City.

6: Raise the driving age to 21. Our population is growing fast. More and more young people are reaching 18 years of age and will be eligible to drive. Most fatal traffic accidents are unfortunately a result of reckless driving by 18 year old boys (or younger).

ku-2010

This diagram shows the expected population pyramid for Kuwait in 2010. The spikes in the population between 20 and 45 years is due to our foreign labor population. Removing these spikes would make our pyramid look something like this:

ku2-2010

As you can see, the base of the pyramid is growing every year. This means that every year, more babies are being born than the year before. Our population is expanding. Increasing the driving age by three years would very quickly lower the number of new cars on the road. An obvious benefit is that 21 year olds would be a little more mature and would not drive as recklessly, making our roads safer and saving lives. Students would complain that they have to go to university and they can only drive there. Seeing how they complain about the traffic and parking problems on campus, this might benefit them as well. I believe that Kuwaiti students have an unjustified sense of entitlement and many will reject the idea that they have to be driven to campus, or find other ways to get there. If you really have a problem, you can live on campus. You can use the metro to get to class. Students have been driven to school from kindergarten through high school. Why stop there? Of course, this simply delays the problem. In three years the students will all start driving. This three year delay will give us time to implement most of the solutions. Seeing as how our population is increasing exponentially, we need to solve the problem as quickly as possible.

In conclusion, it becomes increasingly clear that simply making driving less desirable will not solve the problem and only inflict additional suffering. We have to provide an alternative to driving. The effect of abolishing the fuel tax, creating a new RFID speed limit system, raising the driving limit and so on is punishing. It would only make sense if people can reject the driving option and choose a far more desirable mode of transportation. The alternative would be to use the Metro, carpooling, riding the bus, or simply driving less. What this means is that there are less cars on the road with people maintaining a higher quality of life. We have to make the car optional. Only then would we see the end of our traffic nightmare.

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Responses

  1. The access control systems (like congestion charges, tolls, higher fuel costs) will not work unless an alternative mode of transport is available. Infrastructure has to be developed.
    Perhaps the other solution would be to create an urban plan which would relocate the population or industrial areas away from the current locations thereby reducing the density of population.
    An interesting comment I heard on RFID systems is that it creates a big brother society and people could actually be tracked…where they are, when they were there…all leading to the final question what the hell were you doing there??
    Given the size of the automobile business, they would move mountains to ensure that such legislation (like 21 year old drivers) which reduce sales is not put in place.
    In these times of recessionary pressures, it would be best to build more roads, increase government spending on infrastructure. This would ensure more roads, more jobs for people, and eventually more cars. But once the infrastructure is in place, and people have been sufficiently educated about the benefits and realize the value of using alternatives it should fall into place.
    My point: it’s going to take time, and mindsets have to change. The user has to be educated about the benefits and changes will occur from the grass root level.

  2. @mentabolism: I think you’re completely wrong on some points. Yes, of course the prohibitive methods that reduce the desire to drive won’t work unless an alternative exists. That’s the problem. Even if traffic is much worse than it is, people will still be obligated to drive because no other alternative exists. That’s why the Kuwait Metro project is so critical. It creates an alternative transportation network. This means that if people are fed up with driving, they don’t have to put up with it and simply ride the train.

    We need to give cars some competition. Imagine if there was only one telephone company. They could charge whatever they want and you’d be obligated to pay that. Driving has a monopoly on our transportation. We have to break this.

    What do you mean relocate a population? How would you go about doing that? You can start to seed new urban centers, but I don’t think the practicality of relocating ‘populations’ is really an answer. It seems like that would just move the problem somewhere else.

    RFID: Yes, that’s true. But if you think about it, don’t all cameras and surveillance systems do that as well? Facial recognition technology is so advanced now that they can track a face in a large crowd and identify it. We have to live with this new reality. I would gladly give up some privacy if it means that people stop speeding, that I have an interactive traffic map in my car and that congestion is reduced to a manageable level. I also think the police and anti-terrorism authorities would benefit immensely from this technology.

    Auto dealers: Yes, that’s true, they will fight change. The change is going to reduce their sales, but is that really in the best interests of the country? Why should we even care what they think? They can help invest in the Metro if they want to be productive and still make a profit.

    Recession: We’re not in America. You’re thinking of Obama and his stimulus plan. The point of their plan is to get Americans back to work while reinvesting in infrastructure. If you do the same thing in Kuwait, who benefits? The money will all go to the big contracting companies (you know who they are) and nothing to the average Kuwaiti. What would be the point of that? It would make sense if the infrastructure would reduce traffic (Metro, parking structures, better roads) but not just building roads for the sake of it.

    Your final point: No, I disagree completely. We don’t have to wait for the average Kuwaiti to be educated about all this. It would obviously help, but its not critical. We have to incentivize alternate means of transportation and prohibit driving as much as possible. People will respond to these incentives. We can alter their behavior even if they don’t understand why they’re changing. This is the basis of behavioral economics.

  3. Piecemeal, somewhat reactive, comments to the above responses…

    Widening the roads won’t work unless this is done on all roads that vehicles use, as widening select roads will still not solve bottlenecks between roads or areas. The Kuwait motorway system contains countless expamples of where the traffic flows smoothly until an exist is reached around which the traffic is completely ‘plugged’. Also, if one inspects the main artieries of traffic around Kuwait very few of the key ones could be expanded without some serious demolishing of existing residential areas, where the houses come very close to the roads. Negotiating the purchase of such properties would be very costly, and be a logistical nighmare in its own right…

    The solution will need to be, as mentioned above, to provide a number of alternatives for how one can get around in Kuwait. This will entail the construction of alternative means of transport as well as a simultaneous re-thinking of the urban plan.
    It would also need someone to drive relevant decisions through – a ‘Traffic Czar’ – of sorts. someone who would supervise and be responsible for driving through the needed adjustments without allowing them to be dilluted by compromised parties.
    Unfortunately, especially when talking about actions of this scale, can they we achieved by ‘grass-root’ interventions alone. The commitment to chance needs to be directed by a more ‘official’ and higher decision body which, in collaboration with a information campaign as well as a collective of concerned citizens, would hopefully be able to catalyse and generate a change for the better…

  4. A small, somewhat related, note to the above…

    http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090623/NATIONAL/706229811/1010

  5. We need something like the Skyways of Minneapolis (http://www.stthomas.edu/mpls/visitors/skywaymap.htm) + alot of public parking garages, if you look at the map you can see they are everywhere. For example link the buildings of Salem Al-Mubarak Street:
    1. It will be safer because you don’t have to cross the road.
    2. Its great for Kuwait because of our hot weather.
    3. You don’t have to park near the place you want, you can park a bit further and you can walk now everything is linked and air conditioned.
    4. It will not drasticly increase costs on developers.
    5. They can be integrated with the new metro

    You can also do that in Kuwait City or in newly developed project.

  6. Abolishing the subsidy? Increasing productivity ?????!!!!

    About 80% of the world’s oil comes from the Persian Gulf region and we shouldn’t enjoy the benefit of cheap oil as an attempt to reduce driving demand? Most exporting countries of any goods enjoy cheaper local prices because it’s local, you don’t have to export it and it’s also a form of encouragement to local businesses. Furthermore, the oil doesn’t belong to anyone in particular. It’s a natural resource that belongs to Kuwaiti people and the government has no right to increase prices because the government should play a role of management not control over what belongs to the people. We should enjoy the benefits of cheaper oil because it belongs to our country and our people. Why do we have to pay an equal price to those who lack this resource? We already pay higher prices on everything else since most of our goods are imported, is it too much to have this benefit?

    How is eliminating the subsidy going to make Kuwaitis reduce their use of cars? Kuwaitis are always following latest trends and most will not reduce their use of cars because gas is more expensive because they will afford it. As for foreigners, most are laborers and rarely do they own vehicles and the others with higher education and standards of living are obviously here to make a better living so of course they will afford it.

    You’re thinking increasing prices will lead to lower usage and therefore more exported crude oil .. win-win eh?
    I’m sorry to tell you that this is a lose-lose situation because increasing usage and productivity is harmful to all of us. Yes we’re generating more money but truth is, we’re polluting and damaging our environment. HEAT HEAT HEAT!! other than that, we’re only finishing our oil reserves quicker .. you know, oil is a finite resource.

    As for the RFID, I like the idea a lot and I don’t think we should be obsessing over privacy. Seriously, who are we kiddin’? With today’s technology, privacies are out the window already.

    Fuel cost stickers – I thought they already existed here! People as consumers should be more concerned here.

    Migratory traffic – BIG FAN !!!!! I have always seen this as a problem. We need to change this by prohibiting new buildings of similar consumer driven businesses being near each other. We should really work on it.

    Raising driving age??? I have to say that I strongly disagree especially when there are no statistics backing this up. As you said, it only delays the problem. Another potential problem I could see emerging is the overexcitement and unmatulity that could come with driving at 21. It’s like being older reckless drivers because they haven’t been able to drive until they’re college graduates. This sends them a message that they’re still stupid children when they’re in college. I don’t think this could have a positive effect at all. They’re in college, they’re supposed to learn how to handle a car. In fact, they should be encouraged to depend on themselves more. Independence is key to maturity .. no maturity with no independence in my perspective. If anything, I encourage decreasing driving age.

    I really appreciate your work and passion for improving and changing Kuwait. Seeing this in other Kuwaitis gives me a push forward! If you know any similar blogs concerned with improvement and change in Kuwait let me know. Thanks for this beautifully published article!

  7. Thank you so much your response. I always have more fun responding to and reading these discussions than in the posts themselves.

    Fuel subsidies: See, the difference is I don’t see the fuel subsidy as a benefit. How exactly is it making our quality of life better?

    I don’t want to punish people. I simply want to make efficiency profitable. If you’re worried that abolishing the subsidy will amount to a price increase, lets think of it this way:

    The price of gasoline is slowly increased every month so that by 2012 it is 5 times the price it is today. At the same time, the increased revenues will be given back to Kuwaitis as a form of ‘Energy Rebate’. The will be the average amount a person would have paid for gasoline.

    So if you use an average amount of gasoline per month, your Energy Rebate will basically reimburse you for the added fuel cost. No change. If you still drive an SUV with bad mileage, and you feel like you can afford it and don’t care about changing your lifestyle, you will have paid far more than the average. You still will get the Energy Rebate of course, but your fuel costs for that month are more than that and you will have lost money. If you changed your lifestyle by buying an energy efficient car, living closer to work if you can, driving less or carpooling then you would have used less money on fuel than the value of the Energy Rebate. You will have MADE money.

    What I have come to realize is that in Kuwait more than anywhere people only respond to economic incentives only if they are easily understood.

    “Yes we’re generating more money but truth is, we’re polluting and damaging our environment. HEAT HEAT HEAT!!” – I’m assuming you’re talking about Global Warming. You still burn hydrocarbons when you’re driving your car and you still have to refine the gasoline. I don’t understand what you’re suggesting.

    “Most exporting countries of any goods enjoy cheaper local prices because it’s local, you don’t have to export it and it’s also a form of encouragement to local businesses.” – No, that’s actually not true. Oil is a fungible commodity, meaning that its replaceable by similar stuff. The only factor is the transportation costs, which add a few dollars per barrel but not a lot. Exporting countries usually subsidize domestic gasoline to keep people ‘happy’ and subdued. It’s a pacifier.

    Raising the driving age: I agree that this is a drastic measure, and will only make sense if we also adopt the Kuwait Metro project. I also disagree that there is no evidence that more accidents happen at 18. Go look at the accident records and you’ll find that most dangerous and fatal accidents involve 18 year old boys. Maybe having a stricter penalty system for kids who drive without a license is needed instead of simply raising the driving age. Most of the ‘wild’ boys who drive recklessly have probably started driving at around 14 or 15. I would suggest that if they are caught that they be punished in a juvenile prison for a few days as well have them barred from obtaining a license until 22 or 23. Yes, i’m very mean.

    “Fuel cost stickers – I thought they already existed here! People as consumers should be more concerned here.” – Not in the way i’m suggesting. They show the MPG, miles per gallon. This for most people isn’t very easy to visualize and quantify. Having it expressed in KD per year would allow them to make better choices. Of course you would have to have a fixed (sort of) gasoline price to have a good forecast, but you can use the average of the past year to have a close enough number.

    I’m always glad that these sorts of discussions are taking place. It makes it all worthwhile.

  8. would just like to know were did you get the figures for price of fuel per gallon, because i doubt that egypt, iran and venseula gallon is cheaper than kuwaits’.

  9. The chart I used is very out of date (2005 I think) and it was from the BBC. Prices have changed a lot since then. Venezuala is still the cheapest by far, but Iran had a price surge and is now more than Kuwait.

    Venezuela US$0.17/gal, Saudi Arabia US$0.45/gal, Kuwait US$0.79/gal

    Sorry I used an out of date chart, I should have checked the source before posting it.

    This has more recent numbers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasoline_and_diesel_usage_and_pricing

    It’s Wikipedia, but its a well sourced article.

  10. I believe almost every solution you presented does somehow provide a temporary fix for the infinitely lasting problem you presented. But I believe a more efficient solution would simple be an efficiency solution. Something that would give back more for less, give more results with less designing and planning perhaps.

    An increase in fuel prices will not slow Kuwaitis down, we see them pay more for food, phones, laptops, clothes, pretty much everything, when the price increases, they will pay more for fuel, they will pay for transportation, they seem to not understand the long term effects or maybe refuse to. Increasing the price of anything is simply a business-mans solution.

    One issue you will face with alternative transportation modes is the lack of Kuwaitis using them. In the past, Kuwaitis would use the KPTC’s services but over time the Kuwaitis got lazy and services became redundant because they are unmaintained. The same thing will happen when the Metro is launched, at first Kuwaitis might use it because it is cool, but over time they will realize that driving your own car is a little more luxurious and entertaining and eventually it will be left for the worker class and end up smelling like pits and garbage. I personally would use the Metro everywhere if when launched if it is more efficient.

    The third technology you are suggesting to implement seems very impressive, but think about Kuwait’s current application to GPS systems in automobiles; we have had the systems in our cars for over a decade now and we still cant hook them up to tell us which streets to avoid when they are congested. Even looking at the ridiculous screens installed on almost every street now which only tell you ‘the new emergency number is 112’ and the occasional ‘Ramadhan Kareem’; you can tell those screens are more hazardous than beneficial, you can hardly read them, and when I want to, I have to focus so hard from a distance to try and read and someday I might end up in a ditch somewhere or smash into the car ahead of me. Installing new technology is just a way for someone to benefit from it, as a government contract. (‘Monaqasat’)

    I love the sticker price idea, it would really make a difference, in a country where people understand. But what would be the effect of having a sticker that says 3’000KD/year in fuel on a 30’000KD Lexus or perhaps a 1’500KD/year sticker on a 15’000KD Mercedes-Benz or BMW? That’s only if the fuel prices were really that high, my 2006 Seat Leon cost me roughly 0.5kd/100kms over a period of a year (180kd total for a year), a Nissan Armada cost me roughly 500KD over a year in fuel and my current car costs me roughly 1kd/100kms or roughly 350kd per year. I am a student and live on a 100kd/month allowance from the University, I calculated this stuff because it made a difference to me, every KD I save means I have money to spend on other things. But for a population, of which the majority makes I’m guessing an average above 500kd, what’s a 30kd fuel bill compared to 15kd? They eat the 15kd on what sitting at burger boutique or Fridays, it makes no difference to them because they do not understand it. I think the only effect it would have on Kuwait would be people demanding a fuel loan now that they have a 3000kd fuel bill every year for their new Yukons, Tahoes, etc. And maybe 5 years later arguing the parliament to drop the loans?

    Kuwait is a purely consuming society, always has been and always will be. And like you’ve previously said, nothing productive has ever come out of this country, and if it did it was probably done by a foreigner but on Kuwaiti soil.
    Think to present day Kuwait; can you really say you are proud of our country? Are you proud of our magnificent architecture? Our smart engineers? Our perfectly designed roads and infrastructure? Our generous country and its everlasting supply of power cuts? Our sports teams? Our…

    Is there anything you can be truly proud of in this country anymore?

    I think the major problem we have in Kuwait is with our education system, and our job allocation system and our humans; to call it flawed would be blasphemy because it is simply non-existent.

    We should educate the young generation growing up soon. It is too late to clean up Kuwait for our generation (Y) to have a good city because there is too much work to do to fix the old problems; but we can have an acceptable one. It is too late to educate our Generation X, the ones that are currently in places of power, but not too late to educate Generation Y and have Generation Y educate the future Z. And for the future Z to have a country to be proud of.

    Every once in a while, I hear people blame the government for problems we are facing today, why didn’t they do this or that? Or install this or that? Or arrest him for stealing and him for not doing his job right? People in Kuwait love to complain a lot, and blame the government and majlis for every little problem and every huge one indeed. But the true people to blame for these problems are the very Kuwaitis that built this country, our ancestors, our fathers, Generation X. Their neglect for the future generation, for us, is what caused these problems. They built the lousy education system, they built the lousy universities, they are currently running the country. They are the people, and simply the people are the ones to blame for all of the country’s failures.

    But this doesn’t mean we cannot fix our country for our future generations to have a better country than we did. To be ambitious would be to so that perhaps even for our generation to have a country to be proud of.

    I think what I was trying to say there is, every solution you have suggested is brilliant. But there is no point of designing systems and solutions to problems the population doesn’t currently understand or comprehend. The majority of Kuwait population does not understand that THEY are what’s wrong with the system. So how do you propose to fix a problem which does not see itself as one? Educate the problem would be my only solution, and if it doesn’t work, exterminate it? :P

    You know… cancer… it doesn’t know it’s a problem, so doctors nuke it, chemo it, and eventually cut it out if it doesn’t get the point. :|

    BTW, really enjoying your blog, first time i read it today. Keep up the great work. :)

    • bumo, first of all thanks for your long comment. It’s always a pleasure to reply to these and it makes it all worthwhile. I also gave your blog a visit; some really cool stuff there and its great to see architecture students so active in Kuwait.

      Price increases: I disagree completely. People do in fact respond to financial incentives. Yes, they will no doubt demand some sort of compensation to counterbalance the fuel increase. That doesn’t have to be money. If we had a good, well maintained public transportation system, you could subsidize that and use the money you generate from the fuel increase to pay for it. The highway system in the US is paid for by a small tax on fuel. The whole point is to make cars less desirable and reduce traffic. If a guy has to pay 50KD every refill, he will either drive less or buy a more efficient car. If he can pay for it and doesn’t care, he’s stupid and we as a country make money off him because he’s buying the fuel at market prices.

      Public Transportation: That’s true. If it’s not well maintained, it will not be used by Kuwaitis. However, the plan that’s currently on the table is well designed to prevent that. There are stops at every major university and at all the malls. This by itself is a huge incentive for students and teenagers to use the Metro for going to school and mall-hopping. Also, a simple class system, while not very egalitarian, is a good way to make it very comfortable; this is how the Dubai Metro works.

      Road Warning Signs: Yes, those are terrible. You can tell that nobody spent a second even considering how they would work. They’re useless and you’re right, are dangerous even. The maximum size of each letter is about 20cm high, which can’t be read unless you’re right underneath them. Why separate them into three lines of type? Why not a large array of pixels which would give the programmer much more flexibility to display the message in whatever way he or she wants? It’s just completely wrong and has to change.

      Sticker Price: Yes, you’re right. I was suggesting these things so that they would be implemented as a comprehensive traffic solution. On it’s own, the sticker idea would be useless, since fuel is so cheap that you wouldn’t really care how much you’re paying even if you know the number beforehand. However, if the prices were x10, then the fuel sticker would make much more sense. Fuel efficiency in cars would be one of the most important factors in buying a new car, unlike today.

      Consumption: I disagree, I don’t think Kuwait was ‘always’ a society that only cares of consumption. In fact, I think it’s a fairly recent phenomenon, maybe it began in the 80’s but has only recently become so prevalent. It’s very sad, but we are becoming like the humans in the movie Wall-E. We live to consume and be entertained. However, there is a cultural class in Kuwait that we can be proud of. You can see it emerging these past few years. Artists, architects, photographers, filmmakers, playwrights, designers and so many other creative professionals and hobbyists are showing up. I think the difference between Kuwait and for example, the UAE, is that our government is not actively promoting and supporting these people, while over there they are treated with respect and given all the tools and resources they might need. But don’t lose hope, the talent and creativity is there. We can all see those grass shoot growing. They just need time and help to grow into a forest we can all enjoy.

      Education: I’ve talked about this in a few posts, so i’ll try not to repeat myself. Yes, education is a critical part of any society. I personally think that creativity is not emphasized in public schools (or most private ones) and that this oversight is simply producing a generation of mindless drones that have little ambition or imagination. But you can’t just blame the schools, blame the parents too. If you let your ‘khadama’ raise your kid, you only have yourself to blame if they don’t inherit your values.

      Implementation: Education is important, yet some of the ideas mentioned in the post don’t really have to be understood by people for them to work. Take the current Health Reform discussion that’s going on in America as an example. What Obama is trying to do is basically good for all Americans, and bad only for the Health Insurance industry, yet people are stupid and are affected by negative advertising and fear mongering so much that they are willing to stop the reform simply because of their inherent fear of change. If you wait for people to catch up with you and demand change, you’ll wait all your life. Some things have to just be done without popular consensus. You pick your leaders, and let them get on with their job. Once their time is up, you decide if you want them to continue; you don’t make it hard for them to do what you placed them there to do. That’s not how democracy should work.

      Thanks again for your comment.

  11. Thnx Barrak, its great to see Architects that truly care about our country.

    If your interested in more archi-speak, we have a local student based magazine run by the students of Kuwait University’s Department of Architecture. It’s called T-Square Magazine, you can find it at several locations, Caribou Coffee, KU’s Department of Architecture and many more, and you can find details on our blog, website or Facebook group.

    Here is the link: http://www.tsquaremag.com/Home.html

    And if your interested, i am currently in the process of organizing a form of public discussion and debate during the first semester at Kuwait University, you are more than welcome to participate.

  12. […] just found re:kuwaits solutions and they are absolutely brilliant! If only it doesn’t take a few hundred more lives for the […]


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