It seems the initial success and glow of Dubai Metro has breathed new life into our own national project. Let’s hope for their continued success so that the fires of envy burn brighter and ignite real action. I keep thinking about the people that will end up using the metro. Who are they? What do they want out of a well functioning mass transit system? How can we make the design better?
Kuwait has invited consultants to express interest in its 171-kilometre metro project, MEED magazine has reported. The estimated $7bn scheme will involve building four lanes, with 60km of the network underground. The successful developer will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the metro network for an undisclosed period of time.
–AMEinfo November 4th, 2009
So who rides the metro?
There can be around 7 stops in Hawalli. That’s a fair number, but the great thing is that the Blue line and the Black line cross each other at right angles. This means that pedestrian development and density in Hawalli won’t be restricted to a linear path. The current design doesn’t make all of Hawalli entirely walkabl, but its close enough. Feeder buses can fill in the gaps. It’s important that Beirut and Tunis are well fed, but also creating a great node around Qadsiya Stadium and the new Sultan Center. I imagine that interchange would be underground and provide a subterranean link between alMuhallab, Sultan Center and the sports complex as it’s not that far between the three.
It’s very hard to do any better than simply following the existing road infrastructure here. The place really isn’t a destination and most of the stops are funnels for people to enter the network. The challenge and the potential here is to think of the nodes as a generator for development. Mixed use spaces at every stop can make this neglected part of the country more pleasant and livable. The area is far too big, so a network of feeder buses is definitely required to make the system functional. Seeing as how the lines follow the major roads, it won’t be hard to get that to work. It has to be cheap and easy for anyone living here to be a part of the network.
The entire Salmiya line is underground. Several of the stops on the line are destinations as well as dense residential areas; Salmiya Park, Khansa (Restaurant Street), Amman (a hopefully pedestrianized Salem alMubarak street), Marina Mall, Scientific Center (and waterfront). This is really the jewel of the metro system. I’d add as many stops as possible, possible 4 or 5 more to the ones already on the map above. The density in Salmiya is already there and the metro will create a virtuous spiral; more people walking creates better safety and more investment, which leads to even more people walking and the cycle improves the experience indefinitely. Salmiya Park has its own private transit system, and this could be integrated with the metro to create a shortcut in the system between Marina and the southern end of the park. The good thing about Salmiya is that most of the buildings are fairly tall and shade a lot of the sidewalks, but there has to be a major investment in planting trees and cleaning up the sidewalks making them safe, pleasant and accessible to wheelchairs.
There are 5 stops at university campuses (including a stop at Mishref that can have feeder buses into the campuses there). A lot of students enjoy driving to college to show off their cars and drive around, but most people just want to get to class. Having the option of getting there without having to worry about parking is a great relief. Also, the commute allows for precious reading or relaxing time before class.
The Avenues, Marina Mall, alMuhallab, 360, Souq Sharq and the airport all have dedicated stops. This would help weekend traffic because people would park their car at any metro stop and then hop from one mall to the next looking for where the action is. Part of the fun is in just driving around, but not everyone wants to do that and a lot of people don’t own cars. This is good for the malls and for people who want sanity on the weekend.
Once a significant density is achieved in the City we can talk about having people walk around from one building to the next. Every new metro stop will act as a node of development, because every building within walking distance to a stop is connected to the network; meaning office workers can walk from any building in the network to another one without having to worry about driving and parking. On the way, there can be cafes, news stands, restaurants… A real city.
All the major government complexes have a dedicated metro stop. This is critical for both the employees and the unfortunate souls that have to visit them. It’s common to have to from one complex to the other, and so having them all connected is better for everyone. Parking is usually a nightmare for these places, since working hours are so short and everyone is there at the same time. A metro will provide much needed relief.
The Gray Line links Jahra with Fahaheel, and everything in between. Most of the stops along that line will be Park and Ride stations. However, I also suggest a completely new line that would wrap around the dense residential areas between the first and fifth ring road. The metro stop would be underground and accessible from the shopping center of every area. The parking infrastructure is already there and every area has the ‘Jam’eiyah’ conveniently located at the center. A lot of people can walk to that, and those that don’t can drive and park there. I think this makes a lot of sense as it will allow for a much greater density within the residential areas. People just don’t seem to want to live further away but we’ve reached a limit because of the number of cars that we squeeze in. If we can build densely without having to park more cars that means that more people can live closer to their families without sacrificing quality of life.
Ridership estimate is at around 70 million per year, which comes around 200,000 per day. I think this is a very conservative estimate and I expect a fully functional, well maintained system to attract 250,000-300,000 per day (around 15% of our labor force). The value of the metro isn’t simply to generate a profit. Rather, it is in the unquantifiable benefits such as:
- Rush hour traffic reduction
- Cheap transportation alternative
- Lower gasoline consumption (and more profitable exports)
- Less pollution
- Pedestrian culture will improve health standards
- Fewer parking headaches
- Create potential for greater density (more stuff in less space)
- Ability to explore the city and discover new places
- Greater potential for emergent nodes to flourish without the need for planned development