What about the Multi-Modal Transportation Systems?

The comfort and character, and social equality related to multi-modal transportation systems were for the most part absent from our research on medium-sized cities. Public transportation options are essential to a sustainable city; environmentally and socially. With the rapid growth that many medium-sized cities are facing, public transportation is needed to support and help mediate these urban spaces.

The case studies of Brasilia and Dubai emphasized that planning favored roads for cars over pedestrian spaces.  Brasilia -designed as a modernist capital in 1956- gave hierarchy to major axis roads and parallel service roads for cars by facing shops inwards, away from street activity. Aspects of modernism can be alarming but it was humbling to read that those shops were soon turned towards the street by the owners.[1]

Dubai’s multi-modal transportation system was partially omitted from my presentation because there isn’t much in place to discuss. As mentioned in the “Failure of the Master Plan” blog, Dubai’s past master plan schemes have failed to outline public transportation, focusing more on zoning layouts and land distribution. Dubai traffic has an enormous congestion problem with 470,000 vehicles registered in the city, making an estimated 1 million trips per day. The Road and Transportation Authority (RTA) was created in 2005 to alleviate the congestion, which causes noise and air pollution along with endless accidents. Current modes of transportation include water taxis, buses and the new metro line.[2]

RTA Metro Line

Dubai opened two of its planned five metro lines in September 2009, inaugurating the world’s largest automated metro system (nothing can be done there without a superlative). [3] It estimates 1.85 million riders per day and cost about US $4.2 billion. The metro is a glimpse at Dubai’s 2020 plan to be a more sustainable city, focusing on public spaces rather than real estate.[4] One of the operating lines runs parallel to Sheikh Zayed Road, a 12 lane highway that cuts through Dubai, where most of the skyscrapers are located. Prior to the metro, the famous buildings in that area were virtually inaccessible to anyone without a car.[5]

Although the metro is a step in the right direction, Dubai lacks a multi-modal system and is still caught up in the superhighway transportation model. The water taxis are only useful along the creek and coast and the current bus situation is dreadful. The far and few double-decker air-conditioned buses and bus stops are insufficient to transport people beyond the limits of the metro. As for the remediating the actual roads, the RTA still plans to drape the city with a superhighway grid, and continuously add lanes to alleviate traffic, rather than take them away.[6]

RTA Superhighway Plan

Sadly, the most efficient transportation in Dubai are the worker buses. The 500,000 “temporary workers” that make up one fifth of Dubai’s population are transported from their workplace to their segregated living quarters, or worker camps, via private buses. There are roughly 200,000 of these vehicles on the road and they are always full.[7] The private buses eliminate the need for public transportation to reach the periphery and beyond (worker camps are located minimum 20 miles from the city center; some are even located in Sharjah, the adjacent Emirate). But these private buses are not used for efficiency but rather to keep the workers segregated at all times.

In contrast to Dubai and the other case study cities, Molly O’Meara’s How Mid-Sized Cities Avoid Strangulation article provided great examples of successful transportation cities. Curitiba’s extensive bus system, with radial and linear lines intersecting throughout the city, provides the city with so many transportation route options and room for growth it has successfully reduced car traffic. In addition, direct bus lines branch out to the periphery, allowing everyone reasonable access to all amenities.[8] A fully accessible city removes social inequality and activates the street with rich and poor, alike.

Evolution of Curitiba's Integrated Transportation System

Foot Notes

[1] Evenson Norma. Two Brazilian Capitals: Architecture and Urbanism in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978) 164-182.

[2] Yasser Elsheshtawy, Dubai: Behind an Urban Spectacle (New York: Routledge, 2010) 118-119.

[3] “RTA”

[4] “Executive Council Approves 2020 Dubai Master Plan.”

[5] Yasser Elsheshtawy, 160.

[6] Douglas Kelbough. Briefing: The Environmental Paradox of Cities: Getting Around Dubai. 143-46.

[7] Douglas Kelbaugh, 145.

[8] O’Meara, Molly. How Mid-Sized Cities Can Avoid Strangulation.9-11.

Works Cited

Elsheshtawy, Yasser. Dubai: Behind an Urban Spectacle. New York: Routledge, 2010

“Executive Council Approves 2020 Dubai Master Plan.” Construction Week Online.  N.p., 4 Oct 2011. Web. 16 Nov 2011. <http://www.constructionweekonline.com/article-14159-executive-council-approves-2020-dubai-master-plan/&gt;

Kelbaugh, Douglas. Briefing: The Environmental Paradox of Cities: Getting Around Dubai. Urban Design and Planning. 164, Sept 2011. 143-46.

Norma, Evenson. Two Brazilian Capitals: Architecture and Urbanism in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978.

O’Meara, Molly. How Mid-Sized Cities Can Avoid Strangulation. World Watch. Sept/Oct 1998. 8-15.

“RTA” Government of Dubai.n.p., 2011. Web. 4 Dec 2011. <http://www.rta.ae/dubai_metro/english/index.html&gt;


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