The urban mobility revolution is taking place with astounding speed and scale. The Middle East is on the cusp of a mobility revolution, one that will be more profound than any other that has come before it.
It’s not just about cars, bikes, or scooters; electric-powered shared vehicles are also set to transform urban mobility across the region.
In a region known for its substantial crude oil reserves, the burgeoning acceptance of electric vehicles (EVs) might seem paradoxical on the surface. The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are among those leading the charge. As a matter of fact, the UAE plans to have 42,000 electric vehicles on its roads by 2030.
Government initiatives like subsidies, free EV charging stations, green bank loans, and exemption from tolls and parking fees have bolstered EV adoption. Beyond such initiatives, the increasing availability of suitable models and falling costs have also contributed to this urban mobility trend.
The convenience of instant bookings and their cost-effectiveness compared to car ownership have prompted a surge in the use of rideshare apps. The youth represents a significant demographic, with smartphone penetration fostering ridesharing use.
The urban mobility trend towards shared mobility is not just changing how people travel; it is also bringing a host of benefits. For instance, shared mobility has the potential to alleviate the persisting issue of traffic congestion.
Moreover, the World Health Organization suggests that lower vehicle usage could lead to a reduction in carbon emissions. Additionally, increased shared mobility can foster more efficient utilization of infrastructural resources, resulting in a smarter and more responsive urban environment.
Autonomous, or self-driving vehicles, have become a pivotal urban mobility trend as they garner significant interest across the region. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are pioneering in this domain.
Dubai’s government aims to have 25 percent of all journeys be made by autonomous vehicles by 2030. One of its groundbreaking initiatives? Flying taxis. Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority is actively involved in exploring the operation of these autonomous flying taxis as a component of the emerging urban mobility trend. Dubai has also partnered with a Chinese company to conduct tests for its autonomous flying taxis, with the first successful trial carried out in 2016.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 includes plans to develop a fully autonomous public transportation system.
Micromobility solutions, such as e-scooters and bikes, are at the center of an emerging urban mobility trend. They are providing responsible and efficient solutions to the “last mile” problem, making short urban distances more manageable and sustainable.
When it comes to embracing this urban mobility trend, Saudi Arabia is taking the lead in the Middle East. According to a 2021 study, despite the country’s challenging weather conditions, it exhibits the highest demand for e-scooters.
Not far behind is Qatar, which has launched e-scooters as part of its transit system. Following are Kuwait and the UAE, both of which are expected to witness the fastest growth in the e-scooter market, reflecting their commitment to this urban mobility trend.
Moreover, research suggests promising growth, with the e-bike market forecasted to expand at an annual growth rate of 8.90 percent, reaching $1705.82 mn by 2029.
Expansion of public transit
Aligned with the urban mobility trend, various Middle Eastern cities are championing public transit expansion. Seeing a marked surge in both rail and bus transit systems, they are evolving to meet the needs of growing urban populations.
Take Dubai, for instance. Known for its cutting-edge infrastructure, it houses one of the most modern metro systems worldwide. Dubai Metro, with its fleet of 129 trains, services 53 stations and welcomes an average of over 600,000 passengers daily.
On April 23, 2023, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced a major milestone for the metro system. On that day, Dubai Metro had had two billion passengers since its inauguration on September 9, 2009.
Moving on to Abu Dhabi, a city that consistently enhances its bus systems to provide broad coverage. In a recent development, Abu Dhabi’s Integrated Transport Center introduced the innovative Automated Rapid Transit (ART) service, an addition to their urban mobility initiatives.
Initially serving Yas Island and Saadiyat Island, this ART service has extended its reach to Abu Dhabi Island. These air-conditioned, three-carrier electric vehicles manage to strike an ideal balance between buses and trams. More so, they operate a convenient route between Reem Mall and Marina Mall via Zayed the First Street.
Furthermore, Riyadh showcases the region’s aspiration for sustainable growth with its metro project. Counted among the largest worldwide, it encompasses six metro lines covering a total of 176 kilometers, complete with 85 stations. Anticipations run high, as the project’s daily ridership is projected to serve up to 3.6 mn commuters by 2030.
These ongoing enhancements in public transit systems mark significant progress in the region’s urban mobility revolution.
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