Category Archives: Public Transportation

Dubai Metro: 50 Million trips in Q1 2016

Dubai Metro Rail Network

Dubai Rail System – Photo from discover-dubai.ae

Dubai Metro is confirmed to be the favorite way of transportation for many Dubai residents and visitors. Indeed a staggering 50 Million trips were achieved during the first quarter of the year.

Not that the number is going to cause shock or surprise to those that daily use the public transportation to commute, since the impression that the metro raiders were constantly increasing in numbers was evident.

The trains are busy at any given time, with the situation sometimes turning uncomfortable at rush hours when the trains going towards Rashidiya, hence passing through the populous Deira and close to Sharja border, are literally packed with people.

Statistics recently released by RTA (Road and Transport Authority) and published by 7days, a local daily, reveal that during the first quarter of this year the Dubai Metro served almost 50 million trips (31.8 million on the Red Line and 18.1 million the Green Line) while Dubai Tram reported slightly more than 1.3 million trips.

Mr. Abdul Mohsen Ibrahim Younes, CEO of Rail Agency of the Roads & Transport Authority (RTA), said:

“The metro and tram are shaping into prime mobility means within the Emirate, thanks to their smooth, enjoyable and safe transit experience offered to various commercial and residential communities across Dubai.”

The most popular station in the mentioned period was Al Rigga with a total of 2,065,201 passenger followed by Union Station, which served 1,972,811 commuters, slightly ahead of Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall Station that was used by 1,972,261 people. On the Green Line , instead, Al Fahidi Station was top with 2,050,237 passengers, followed by Baniyas Station which was visited by 1,649,229 commuters and the third was the Stadium Station that was used by 1,469,831 people.

To know more about Dubai Transportation system, visit www.rta.ae.

Revealed: Dubai Metro “Route 2020″extension works to begin soon

It is official, after months of statements, reassurances and postponements, we are finally there. Work on Route 2020, the 15km extension of Dubai Metro’s Red Line, will begin in the next few months, Abdul Mohsin Ibrahim Younus, CEO of RTA’s Rail Agency revealed at Middle East Rail Conference on Tuesday.

“Work on Route 2020 will begin immediately after we award the tender, which will be within the next few months. The extension will be ready before Expo 2020”

The Route 2020 will pass through Discovery Gardens and Dubai Investment Park on its way to the venue of Expo 2020. Heading from Nakheel Harbour and Tower station, the route serve seven additional stations, 2 of which will be underground as also reported by Dubai Metro website. The newly served communities are inhabited by about 240,000 people and the project will not be only beneficial for those visiting the Expo 2020 area but also for the many residents living in the outskirts of the city. The journey from Dubai Marina area to the site of Expo will take 16 minutes and from Dubai International Airport (DXB) to Expo will take about 1 hour.

But this is not the only news about the metro expansion. The red line is foreseen to be further extended to Dubai World Central – Al Maktoum Airport (DWC) and the green line will increase of almost 21 km from Al Jaddaf Station to Dubai Academic City passing by Ras Al Khor, International City and Silicon Oasis.

According to Mr.Younus, also the Dubai Tram will be extended by 5 km due to its popularity and success. Phase 2 of the Tram will serve iconic landmarks like Burj Al Arab and Madinat Jumeirah.

For those regularly using the Metro, it is evident of its success. Any given time of the day or the night, the metro is busy with people commuting to work or simply going to any of the well known landmarks like Mall of Emirates, Dubai Mall, Gold & Diamond Park and so on. I am personally not really convinced by the performance of the Tram but I noticed that it ranks in the top attractions to see in Dubai in many popular holidays websites.

Featured Image from KhaleejTimes, image in the article from Dubai Metro website.

Japan Public Transportation System and the JR Pass – TIPS

Visiting Japan is one of the easiest things to do. Either you want to visit a single city or travel around the Country, you have a countless number of transportation options that sometimes could seem even embarrassing.

The railway network is impressive. Compared to the old one I have back home, a single line railway from Ventimiglia to Genova built around the end of the 19th Century, it seemed to me to have landed on an alien planet. Tokyo is probably the most densely populated city in the world and it would have been a collective suicide to force 30 million people to use their cars and motorbikes to commute every day.

For this reason, Tokyo has a capillary public transportation that easily connects each and every part of the city. There are several levels and options available for citizens and visitors: subway lines, railways, boats trips, monorails and more. The main railway that you are going to use during your stay in Tokyo is the JR Yamamote Line. It is a loop line that connect Tokyo Station with many tourist places and network nodes such as, but not limited to, Akihabara, Shinjuku, Hamamatsucho (the connection with the airport monorail), Shibuya and more as shown in the below photo.

JR Lines in Tokyo

The capillary JR network in Tokyo. In green at the centre, the Yamamote Line. In red the Haneda Airport monorail.

If you would like to explorer Japan further, maybe adding Kyoto, Hiroshima or other cities to your itinerary, you do not have to worry. Japan is famous for the JR Shinkansen lines, particular railways where special trains (known as bullet trains) can travel at almost 300 km/h, rendering a trip Tokyo/Kyoto of almost 470 km a pleasant journey of less than 2 hours. It connects all Japan in a efficient and comfortable way, making your exploring the whole Country really easy.

Japan Rail Pass Map

The JR group is the biggest in the Country and serves all the major cities.

The next question is: How much does the public transportation cost in Japan?

JR Line Tokyo Fares

In all the stations you will find signboards with the fare to pay, if you do not have a JR pass.

The answer is very simple:a lot since they are very expensive, especially the Shinkansen rides. In the train stations you will find sign boards with the fare to pay for a single ride from the current station (in this case Tokyo Station) to your destination.  As shown in the photo, a one-way ride to the next station, costs in average some 130 Yen (more than 1 USD at today’s rate). There are daily passes available for the JR lines only (the Tokunai Pass – 700 Yen) or for all the lines (the Tokyo Free Kippu – 1,590 YEN). We took an average of 6 rides per day in Tokyo, in order to visit different districts in one day and without the JR Pass, getting the daily pass would have been a wise idea.

The Shinkanses is quite expensive, with a ride from Tokyo to Kyoto at around 14,000 Yen (almost 120 USD) and a train trip from Nagoya to Takayama is almost 6,000 Yen (around 50 USD) just to mention two popular destinations that we have visited. Just to have an idea, during our stay we visited Tokyo (4 days), Nagoya (2 days), Kyoto (2 days), Nara (1 day) and Katayama (2 days) inclusive of all the Shinkansen connections we had to take. We estimated a total transportation cost of more than 65,000 Yen (around 540 USD) in order to visit the mentioned cities.

Luckily enough, the Japanese government gives to foreign visitors the possibility to get a JR PASS valid on all the JR lines at the cost of 29,110 YEN (242 USD) for 7 days and 46,390 YEN (386 USD) for 14 days (regular class, seat not reserved). It is not valid outside the JR circuit that, however, is enough to allow you to visit Tokyo and Japan without trouble, limiting at few times the need to use a subway or a different way of transportation.

With the JR PASS we saved some money (around 160 USD each) and a lot of time. In fact, the pass holders are just requested to show it at the gates, without the need to continuously go to the tickets office and buy a ticket.

Note: The JR PASS shall be bought before going to Japan because it can be purchased only outside the Country by foreigners that will be enjoying a temporary Visit/Tourist Visa only.

JR Exchange Order

The JR Exchange Order shall be bought outside Japan and converted with the Pass at a JR point.

The process is very simple. You shall buy a JR Exchange Order (see photo) either online or from an authorized travel agent. There are many website offering this option, the most complete of which is definitely www.japanrailpass.net/en/ where all the possible information you might require are available. Once you receive the JR Exchange Order, you shall exchange it with the actual Pass that can be obtained in the Airports and in the major Train stations. Just note that the appointed JR offices close at 18.30, hence you might be prevented to get your pass if you land after this time.

JR Pass

The JR Pass you can get once in Japan. It will allow you to use unlimited JR trains inclusive of the Shinkansen.

We landed at 23.35 at Tokyo Haneda Airport and had to buy a monorail ticket to reach Hamamatsucho Station (the first stop and also where we booked our hotel Bayside Hotel Azur Takeshiba). We were then forced to go to Tokyo Station the day after (paying again the ticket) and finally get the JR Pass issued.

Dubai Tram: is it really going to ease Dubai Marina traffic issues?

The Dubai Tram was planned to be completed during 2010/2011 and its target was to ease the vehicle circulation in Marina, a neighborhood characterized by frequent traffic jams. Unfortunately, the property market’s bubble first and then the world financial crisis, have forced the ruler of Dubai to postpone the completion of the ambitious project and have it delivered few years later.

Dubai Tram Logo

Dubai Tram Logo

The idea behind the realization of the Tram was very simple: give to people a different option to move in Marina and adjacent neighborhood using the tram instead of the car, easing the traffic and the persistent parking problems.

Dubai Tram Station

JLT Tram Station – Super Clean

After several postponements, the consortium of companies working on the Tram Project, eventually managed to inaugurate Phase 1 on November 2014. It was a celebration, for many reasons. The residents hoped to have a better traffic situation since the road works were completed and the number of cars circulating were supposed to decrease significantly. RTA finally launched a project that was since long awaited and that costed around 3.2 billion AED (800 million USD) for just 11 km of railways and 11 stations forming the Phase 1.

The Project was indeed divided in two separate phases: Phase 1 to link Jumeirah Lake Tower and Dubai Marina Metro Station to Palm Monorail passing by Al Sofouh and Phase 2 to link Phase 1 to Mall of Emirates. The construction operations weren’t easy because the Tram passes in a very densely populated area and crossed bridges, crossroads and sidewalks, hence requesting a very extensive activity.

The reactions to the opening of the tram were wide and very different. Someone named the Dubai Tram the biggest technological achievement of the last decades, someone else was really disappointed about it instead.

I used the Tram and drove in Marina many times after the inauguration held on November 2014. What I experienced is a blend of emotions.

I firstly used the Tram to reach a restaurant in Westin Hotel in Al Sofouh. Instead of calling a taxi I used the Tram to give it a try. It is very cheap (3 AED instead of the 20 I would have paid the taxi driver for the ride) and convenient, since the stations are close to my building and the restaurant. The only thing is that it is really slow. In certain moment we were speeding less than 20 km/h and the average speed was calculated to be around 40 km/h. Not really fast enough if you want to use it to commute daily.

Inside Dubai Tram

Inside Dubai Tram – The cars are perfectly clean

That night, it took me 15 minutes to cover 3 km and 25 minutes to come back from the restaurant. Yes, on the way back the Tram follows another path that add three stations to the journey.  It is quite strange and complicated to understand at first, since to go from JLT Metro station to Marina Mall is one station but the vice versa takes you through 4 because of the one way Marina Loop.

Phase 1 Dubai Tram Map

Dubai Tram Map – It is easy to see the one way loop in Marina

The Tram is currently used by a crescent number of people but I think that the slow speed is limiting the effective use of it to daily commute to work.

I have asked once to an RTA inspector, why the tram is so slow. And he replied that we are still in the learning curve, hence drivers, passengers and inhabitants have to get used to the tram presence. Once the preliminary phase will be completed, the speed will be raised and the service will become more efficient and convenient for commuters.

In any case, there is surely a very positive effect of the presence of the Tram. Each and every person using the Tram is equivalent to a car less on the roads with benefits for our environment, the traffic and the accidents rate.