Tag Archives: transit

New LRT in Dubai, UAE by Guest Blogger Kevin Thomason

The world’s newest LRT opens this week in Dubai, United Arab

An LRT ground level street intersection crossing.

An LRT ground level street intersection crossing.

Emirates.  Yet another form of transit by RTE in this rapidly growing Gulf city of 2.1 million people, the Dubai Tram connects Marina City, Jumeriah Beach, Internet City, and Dubai Media City to the Dubai Metro – a subway like train that actually travels above this vast city on raised tracks rather than underground.The Light Rail Transit travels as well on raised tracks alongside the massive Sheik Zayed Road/Expressway as welll as in dedicated track lanes at ground level on city roads too.  It is an interesting combination of systems.

Really good signage being used by the system with great area maps, named, numbered and colour coded stations.

Really good signage being used by the system with great area maps, named, numbered and colour coded stations.

The LRT has been under construction for four years and will open this Tuesday, November 11th with the first day of operations reserved solely for the Sheik and Royal Family, it will then open to the broader public on Wednesday, November 12th.  I was lucky to get a chance to explore much of the system over the past few days and despite thousands of workers racing around the clock to complete it, the system is impressive and it was fun to watch them testing everything out as well as learn how to drive the trains as they ran the system empty of people.

cement pyramids

The cement pyramids used at road way edges to prevent cars from driving onto the LRT tracks.No overhead wires – instead a ground level power system clearly visible in-between the rails here on this road crossing.

The system is quite unique for a few different reasons.  First it is the only LRT system in the world with every station enclosed and using automated platform doors.  This is simply a fact of the intense desert environment here and summer temperatures reaching 45C+.  People would die on the platforms in the heat of the sun if there wasn’t air conditioning and climate control.  The current metro system has an impressive and very extensive system of air-conditioned stations and totally enclosed air-conditioned walkways to reach them.

It is good inspiration for us to consider at least making some of our busier stations more protected from the Canadian weather and elements.

The inside of one of the new Dubai LRT stations - the only all enclosed station system.

The inside of one of the new Dubai LRT stations – the only all enclosed station system.

Secondly, similar to Bordeaux, France the LRT system has no overhead catenary wiring but instead uses an innovative ground level power supply – a buried third rail system that switches on power to each section of rail as the LRT passes over it.

Thirdly, the LRTs have a Gold (first class section) as well as Silver (second class section) as well as space dedicated to women and children (more than 75% of the population of Dubai is male).

Although Phase 1 is only 11.5km long with 13 stations, Phase 2 is already under construction and there are plans for additional phases as well as the emirate races to provided the needed infrastructure in this rapidly growing region.  The pace of construction here is hard to fathom with most work sites throughout the region operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week with astonishing numbers of workers on every building site.The Dubai LRT is using the popular Alstrom Citadis LRV’s that will accommodate upto 300 people and if the nearby metro that the LRT links to at several stations is any indication, there should be plenty of ridership from the skyscrapers, hotels, beaches, and luxury marinas that already line much of the LRT route.

Despite the Dubai LRT not even being opened yet, local drivers have had

A small little roadside passenger drop off/pick up area with the station just behind me to my left.  This is a great idea that we need to consider in Waterloo.

A small little roadside passenger drop off/pick up area with the station just behind me to my left. This is a great idea that we need to consider in Waterloo.

challenges adapting to the rail crossings and there have been several car/train collisions already.  It turns out in this often extremely congested city, drivers unfamiliar with rail transit were trying to take shortcuts down LRT rights of way.  Thus, interesting cement pyramid pavers have been used to discourage car traffic and steep 20,000 AED ($6,500 CAD) fines have been implemented for driving on the rights of way or not yielding to LRTs at crossings.  You will see photos below of the extensive multilingual road signage below trying to teach drivers how to deal with LRT’s at intersections.

Their system will use the same very successful NOL card system as their metro, buses, ferries, abras, trolleys, and other forms of public transportation – a loadable card that is scanned on every boarding and exit at the entrances to the stations platforms.  With prices starting as low as 85 cents Canadian it will certainly be an affordable system for riders.

It will be an exciting week as they prepare for the opening.  Every station is a buzz of activity with hundreds if not thousands of workers at each still making finishing touches and cleaning off the desert dust.

In a brilliant move huge searchlights and generators have been brought into each station area that will sweep the sky at night clearly showing locals where each station is located and creating some Hollywood-like opening excitement this week.All the signage for the system is bilingual – Arabic and English with lots of icons as well to accommodate the incredibly diverse multicultural mosaic here.  Interestingly, the LED signs on each Light Rail Vehicle have had to be programmed to scroll the English station names and other messages from right to left, but then reverse and scroll the Arabic from left to right since it is read in the opposite direction.

Unfortunately I have to depart and won’t be here later this week for the grand opening of the LRT however, it will be interesting to see what becomes of the tram here as Dubai ramps up for Expo 2020 and the economy here is booming again after the 2008 financial crisis.

I believe that it will be quite successful and really help to facilitate

A typical Dubai LRT station - the only system with totally enclosed stations and automatic sliding entry doors.

A typical Dubai LRT station – the only system with totally enclosed stations and automatic sliding entry doors.

getting around a fascinating and beautiful part of this incredible city that is home to the world’s tallest building, the world’s largest airport, the world’s two largest shopping malls, the world’s largest fountain, the world’s largest fleet of jumbo jets (in particular more than 50 of the massive Airbus A380’s with 85 more on order for Emirates Airlines as fast as Airbus can build them), and a city that is home to hundreds of high-rise buildings over 20 stories – almost all built in recent years.There is lots to learn from Dubai for our design, construction and operation of the ION LRT system.  Lets hope that ION will help to ensure that Waterloo is just as successful and helps to make us in our own way one of the greatest communities in the world to live in.

Transportation: Transit, part 4 of my Fourth of Five Priorities

My Pledges: I will work with staff to keep the buses coming on time and frequently. I will continue listening to and responding to GRT customer concerns. I will keep working on improving bus routes.

I ride the bus. My husband rides the bus. My older daughter rides the bus. My younger daughter and her family ride the bus. My three-year old grandson loves the bus and the song, The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round, is his favourite . On a personal level and a political level, transit is an important file for me.

In the 1990s when I was a school trustee, transit was run by the cities. I had a devil of a time trying to get a school special put on for Bluevale Collegiate. Not much interest from Kitchener Transit which also ran the buses in Waterloo. There was no municipal bus between Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge, let alone Ixpress or Bus Rapid Transit. Frankly, transit was not a priority for the city councillors of that time.

In 2000, transit was taken over by the Region of Waterloo and the new system was named Grand River Transit. Over the last 14 years, since I have been on Regional Council, transit has grown by leaps and bounds.

Specialized Transit

According to the Mobility Plus business plan, the service includes:

services provided by MobilityPLUS in the urban areas and North Dumfries and by contract to Kiwanis Transit for services in Wilmot, Wellesley and Woolwich townships. Since assuming this responsibility the total number of accessible trips provided by the Region increased by 116% from 190,936 in 2001 to 411,964 trips in 2010. This includes approximately 106,000 annual trips taken on conventional low floor transit buses on scheduled GRT bus routes.

All GRT buses are now accessible and the LRT will also be fully accessible, the first Light  Rail to do so in North America.

Regular Buses

Ridership has increased from 9.4 million rides in 1999 when GRT was established to 22 million in 2013. Ixpress and the Route 7 is packed with riders. Here is a link to the GRT business plan giving details of fares and route expansions, some of which have already happened.  It has a nice graph showing the growth of GRT.


There is still a long way to go with the buses, though things are extremely improved. There still needs to be work on more routes, frequency and timeliness. Open Data and has been released which, along with GPS in the buses,  is leading to good apps to tell when the bus will arrive. Though the other day when my daughter’s bus was 10 minutes late, it was because the bus had been in an accident. Something that we would hope to avoid, but can’t always.

Transportation Part 1

Transportation Part 2

Transportation Part 3


Transportation: The LRT/ION. Part 1 of The Fourth of my Five Priorities for the Next Term of Council

 My Pledge: I will continue to make sure that the LRT/ION is on budget and on time.

Why did I vote for the LRT?

I have a Master Library and Information Science. Before I made my decision on the LRT, I did my research. I looked at information for light rail and information for bus rapid transit, both pro and con.

In 2010, I said I wouldn’t accept LRT in its present form with respect to cost. The province had said they would give 500 million to the light rail project. They came in with 300 million. So changes needed to be made to the financing of LRT before I could find it acceptable.

Staff found efficiencies and savings and we went to a Public Private Partnership which brought the burden on the taxpayer down to 11 dollars per year per household. If the estimated cost of fares is included, the amount is .5  increase per year until 2018. When weighing the increase against the 20,900 jobs LRT will create, the benefits to intensification and reduced gridlock, the benefits outweighed the costs.

Also Grandlinq is very experienced in building and running light rail. The Region still owns the ION and will control fares.

During the last election, I promised to support looking again at rapid buses. Once again I did my research. I found BRT wanting.

For my research, I studied the light rail of a number of cities, both southern and northern cities like Edmonton and Calgary. The city I looked at in particular was Portland Oregon.

This is what a traveller had to say about Portland in 1970,

Scattered bomb-site look of downtown parking lots.

Compare this to today where the downtown is according to the Lonely Planet,

Portland positively rocks. It’s a city with a vibrant downtown, pretty residential neighborhoods

Why? Portland turned away from parking lots to intensification, light rail and transit. Waterloo Region is doing the same to save our farmland, stop sprawl, cut gridlock and create great vibrant downtowns. Downtowns that a few years before the hope of this project were dying.

The provincial and federal governments supported Waterloo Region’s light rail because it is a job generator. 16,900 jobs will be created around the ION stations. This does not include direct jobs such as ION drivers, construction workers and engineers building the line.

Waterloo is the city that will benefit most from the ION. 70,000 university students already jam the Ixpress and crowding is one of the issues the Feds talked to me about when we met. Imagine the gridlock if students got off the buses and drove again. The Universities and their high tech spinoffs are Waterloo’s bread and butter.

Traffic congestion can be solved by transit or by expanding roads. If we do not have the ION, we will have to build 300 to 400 new and expanded roads at a cost similar to the ION. Westmount at Glasgow will have to be 6 lanes as will Fischer Hallman and Victoria St.

The LRT is being built as you read this. Caroline St. is already dug up, the rail cars are ordered, contacts are signed. To stop it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars for nothing. Look to Ottawa where the LRT was cancelled then restarted when the buses ended up in a gridlock conga line at rush hour. If Bus Rapid Transit, with its slightly lesser cost upfront but more costs later to replace buses, were put in, it would end up costing more than the LRT because the millions wasted by the cancellation would still be on your tax bill.

That being said,  I will continue to make sure that the LRT/ION is on budget (Inflation has been built into the 818 million cost) and on time.

Transportation, Roads  Part 2

Transportation, Cycling and Walking Part 3

Transportation, Transit, Part 4

Good News for Regional Transportation

  •  Grand River Transit annual ridership has already achieved the RTMP forecast for 2016, four years ahead of schedule, and is now 22 million;
  • Current ridership on iXpress and Route 7 between Conestoga Mall and Fairview Park Mall is 20,000 rides per day, which is approaching the 2017 target ridership of 25,000 on the ION light rail;
  •  Since 2006, cycling lanes have nearly doubled to almost 300 km;
  •  Since 2004, almost $250 million has been invested in expansion of the Regional road network;
  • Since 2009, the Province has invested about $150 million in Regional highways;
  • The Transportation Management Association has been promoted to more than 8% of the Region-wide workforce, and in one year 5% of TMA-participating employees surveyed have shifted from driving alone to more sustainable modes of travel;
  •  All Grand River Transit buses are now fully accessible; and
  • The EasyGo electronic traveller information system has increased to over 5 million uses annually, compared to less than 1 million in 2008.

Here’s where you can find the full report under the planning and works agenda for January 28:




Everyone is for the Environment Until Inconveniences Them.

I have a good friend who says this about the environment when ever I go Suzuki on her.

“Everyone is for protecting the environment until they have to pay for it or it inconveniences them.”

Getting rid of coal-fired plants was (and still is) a good idea. But no-one wants a wind farm near them or a rise in hydro rates. Even reducing use of electricity by turning off the lights or doing the laundry later seems too much.

Putting aside the issue of Light Rail Transit, people are now contacting me to say they do not want to pay for the slight increase in taxes to pay for regular transit. Even though as I went door-to-door , people were very much in favour of more transit in their neighbourhood. I have had a parent tell me she drives her teen-agers all over town, rather than have them take the bus because the reduced high school bus pass is too expensive.  I would think teens would be the first to travel on the bus. (Just adding, I am looking at other parts of the budget for cuts to cover the regular transit increase, but still I know you get my point)

People are also complaining about the 5 cents they are charged for a plastic bag for groceries. I admit, remembering those reusable bags can be difficult until you get into the habit. A kit I got at Curves contains three reusable bags that can be rolled up small and put in a purse or backpack. But with my new busy lifestyle as Chair of GRCA, I admit I need to get back on the wagon with this one and not end up paying for the occasional plastic bag because my reusuables are waiting on the kitchen table for a re-roll!

But new habits can be learned and I don’t think removing the 5 cents from plastic bags just because us old dogs are taking time to learn new tricks is a good excuse. There is a hashtag on Twitter called #firstworldproblems. It lists tweets of inconsequential annoyances like an empty ketchup bottle at a restaurant, that really, if we were poor people in the third world, we wouldn’t care.

Compared to the problems of asthma and premature death caused by coal-fired plants and greenhouse gases, a trip on a bus or forgetting a reusable grocery bag seem small.

Budgeting the Budget.

The Record Editorial praised Mayor Craig for his comments on transit increases and agreed that the Region should go slow and not put all 4.1 million into transit this year. This Saturday morning, a large article talked about the plans for the Drayton Theatre in Cambridge. Cambridge council is putting 6 million into the theatre and the Record also thought this was a good idea.

It’s all about priorities. I will be supporting the increase in transit. This doesn’t mean that we can’t trim in other areas. I will be looking at the budget over the next few weeks.

I note that an extra one million always goes to increasing the roads budget. We have increased that budget by millions over the last 10 years, it could do with a cut of a million.

The new issues papers could increase the budget by .55%  Other than help for the homeless and the daycare subsidies, everything is up for grabs in my opinion.

We are also putting 3 million of supplementary taxes in the Capital levy reserve.
This is a good idea as this helps us save on the interest costs of debentures in the future. However this year we could put some of that money to a one time tax decrease.

Deep cuts would require program cuts. Keeping the staff at 0 percent increase would mean a lot of labour unrest and strikes. Do you want the buses to stop and the ambulances to not take certain calls and the police to work to rule and restaurants to not be inspected? Daycares closed.

Reducing wage increases is a slow process that involves bargaining in good faith with our employees.

Yesterday I had a long conversation with a constituent who is actually going through our budget presentations that are on the web. Good for her! I wish more people did that. She has just returned from 18 months working in Africa. She said we don’t know how fortunate we are to have a region that has public services that work.

Link to budget information