MAKKAH: Traffic congestion and delays in Makkah may soon be a thing of the past thanks to a major public transport initiative and the use of innovative smart solutions.
Residents in Makkah have long relied on cars for transportation, causing traffic jams in the main streets and annoying delays.
However, an expanding network of public buses is changing the face of travel, as well as improving traffic flow, in the holy city.
The system, still in its trial phase, operates on fixed routes according to prearranged timetable monitored by the Royal Commission for Makkah City and Holy Sites.
Meanwhile, the Makkah public transportation project aims to introduce smart solutions to address the traffic problem as it works with authorities to improve service quality.
The project is part of the Doyof Al-Rahman Program, a pilgrims’ service initiative launched under the umbrella of Saudi Vision 2030.
Rayan Al-Hazmi, the RCMC representative for the Makkah bus project, said that the scheme will play a key role in improving traffic flow in Makkah by reducing the use of private cars by residents and visitors in the city.
He added that the best international practices have been followed in the planning and introduction of the project.
“Makkah faces special challenges when introducing high-quality public transport,” Al-Hazmi told Arab News.
“To ensure that we have an improved level of service, we have given special consideration to the density of network (how many lines or corridors), type of service (service line, full-stop local bus or express routes, skip-stop service), prices and fare structure,” he said.
Service schedule and frequency, line speed, bus type, and comfort and convenience on board the vehicles are also major considerations, he said.
Al-Hazmi said that different stopping patterns will be provided for the express services in order to reduce travel times for long journeys.
These services can be integrated with local services through carefully planned locations of interchanges, such as the integration of Line 7A from Al-Haramain High-Speed Station and the Makkah central area, where passengers can use the four main stations in the city to navigate between various lines.
“As part of the project, further improvement will be provided for some traffic signals in Makkah to ensure public buses have priority. Also, we will have real-time passenger information at bus stops and allow any operator to meet specified quality standards for the service,” Al-Hazmi said.
Drivers and other personnel have completed comprehensive training programs to ensure they are aware of the operational requirements and special characteristics in Makkah.
Simulators have been used to provide practical training to drivers seeking to meet the high driving standards. These study the driver’s behavior, interaction with the simulated vehicle (steering, braking, for example), interaction with an in-vehicle system, and the interaction of the vehicle system with the roadway and traffic environment.
A safe and secure public transport system is one of the key aims of project, Al-Hazmi said.
All bus stops, stations and buses are equipped with CCTV cameras linked to the main operation control center. Partnerships with the various security authorities have been established to ensure responses can be coordinated, he added.
Network planning and design can be decisive factors in the success of a public transport system.
Bus stops within easy walking distance will ensure maximum coverage of the urban area.
“We believe the economic impact of such bus stops along the various routes will be recognized by homeowners, retailers and residents once the network is fully operational,” he said.
The Makkah bus transportation project will provide more than 400 high-quality bus stops to improve the comfort for passengers onboard and at the stop stations.