How Dubai is Paving the Way to the 2026 UITP Summit

6th May 2024

Dubai’s visionary approach to public transportation has not only transformed the cityscape but has also significantly enhanced the quality of life for its residents and visitors. This commitment to developing a world-class transit system was a key factor in Dubai’s successful bid to host the UITP Global Public Transport Summit in 2026. With the recent go-ahead for the development of the new Blue Line of the Dubai Metro and record-breaking ridership numbers, Dubai has demonstrated its dedication to redefining urban mobility.

Words Remi Deve

The UITP Global Public Transport Summit’s selection of Dubai as its 2026 host city reflects the city’s dynamic advancements in public transport. It is in fact in perfect alignment with the Dubai Economic Agenda, D33, which aims to enhance the city’s global economic presence through six specific goals, including boosting foreign trade, increasing direct investment, and expanding digital transformation projects.

As His Excellency Mattar Al Tayer, Director General, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), puts it: “The UITP Summit underscores Dubai’s global leadership as a preferred destination for international events and highlights the international community’s confidence in Dubai’s outstanding global reputation. The selection also exemplifies Dubai’s proven capability to host successful international events, showcasing the excellence and efficiency of its public transport infrastructure.”

It will actually be the first time UITP returns to Dubai since 2011. “Even then, the city was very well advanced when it comes to urban mobility,” said Mohamed Mezghani, Secretary General of the UITP. “But since then, public transport has developed at a truly impressive rate thanks to the strong focus and commitment of RTA. With the changes to our global events strategy, Dubai will become the first city outside of Europe to host the new UITP Annual Summit. I’m excited to see what outstanding urban mobility options the delegates will experience upon their arrival.”

A New Era in Public Transportation

The RTA’s Strategic Plan for 2024-2030 aligns with the Dubai Urban Plan 2040, focusing on promoting the economy, wellbeing, and happiness of Dubai’s residents and visitors. “RTA’s future entails studying and deploying integrated and soft mobility solutions along with connected and real-time mobility systems, and self-driving transport,” explains Al Tayer​. 

Numbers speak for themselves here. The RTA has recently accomplished several major projects worth over AED 146 billion (€37 billion), including the establishment of the 89.3 km Dubai Metro, the longest automated metro globally; the 11 km Dubai Tram; a contemporary fleet of more than 1,400 public buses adhering to Euro 6 standards for low emissions; and a comprehensive marine transport network featuring abras (used to ferry people across the Dubai Creek), the Dubai Ferry, and water taxis, Across 24 lines and 54 stations. With ongoing urban and tourist developments like the Dubai Water Canal, the usage of marine transport is, for that matter, expected to grow significantly.

The Dubai Metro Blue Line project specifically, approved by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, represents a significant leap forward in the city’s transportation infrastructure. Spanning over 30 kilometers and featuring 14 stations, this line will connect critical areas of Dubai, offering a direct link between Dubai International Airport and key urban centres. “The Blue Line is a key integration point between the Red and Green Lines of Dubai Metro. It plays a significant role in realising the objectives of the Dubai Economic Agenda (D33) and Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan,” states the Government of Dubai Media Office. 

Riding the Wave of Sustainable Success

In 2023, Dubai’s public transport and shared mobility services, including the metro, trams, buses, marine transport, and taxis, saw an unprecedented surge in usage, with 702 million riders taking advantage of these services. “These indicators stem from substantial investments and concerted efforts to promote public transport,” says Al Tayer​. 

The Dubai Metro itself achieved a new milestone with over two billion riders since its inception. “It serves the community and reflects Dubai’s keenness to provide effective, environmentally friendly and sustainable transport solutions,” says His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai​. This achievement highlights the role of Dubai’s public transport in facilitating seamless mobility and its contribution to Dubai’s economic growth and ability to host global events like Expo 2020.

However, Dubai’s transit system is not just about enhancing mobility but also about committing to sustainability. In that regard, there is such a thing as the RTA’s ‘Zero-Emissions Public Transportation in Dubai 2050’ strategy, which aims to convert all taxis and limousines to electric and hydrogen vehicles by 2040 and the entire public bus fleet by 2050. This ambitious goal positions Dubai as a pioneer in the Middle East in the transition to net-zero emission public transport, further cementing its reputation as a city of the future​.

Last but not least, the RTA is also advancing its Smart Self-Driving Transport Strategy, targeting 25% of all mobility journeys in Dubai to utilise self-driving technology by 2030. A significant achievement in this direction is the completion of digital maps for Cruise’s Origin autonomous vehicles, preparing for their 2023 launch in Dubai. This move marks Dubai as the first city outside the US to adopt Cruise’s AV technology for taxi and e-hail services (which provide to book public transport through apps), with plans to expand the fleet to 4,000 by 2030.

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