Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Train of thought

Being anti-car in Dubai is getting rather frustrating.

Not when I stroll easily through the snarl that is Trade Centre Roundabout during Gitex. Not when I can leave the cab in the stationary traffic on the Sheikh Zayed service road and just walk the rest of the way. Not when I can get to work without first driving around the block twice and then parking in sand about a kilometre away.

But when I need to go somewhere that’s not walking distance, the cabs are spread thin over an ever-growing area and the buses are delayed in traffic, I remember the good old days of 2005, and sigh.

My hopes are now centred on the Dubai Metro. And my evenings are now coloured by the fact that construction on it has reached the stage where they have to bang large pieces of metal on other large pieces of metal all night. So far the inconvenience to me has been restricted to the closing off of the median, so I have to go all the way to traffic light to cross the road to the restaurants, instead of jaywalking as the crow flies.

But even when I can no longer hear my music, I don’t feel the murderous rage I used to at the slightest little beep from a crane when they were building apartments next door (now mercifully complete). If it’s for the Metro, I feel it’s in a good cause and tolerate it with minimum fuss. And I’m not the only one – I noted when the first barricades and notices came up that there was much less of the usual bitching from drivers. That’s quite something considering it’s Dubai’s favourite pastime.

I used to make fun of the fact that they had boards with the names of stations before they had rails, but in retrospect that was a great little bit of situation management. The boards very simply and quietly showed the results. They gave the inconveniences an acceptable name and place: “We’re not disrupting traffic to build a tower you won’t be able to afford to live in and which will drive your rent up. We’re building infrastructure.” And they remain a reminder that this is important work.

The same goes for the extensive feature articles, the display of the train at last year’s DSF, the constant reiteration of facts and figures in the newspaper. It all seemed to be just personal back-patting and self indulgence, while all the time it was a masterly PR exercise.

Even on the longest nights of the construction next door, when whatever they were doing was not only noisy but made my building vibrate, I wasn't as impatient for it to be finished as I am now with the Metro.

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