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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Mowasalat plans public transit expansion with more buses on Doha roads

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Karwa buses
Karwa buses

With reporting from Nadine Armoush

Despite declining public demand and limited interest among parents in Qatar to send their children to school on buses, the country’s state-owned transportation firm has announced plans to massively increase its fleet size in the coming years.

That includes increasing the number of school buses 42 percent to 780 vehicles, Mowasalat officials said at a press conference yesterday.

To encourage parents to actually use the service, the company has been experimenting with a new smartphone app that would allow school buses carrying children to be tracked via GPS.

Speaking to Doha News, executive director Nasser Al Khanji said that some 80 buses from three schools would initially be outfitted with the technology as part of a three-month trial starting in time for the start of the new school year in September. He added that the GPS service would be rolled out to buses serving some 227 schools across the country.

Only about one-third of the roughly 200,000 school-age children here travel to and from school on buses, according to a 2012 report issued by the Rand-Qatar Policy Institute.

Many parents cite safety concerns including the high rate of road collisions in Qatar, among other issues, as the reason they rely on alternative forms of transportation.

Several tragedies in recent years have contributed to those perceptions. In an extreme instance, a four-year-old student at the DPS-Modern Indian School died in 2010 of suffocation after falling asleep in her school bus.

The driver didn’t notice her and parked the vehicle at the end of his shift, leaving it locked on a hot day.

Public transit

Meanwhile, with traffic congestion in and around Doha seemingly getting worse by the day, Mowasalat is pushing ahead to make public transportation a more attractive commuting option.

For illustrative purposes only.
For illustrative purposes only.

The number of daily users has fluctuated in recent years, including a decline attributed to delays and congestion. Currently, about 60,000 people use the bus daily, officials said.

In an effort to boost ridership, Mowasalat said it plans to more than double its bus fleet from 120 to 250 vehicles by the end of this year.

CEO Khaled Nasser Al Halil said the transportation company will take delivery of the new vehicles in stages, starting with 40 additional buses this month. That will be followed by 30 more in June and an additional 60 buses towards the end of the year.

Mowaslat plans to continue to expand its public transit fleet by 150 to 200 buses annually until the 2022 World Cup, Al Halil added.

Mowasalat Old Ghanim bus station
Mowasalat Old Ghanim bus station

In response to a question from Doha News, Al Khanji said that passengers will soon see buses running more frequently and into more areas of Qatar.

He said some routes currently operating on a 60-minute frequency would be changed to between 20 and 45 minutes.

Additionally, Mowaslat’s route network and orientation is being rethought. Currently, most buses travel to and from Doha’s main bus station near Souq Waqif.

However, four new “semi-circular” routes  – No. 301, 302, 303 and 304 – are currently being run on a trial basis and are expected to be fully introduced next week in an effort to reduce congestion and travel times.

Additionally, there are plans to build five new bus stations across Qatar by 2018 to reduce the strain on the central bus terminal in Al Ghanim. Apart from one station in Asian Town, near the Industrial Area, the locations were not announced. However, the new terminals are expected to be integrated with the Doha Metro system.

Bus terminal safety

In recent years, the existing main bus terminal in Old Ghanim has been the site of several serious collisions, in which buses have rammed into passengers waiting on overcrowded platforms.

The scene of the crash at the Karwa bus station in Old Ghanim.
The scene of the crash at the Karwa bus station in Old Ghanim.

That includes a March incident that injured at least five people as well as a horrific crash in December 2014 that killed four individuals and injured several more after a Karwa bus crashed through a concrete barrier and drove over several people.

Al Khanji told Doha News that additional safety measures have been put in place following the incident. This includes fortifying bus stops in the central terminal with very strong barricades that “are fixed one meter underground and go up to one meter above the ground to avoid accidents.”

He added that the pedestrian platform would also be reconfigured within the next five months to prevent passengers from dashing between moving vehicles to catch their bus.

Taxis and salaries

During yesterday’s media briefing, Mowasalat officials also addressed changes to its taxi design, to reduce the number of passenger complaints about drivers overcharging or refusing to use the meter.

Taxi meter
Taxi meter

Al Khanji said a new system has been installed in some 80 percent of taxis of Mowasalat’s fleet that automatically activate the meter once the vehicle moves more than a few feet with an occupant in the rear seat.

The new cab meters are also outfitted with GPS that prevent drivers from picking up passengers without the company’s knowledge and keeping the fares for themselves.

Officials have previously said the changes have caused complaints about drivers tampering with meters or overcharging to drop by half.

However, drivers’ frustration over their pay has appeared to increase alongside the rollout of these changes. There have been several strikes held by taxi and bus drivers in the last few years, demanding better wages and treatment.

The compensation structure for drivers differs. While many pay a daily rental fee of more than QR200 to their employer and keep whatever they earn on top of that sum, others receive a monthly salary of approximately QR1,200.

Al Khanji said that the base salaries of the drivers in the latter category have not been increased, but that they receive bonuses if they collect a certain amount in fares. He didn’t specify the size of this commission, or the threshold.

However, he added that public and school drivers recently received a 20 percent increase in their salaries.

Meanwhile, Mowasalat said another new service will be implemented to allow passengers to order taxis through a smart phone app. However, no specific timeline has been announced for the rollout of this new service, which private companies like Uber and Careem already offer.

Mowasalat has 4,000 taxis in Qatar and aims to reach 7,000 by 2022.

Thoughts?

22 COMMENTS

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irobot
irobot
6 years ago

As a commuter happy to hear more buses will be added to the fleet which will increase the frequency but what about shelters at the bus stops ? more efficient bus routes ?
it would be quite challenging to get people here to abandon their cars and use buses, looks like it wil only worsen the traffic situation.
I think theres a lot to learn from cities like London and Singapore on how to improve public transport

thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago
Reply to  irobot

I wonder what the lesson from London would be!? Build an underground system that’s neither fully air conditioned, profitable or accessible for people with disabilities, then privatise half of it and become embroiled in strike actions every six months or more

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

1.26 billion passenger movements – 2013/14 Annual report. And that’s only on the Tube.

thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

*chube

Scarletti
Scarletti
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

get your facts right – the new tube stations are conditioned, TFL makes no net profit – its all reinvested, and the network was constructed before the issues over disability became the norm.

thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago
Reply to  Scarletti

Facts are straight, not sure how they’re not. The majority are not air-conditioned, as are many of the cars themselves, they don’t make a profit and accessibility is the norm now and has been for decades

thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

and they’re in debt approximately 10 billion pounds, with interest repayments up to 400m per year. Tokyo might be a better starting place to learn about transportation.

irobot
irobot
6 years ago
Reply to  thedrizzle96

Its quite silly to think learning lessons means to just copy them .. surely the london underground has its own problems but nevertheless its an efficient way to get around and is a great alternative to driving on congested roads. Incase you dint know, labour unions are banned here so your scenario of strikes / industrial actions will be void here.

thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago
Reply to  irobot

Learning lessons from their short comings is fine, if that’s what you meant! Although strike actions are illegal here, in essence, they still happen

Heisenberg
Heisenberg
6 years ago

This will only make the traffic worse, parents will not put their kids in buses unless roads and traffic conditions are improved.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago

Make buses free, the one or two royal per ride hardly covers a fraction of the operating cost, so 100% subsidize it for passengers.

Phase in free wifi on buses to further encourage bus use.

Add shaded or air conditioned bus stops and stations. Why not sponoser bus stations, ie Qatar Airways would sponoser a stop for a five years paying for the initial cost of the bus shade and its maintenance. In return the bus stop will only carry QA ads for 5 years

Michkey
Michkey
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

I wish there were men like you among the policymakers!

Michael L
Michael L
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

All good suggestions … but if the driver is still a maniac what’s the point ?

irobot
irobot
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

According to the facts in the article 60k pax a day into QAR 3 minimum fare is minimum daily revenue of QAR180k which can surely be reinvested to develop the infarstraucture such as Shaded / Aircondiitoned bus stops, GPS locators to know arrival times etc .. without the need for sponsor money.

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago

Well we could learn from countries that do it well and who have the technology and knowledge to make things work. Singapore would be the country that we could learn it from

Rane de Beer
Rane de Beer
6 years ago

“Many parents cite safety concerns including the high rate of road collisions in Qatar, among other issues, as the reason they rely on alternative forms of transportation.” So, what do they do? Travel by air? They still use the same roads, now just in many more vehicles, to go to the same places. The buses are safe enough, it’s just the pathetic service, useless timetables, lack of bus shelters and the hell-hole which is the central bus station, that puts people off. Please improve what you have, and make it easier to top up the smart cards!

AEC
AEC
6 years ago

Something like this would be nice (CC button for English subtitles)..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acq5CGbUgfs

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

especially the “has it’s own lane”

Bhasith
Bhasith
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

Sometimes we need to run like that for the bus.

sicti
sicti
6 years ago

Idiotic strategy….

Ms. Hala
6 years ago

This is all good and well but let’s be honest, at the end of the day, happy drivers means happy (paying) passengers… #JustSaying

Bhasith
Bhasith
6 years ago

“Mr. Al Khanji said some routes currently operating on a 60-minute frequency would be changed to between 20 and 45 minutes.”
Sir, you thinking that the bus running each 60-minutes frequently. but the Dhukan bus running each 120-Min frequently. I emailed to them to arrange 60-minutes each at least on Friday but no response. We need to stand on the bus until reach Shahaniya because of too much rush.

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