Thursday, May 03, 2007

RTA gets it wrong yet again.

It was almost inevitable. A decision to be made by the Roads & Transport Authority and they made the wrong one.

In an endless saga of breathtakingly inept management they've got the new toll system competely wrong.

And it isn't only me saying it.

There are two issues with the toll. One is whether a toll will improve traffic flow, whether it's simply another of our taxes-by-another-name and what percentage it will add to inflation. That it will add something to inflation is not at issue, the argument is how many percent.

But it seems that the toll will go ahead regardless - unless Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid vetoes it - so the real issue now is implementation and management.

They've named it Salik, meaning open or clear in Arabic, but it's far from clear what their rationale is. As usual with the RTA it's all vague, wooly thinking.

Oh, and as usual they're leaving it all to the last minute. We're a mere 60 days from start-up and they're still talking to industry bodies, still gathering information, still 'making final decisions', still not sure of the details.

Payment model

They have hundreds of toll systems around the world to research and evaluate in terms of Dubai's needs. You'd have to assume they did that.

They had many different payment models to choose from - and as we've come to expect from the RTA they chose the wrong one.

Hire car companies, fleet operators, car dealers are all saying the same thing, as will all we drivers - the payment model is wrong.

Motorists will buy a stick-on tag which is to be fixed to the car's windscreen, behind the rear-view mirror is being recommended. Salik starter kits at Dh100 will be on sale for the toll which is due to begin on July 1. Dh50 is for 'an initial cost for the account' (sounds like a tax to me) and Dh50 is credit against toll trips. Overhead devices will automatically deduct Dh4 per pass-through.

The problem with the system they've chosen is that the tag belongs to the vehicle, not the person. Their website says "With no battery or moving parts, it should last the life of your windshield...Your Salik tag must be affixed to your windshield to operate properly and cannot be removed without damaging the tag. You should have a Salik tag for each of your vehicles."

So if you have to change your windshield - buy another tag.Own two cars - you have to buy two tags. Sell your car - the tag goes with it. (Think about that for car hire fleets selling hundreds of cars a year). All you can do is deactivate the tag.

It goes without saying that the tag should belong to the person, not the vehicle. As they have in Singapore we should have a little plastic holder that's fixed to the windshield, the payment card slots into it, the overhead device reads the card. Use your second car, you put the card into its holder. Sell the car, you still have your card. Replace the windshield, you still have your card.

Improved traffic flow?

Then there's the toll road itself. It's actually only a small section of Sheikh Zayed Road, the most congested section to be fair. There will be two overhead devices, one at Garhoud Bridge the other by Mall of the Emirates at Interchange 4.

Only if the vehicle passes under the reader will a toll be charged. Join the same section of road a little further down and there's no charge. It's not hard to visualise vehicles blasting in from Jebel Ali, off at interchange 4.5 (or whatever it's going to be called) or onto a service road, skip round the overhead gantry and back onto SZR the other side. That hardly eases traffic flow does it!

Join the toll section of SZR anywhere but under one of the two overhead readers and it's free.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid has already warned the RTA about their performance, as I posted here. They've made and continue to make such a mess of what they're doing that it's long overdue for a large clean-out of management and designers who urgently need to be replaced by competent people with the ability to actually do the job properly.

I originally posted about the stupidity of the toll system they've come up with all the way back in November, here.


samuraisam said...

I have sincere doubts about the system being ready in time; I'm thinking it'll be delayed just like everything else is here.

faiq said...

not acceptable at all,the message from sheikh Mo is clear and loud please leave this country we dnt want any more bloody poor,paki & indians...really this place is hell lot of expenses & unplanned pool is illegal in duabi fined 4000 for violation ,taxi's are damm expensive really wonder how can person like me survice at meager 5000 .

Dubai Sunshine said...

I really hadn't thought about this whole toll thing much when I first heard about it. I very rarely go past Mall of the Emirates anyway. But now that I've read your post, it's beginning to worry me. Is it going to cause an even bigger mess than what we usually have on the roads?

One question: what happens if you've run out of credit on your card and you pass under the toll thingy?

samuraisam said...

dubai sunshine: According to their website...
"The fines will be AED100 for the 1st time, AED 200 for 2nd time and AED 400 for the 3rd and it will continue same after that, until the owner pays the fines."
(that is for when someone doesn't have a tag at all)

"You should top up your account through one of the various methods available to avoid a violation of AED 50, online or by calling."
(That is for when someone doesn't top up their account)

What i'm interested in is the fact the salik website says the 'starter packs' will be available 'soon'; this seems to be an expectation that several hundred thousand people will be able to purchase and setup said accounts easily (keep in mind it isn't as easy as sticking a piece of plastic on your car, you still have to submit some sort of an application); seeing as fines are going to amount upto 400 AED / violation due to not having a tag, it's going to be quite a situation when the system has to be implemented at the very last minute.

Something else of interest is going to be the accuracy of the toll cameras; considering there is no 'standard' numberplate of the UAE it's going to be interesting to see how they go about it; reading the London Congestion Charge page on wikipedia is interesting...
"The level of accuracy of Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology, and subsequent problems resulting from sending fines to the wrong vehicle if the number plate is misread by the computer, mean that pictures of offending vehicles are checked visually by Capita staff. This is why it takes 48 hours for fines to be issued and contributes to the cost (circa £98m per annum) of running the scheme.

What happens when some guy from Saudi/Qatar/Bahrain drives through the UAE unaware of this retarded 'salik' bullshit? Let's say they drive through the toll booths 20 times? That could be up to 8000 AED in fines when they reach the border.

elle said...

And what about people driving through for the day from other emirates? Where do they get these toll cards from? And why should they have to cough up 100dhs for a day trip when the toll is only going to be up to a max of 24dhs?

samuraisam said...

Xpress has an interesting article about the road toll...

Apparently... "Asdaa said that Salik starter kits will be on sale for Dh100 starting June 15."

Does that mean the RTA expects several hundred thousand people to purchase these starter kits and set them up in 15 days?

Seabee said...

Sam, yes that's exactly what they think they're going to do! Yet another example of their 'ability'...

The kits will be available at Emarat petrol stations apparently, the RTA has done a deal with them. They're going to train the staff at Emarat to understand and explain it all!!!