Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Car pooling madness

The RTA has come up with some mind-boggling ideas in the past but this new one will take some beating.

They have a new pronouncement on car pooling.

I quote the Director of Planning & Business Development Department:

"Now people can drive their friends and colleagues to and from their homes and workplaces without fear of getting fines if they get approval from the RTA."



The motorist must register the car with the RTA.

Motorists will be given certificates allowing them to share their cars.

The names of the persons sharing the car should be furnished at the time of registration to avoid a fine.

A maximum of four people will be allowed to share a car.

And look at this for the worst Big Brother part:

After they have entered their personal details and information on their vehicles, the authority will conduct background checks on colleagues wishing to carpool before issuing a letter of approval.

They're checking your background before you can sit in someone's car?!! It's easier to join the CIA or MI6.

I hardly know where to begin on this utter stupidity.

All over the world people share cars. RTA equivalents and governments encourage and support it. Many cities have special lanes for them, to speed their journey. Singapore has various meeting places where a driver going into the city centre can pick up passengers.

If people want to give others a lift, and to share petrol costs if they choose, that is A Good Thing. And it should also be a personal choice.

And then look at the bureaucracy and just a few of the questions it raises:

The car must be registered with the RTA.

So if the car's in for service or repair, the owner can't use his hire car to drive his registered passengers around?

The names of those sharing the car must be pre-registered.

So when one of them leaves the company, his name has to be de-registered and any new passenger registered?

What if your company has an overseas visitor and asks you to drive him to the office - and around town come to that. Do you have to pre-register him as an approved passenger?

A maximum of four people will be allowed to share a car.

So if you have a vehicle suitable for carrying more, like a big 4x4 or a people mover, you can't fill it?

People can drive their friends and colleagues to and from their homes and workplaces.

What about other journeys? A group of friends going to dinner decide that one will drive them all. A friend or colleague is going to the airport and you offer to take him there. Illegal?

And in general, there are the less structured instances of people sharing cars.

What if a neighbour's car won't start and you offer to drive him to his office? Illegal?

A colleague's car is off the road so you offer him a lift until he has it back. Illegal?

You and a colleague are going to business meetings in the same area, so you offer to drop him off. Illegal?

And then there's the enforcement of it all. What's the plan, to stop all cars with more than one person in it? Check who they are, where they're going, if they have a car pooling certificate, if the passengers are registered?

And who will do it, the police? Don't they have enough real work to do?

Even if this is just a fishing expedition to gauge public reaction it's a bad, bad move. It indicates a total lack of thinking, of planning, of understanding.

You probably think I'm making this up, but both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are reported to be setting it up. The stories are here, in Gulf News and The National.


Anonymous said...

I'm really hoping for one of two things:
1) The reporter has horrible translation skills and didn't understand the words of the official
2) The official either didn't have his morning coffee/is willing to make the authority look bad and is saying things he definitely knows are idiotic and ignorant...

And one more thing, wouldn't this system of 'not being able to give rides to non-registered people' create even more cars on the road, for the people that aren't willing to car pool?!

Rami said...

Unfortunately this isn't a mistranslation or anything. They first announced this a month or two back, and now it's close enough to implementation.

And yet again it goes to show that, although the RTA is somewhat interested in reducing congestion, that isn't their main agenda.

The RTA is bleeding money, and needs as much income as it can produce.

All the extra paper-and-legwork that will have to go into these 'background checks' and so on.. who's going to cover those costs? I assume some sort of registration fee will come up.

They keep saying that the reason they are against 'illegal taxis' is due to security fears.. but that makes no sense. The question has to be asked... how much income does the RTA make from their taxi operations? Are they that afraid of losing that income if people started dropping their coworkers off?

Rami said...

Oh, and another worry.

Once this is in place, RTA inspectors will have the full legal right to stop anyone with passengers and fine them (barring proof that they aren't family members).


That means that if you happen to pick your friends up for a night out on the town? You're liable. If your car breaks down and a friend takes you to work/school/etc? They have the right to fine you for driving an unregistered taxi.

This is stupid in so many ways.

And yet, as with the Salik stupidity, this will probably get passed, and we'll all just deal with it. Everyone knows that salik is nothing more than a revenue stream, and with 'new gates planned all over the city', they've basically confirmed it.

That didn't stop them.

Anonymous said...

Fan-bloody-tastic. So that means if you're going on holiday a friend can't take you to or pick you up from the airport. You can't take your friends if you're going for a picnic on the East Coast. And what about when you have friends to stay, do you have to bloody register them too?

Utterly bloody stupid, counter productive waste of time, money and energy. How exactly does this help to reduce car use? I suppose its job-creation for locals or something?

Someone needs to take the RTA and dump them in the middle of Sheikh Zayed Road at rush hour. I'll volunteer!

What is it with the control freak mentality this place is developing?

Anonymous said...

I dont know why everyone has to criticise RTA all the time. It is because of such strict controls that Dubai is a safe place.

Also Dubai doesnt need misers who cant afford their own car, so people who protect these misers by offering them lifts should be hit hard with fines.

Rami said...

Re: Anonymous @ 1:30

I'm torn here. You're either a brilliant troll posting a comment for no reason but to generate hate, or a plain idiot.

You do realize that most of these "misers" are people who can't afford cars? Or that without these "misers", this city would cease to function overnight?

And for God's sake, we're not even talking about people without cars. We're talking about people giving other people lifts to help the traffic situation. In case you can't do math, here's some help.

One person driving + three passengers = 3 less cars on the road

If more people did that, can you imagine how much less traffic there would be? By putting in place a stupid system of registration, inspection and fines, the RTA is doing nothing but discouraging carpooling.

And tell me. What's so unsafe about me taking my coworkers (or friends) to work (or the mall)? Am I likely to rob them? I'd love to hear your twisted logic on this one.

Seabee said...

So, anon, because of such strict controls that Dubai is a safe place. Not for traffic - we have one of the worst road death statistics in the world.

Anonymous said...

What the hell business is it of the RTA to to tell me who I can and can't have in my legally registered and insured car. I've never heard of anything so ridiculous in my life - and it's totally unenforceable.
Stop interfering with people's private lives. If people are running illegal taxi services then catch them and punish them, don't punish the majority of people who are not doing anything illegal.

Keef said...

Dear oh dear. I think it's time for Mr Al Tayer to retire and let somebody with a brain take over.

Rami: proper public transport always 'bleeds money'. It is simply not possible to fund transport infrastructure out of revenue. Developed countries accept that the state must pay the bulk of the cost out of taxes. But the UAE has a political/social/religious aversion to calling anything a 'tax'.

Personally, I think the sooner the UAE gets over the semantic 'tax vs fee' thing, the fairer things will be, and you might find that the idea of 'accountability' also filters into the system.

It is staggeringly clear to me now that the leadership of the RTA needs to be fixed. We've been lied to over Salik, the Metro should have been built five years ago, the busses are still practically unusable (bus lanes anyone?), the law on window tinting is not enforced, driver education/training is still crap. In short, transport policy in Dubai is not delivering. This latest thing about car-pooling is just another example of ignorant people trying to impose their will on people who do actually know better. Gaaah. That's it, I'm leaving. Oh, I already did. But still it makes me mad!

Seabee said...

True Keefie, I've been using phrases like 'heads must roll' about the RTA ever since I've been blogging. To get so much so consistently wrong is mind-numbing.

Anonymous said...

I think that one problem with RTA is that those who take decisions never go on the ground and see/hear people. Did the official who came with this brilliant idea know what car pool is? How it works? When he decided to utter those words, did he have "car pool = Taxi" in his mind?

I think RTA need to try harder, if not for us, then at least for the Dubai Government Award .. poor guys, they did not make it to the stage this year. No wonder !

Anonymous said...

Car pooling will definitely improve the traffic as it will reduce the number of cars. Also a lot of fuel will be saved. I think somebody in RTA is mixed up with illegal taxi service and somebody sharing the car with friends, guests or a relative. If RTA is serious on this issue, they are doing a big mistake. This plan to be reconsidered at least to reduce the traffic congestion.

Grumpy Goat said...

I agree with you, Seabee.

"Such a system will make illegal minicabs more rather than less of a problem: "It's OK, officer. I'm not operating an illegal taxi. We're all sharing my car on our trip to the office. And I have an official RTA permit, see?"

It was April Fool's Day when I blogged about the RTA's doomed attempt to control car-pooling in this shameless cross-post.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why the term "Illegal Taxi" is being used. If one wants to use his or her car as a taxi let him use it, what is the problem in it if someone spend some extra hours after his work to make little more money, especially when there is scarcity of taxis in the city.

It is not only the shortage of taxi and other public transport system but also the laws of RTA for such services that create problem. I think I did mention on one of the earlier posts about the taxi services from Dubai Airport.

If two friends land at Dubai airport and both want to travel to Sharjah but at 2 different places with in Sharjah, probably not very far from each other lets say about 100 meters apart, both have to take 2 taxis as the taxi driver is not allowed to drop passengers at 2 different places. This adds to an unnecessary car on the road. Not to mention that both the passengers will have to pay AED
/- as starting fare.

Illegal taxis, so to speak, are available in all the major cities of the world and it is the choice of the passenger whether to use them or not, government does not have the right to tell me what do I do in my personal life.

Anonymous said...

Oops; I missed AED/- extra on last line of 4th para in my previous comment.

Anonymous said...

Did it again why the number are being typed, OK now I will make sure, it was AED20/-

Grumpy Goat said...

There is the small matter of taxi insurance. Carriage of passengers for Hire or Reward requires extensive - and expensive - insurance cover.

Imagine having an accident in your illegal taxi and being sued by your injured fare-paying passenger. It could work out exceptionally expensive because you'd not be insured.

This is not the same as normal private motor insurance passenger cover.

Anonymous said...

So, I drove to Abu Dhabi yesterday, with 2 friends in my car to attend the Bon Jovi Concert. Sometimes I go out with another group of friends for dinner. Am I supposed to register all of my friends and work colleagues? Oh wait... I'm only allowed to have 4 "friends".Should we have driven in 3 seperate cars yesterday? This is one of those RTA-stories that makes me check the calendar... is it April 1st today?!

i*maginate said...

LOOOL - after reading the same post on the UAE Comm Blog, I noticed this is the unedited version lol!

Do people sharing RTA taxis also need to be registered?

What about a fishing boat? I think that's going to be my new home. But that might fall under the auspices of the RTA too. A tent, perhaps? Oh. No RC legislation on that.

Anonymous said...

If persons A, B, C and D each own a car, then car pooling means they would use A's car on day 1 then B's car on day 2 and so on.

RTA's rules would mean that A would register B, C and D as partners in the car pool. Same for the others.

Then ... what about friends? business visitors being taken to Airport / Hotels?

Ever since I heard about this, I could not stop smiling and wondering .. is this Dubai? the city being marketed as paradise?

RTA wants us to pay for getting into paradise, but the question is why should we pay for leaving paradise? .. now comes the car pooling. I hardly can wait for the next idea. At least we have something to laugh about every now and then. Keep it up RTA.

i*maginate said...

a driver: "I hardly can wait for the next idea."

Hmm. Tax, baby...more of it!

Grumpy Goat said...

And now, according to today's 7DAYS, comes the back-pedalling:

However, Khalid Mohammed Hashim, Director of Planning and Business Development at the RTA, said this should not affect people who want to give their workmates a lift to the office. “We do not want to discourage car pooling by slapping fines on motorists erratically. People are free to pick up their friends and relatives if they want to,” he said. “They need not register with the web site which is being created for car-pooling in the coming days.”

So car-pooling, as in giving your colleagues a lift to work or having a nominated driver when you go out on the lash, is perfectly acceptable. Hooray.

Only those motorists who are intending to pick people who are not known to them (from the side of the road) should register their names on the site.

Eh? You only need a permit if you stop at random to pick up strangers?! Those same strangers that you previously nominated on the car-pool application form?! In other words, only illegal taxis need the form, which is impossible to fill in correctly unless you know who you’re going to pick up, which you don’t because “Only those motorists who are intending to pick people who are not known to them...should register their names on the site.” If you already know their names to put on the form, then surely the passengers count as friends or colleagues, and therefore don’t need the permit...

Perhaps the plan has become one of legalising the illegal mini-cabs. Register yourself as a mini-cab driver, show that you have Hire/Reward insurance and suddenly the number of taxis mushrooms. But wait: With no fee, how does the RTA get its cut? And if your residence visa says ‘Chef’, ‘Housewife’ or ‘CEO’, how will the Ministry of Rubber Stamps react if you’re mini-cabbing in your spare time?

Seabee said...

Mr Goat & A Driver, you've worked it out - it's actually a Monty Python script!

The whole thing is surreal. What's in the air down there at the RTA I wonder.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that someone will justify this by saying: "Yeah, we commit mistakes, but we learn from them" .. but hey .. we PAY for them ! .. ie you are learning at our expense.

Again, and as pointed out several times in this blog, the main problem of RTA and other entities in Dubai is the lack of planning (genuine long-term planning) and lack of coordination .. because every entity in Dubai has one and only one objective: "satisfy the big boss and make it to the stage every year so that they publish those one-page-ads in the newspapers to express their gratitude" .. RTA: you've been created to do a job, not to get honored! .. just wake up, RTA !

Another problem is that RTA officials visit other countries to learn from their experiences. I wonder which country applies car pooling as understood by RTA?

Sorry guys, but I can't stop thinking about such pathetic attitude shown by RTA about a sensitive issue that affects everybody's life in Dubai for a long while now.

BTW: did anyone notice the entrance to Deira's palm? I wonder how things will look like on that entrance once it gets fully occupied.

Anonymous said...

All other stupidities aside, I know one of the reasons they do this is that people will want to start an illegal business out of this. A guy comes to Dubai, and starts his own unofficial taxi service. I am not talking about real professionals who really want to save environment but a guy who sees a new way to make a living. But RTA has gone overboard in the stupid department, and not really used technology to its benefit.

Seabee said...

anon, extending what you say, illegal taxis can only be possible & needed if the official taxi service is inadequate.

If there were enought taxis and they would take people where they wanted to go there would be no market for illegals.

Is the RTA addressing the problem from that viewpoint?