Transport chiefs will add 30 buses and launch six new routes by year end, including a 24-hour service to Mussafah. Further expansion is planned next year as bus travel soars in popularity, up by 7 percent in a year. Services to Saadiyat Island and Masdar City will start within a month, with a bus every 30 minutes. Up to 13 buses an hour will arrive at a new transfer stop on Yas Island, and three buses an hour will link the island's hotels with the capital.
"We wanted the network to serve more of the area," said Saeed Al Hameli, general manager of the bus division at the Department of Transport. "This comes in light of increased demand by the public. People not only want more in terms of numbers of buses, but they also want more frequent service."
Passengers made an an estimated 57 million bus journeys this year; buses made more than 4,500 daily trips, moving 157,000 passengers a day. Next year the target is 67 million journeys, or 210,000 people on 6,500 trips a day. More than 120 routes are planned and the fleet is expected to increase from 379 to nearly 530. "The objective is better connectivity and accessibility to surrounding areas… we want to serve as many of the public as we can," Mr Al Hameli said.
New services are planned for Zayed University, Khalifa City B, Al Raha Beach, Shahama and Baniyas. Al Reef will become a major transfer point with buses heading to the capital four times an hour and to Shahama three time an hour.
Routes to Baniyas will also be reorganised to reduce travel times, and all buses to Baniyas and Al Mafraq will stop at a new transfer stop called Marwan Camp. Passengers can transfer there to suburbs that have no direct bus service. "These changes reflect how Abu Dhabi is growing and acknowledges the new areas being revitalised and developed," Mr Al Hameli said.
In Al Ain, buses will start and stop 30 minutes earlier, and the first buses will reach Al Ain city centre before 6am because of increased demand. In Al Gharbia, bus service has increased 60 percent this year as infrastructure work has been completed.
The biggest challenge is changing attitudes, Mr Al Hameli said. "We have to change behaviour, whether that is with policies or with education and awareness. We have to make people understand the benefits of public transport." He expects greater enforcement of parking regulations next year, and the DoT is working to ensure bus stops are no more than 300 metres apart.
Buses will arrive at intervals of about seven minutes and will be expected to wait at each stop for two minutes. All local buses, including the airport service, will continue to operate 24 hours a day, with night buses about once an hour.
Some local services in Al Bateen will be re-routed to avoid construction work in Bainunah Street. When Salam Street fully reopens, four routes will better serve Madinat Zayed and Al Baladiya.