School bus trips account for 13 per cent of the total volume of trips during the morning rush hours in Dubai, said Mattar Al Tayer, Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).
Statistics showed that the number of students in public and private schools in Dubai in 2016 was about 295,000.
“The school transport centre witnesses a rapid growth where school transport trips exceeded 81,000 per hour and is set to reach 115,000 trips per hour by 2020, and 176,000 trips per hour by 2030,” said Al Tayer.
“The number of school buses registered in the traffic system has reached 6,500 so far and is expected to rise to 7,628 buses by 2020 and 14,455 by 2030,” added Al Tayer.
School transport challenges
The school transport sector in Dubai faces multiple challenges including the geographical distribution of schools, where 62 per cent of schools are localised in Deira and 38 per cent in Bur Dubai, which results in high pressure on the roads network adjacent to schools, Al Tayer said.
Challenges also include the low percentage of school bus users as reflected in its 11 per cent share of total schools trips, compared to 32 per cent in the United States, he said.
"This means that 88 per cent of students in Dubai use private vehicles to travel to their schools, which would increase congestion and environmental pollution. This is aggravated by the low occupancy rate of school buses amounting 53 per cent. The transit means use is still limited and stands at just 1 per cent of the total number of mass transit users,” elaborated Al Tayer.
He said that he RTA has upgraded the technical specifications of school buses and defined the responsibilities of operators, schools and parents in order to improve the safety and security.
The RTA is currently studying introducing flexi working hours and staggering the working hours and school hours.
The RTA also intends to conduct a comprehensive study on school transport sector to come up with solutions and guidelines related to the distribution of schools and their integration with the roads and transport network, besides surveying school areas and figuring out traffic solutions.
The civic body is also poised to enact legislations and incentive programs to streamline the school transport sector and encourage students to use school buses and mass transit means.
The RTA also plans to review the technical specifications of school buses to raise the efficiency and safety levels, and study the current working models of the school transport to bring them in line with the global standards.