Riyadh Metro

Driving my car in King Fahad Road the other day, I was listening to MBC-FM’s Rana al-Qassim. The blabbering radio host has come to be associated in my mind with her overuse of the brotherly salutation “akhoi,” an attempt to deter the sexual advances of drooling Saudi callers, I suppose. Although I think her “akhoi” sounds more patronizing than brotherly, but whatever…

The ever-confident Rana has decided to tackle the dilemma of zahma, aka the chronic congestion of Riyadh streets. As calls came in from people telling her their stories of daily horror and misery on the roads, Rana insisted that she wants to hear no whining or complaining. “I want solutions!” she exclaimed in her oh-I’m-so-good-at-this-radio-thing voice. The few calls I had the misfortune to hear offered some pretty innovative suggestions. “Ban all foreigners from driving,” one caller said. “Take old people off the streets,” another one demanded. None of the callers I heard said anything about public transportation.

How can a modern city of 6.5m people survive without a public transportation system would probably be a mystery to urban planners for years to come. But fear not, fellow Riyadhians! Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA) got your back. They will make a metro for us, after all. And No, that’s not because they are jealous of Dubai. I mean, seriously, Dubai who? How can anyone compare our historic city to this tiny emirate? The first reaction from officials in Riyadh upon hearing that the Dubai Metro would launch in 9/9/9 9:9:9 was something like: meh.

So yeah, Dubai launched their metro with much fanfare. Pretty cool, huh? Well, this is not how we do business in the magic kingdom. The plans for Riyadh Light Transit Railway (LTR) were revealed to Arab News by an unnamed source in the ADA. He gave away some supersecret information about the project, but one little, important detail was missing from the story: when can we expect this new metro to start operating?

I suppose ADA don’t have to worry about concealing this tidbit of info, or even falling behind schedule if there is one, because there is no one in charge to make sure that they deliver on their promises on time. What about the municipal council, you may ask. Sorry, they are too busy ensuring that men and women do not mingle during the upcoming Eid celebrations.

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18 thoughts on “Riyadh Metro

  1. The light rail project is good step towards modernization, though I wonder if the project is well planned for and realistic fruitful outcomes is expected from it, or is it just a mere veneer of a claim to modernization ?

    Is the location along K. Abdulla road the most strategic place to start, or would solving the congestion in Bat’ha and Downtown more important?
    I think logically any public transportation should be steered towards locations with high pedestrian traffic and not in upscale neighborhoods.

    Would the carts be segregated like our buses in the 80s where the women ride in a cubical at the far end ? will we have “transit morality hay’ah” a division of CPVPV to preserve our commuters’ ethics ?

  2. Hello Ahmed …
    First of all, it seems that you are a big fan of Rana :), who wouldn’t! especially with her oh-I’m-so-good-at-this-radio-thing voice (this is a good one!) and the evidence is clear in the solutions they were discussing … brilliant!

    Anyway, I only have one tiny hope that the prophesy of ‘Tash-Ma-Tash’ would not turn out to be true! If you remember, they’ve expected Riyadh metro to be ready by 9-9-2099!!

  3. I would add a thought to the comment of Z theory.

    Perhaps the clerical establishment will ensure that no gender mixing occurs by mandating that there be two separate metro systems.

    I would imagine that ideally the two systems should be near, yet not too near one another?

    Or perhaps one system for families, and another one for men only?

    One can only be sure that some level of madness inspired by the Committee wil intrude into this effort.

  4. Delays like no tomorrow… can u imagine each and every trip on a metro being like each and every flight on Saudi Airlines? Excuse me, but would you mind changing your seat and sitting over there? next stop a family comes in… and you are asked to move again… and of course no seats facing each other… and instead of ticket checkers you would have your beloved religious police making the rounds looking for whatever it is they look for…

    Bleak picture I know… but this is what I see, and that is not even going into the logistics… what is going on with the railway where the Chinese workers converted to Islam in Ramadan?

  5. Oh that I could phone Rana and suggest 3 LTRs: pink for women, blue for men, and purple for families–with colour coordinated cars, rail lines, and tickets.
    If she insists, a 4th–yellow for foreigners (so you can see them best). “I have solutions!” I would shout!

    I do hope you get an LTR. Indeed the 6.5 million with no or little public transit is shocking. Public transport is most often for the less fortunate members of society within a city and at least in North America to have the suburban commuters leave their cars outside the city core. It sounds as if starting where the most poorer people can get to work is best.

  6. well they do have public transportation there are those shitty buses with orange and blue stripes that nobody but the indians use ..

    the thing about a metro is u still have to walk from the station to ur destination .. and ksa is very hot so ppl are likely to cab it .. so ticket + cab will cost more than gas and so i dont think too many ppl will use it .. i for one dont think i will ..

    i always hate driving home from work on wednesdays because i know the dayri is going to be packed .. what normally takes me 10-15 minutes takes as much as 45-60 minutes ..

  7. Now it’s Rana! get over it dude, you’re so gay! And what’s with that comment: ” oh-I’m-so-good-at-this-radio-thing voice” ??? A little bit of jealousy there?! Yes! she odes have her own radio show and you don’t! But you made it to CNN once, didn’t you!? Wow!

    And now why don’t you get out of school and play urban planner! You certainly have all the required certifications and training! After all, you went to follow and comment on the G20 meeting as an “expert” reporter. You know so much about global economy, that planning for the Kingdom’s public transportation is no biggie to you!

    And if i were one of your so despised religious scholars, i wouldn’t worry too much about gender mixing with guys like you around women! No risk for them to be ever tempted by an wus like you!

  8. There will be a metro system as soon as women are allowed to drive, so as to lighten the congestion on the road making it safer for women, or to entice women not to drive even when they finally can but take the metro instead.

    There will be of course special windowles black carriages for women. And there will be special metro-muttawas on the platforms and on the trains to ensure that women will not sit in the more comfortable men’s carriages.
    To enter a family carriage (carriages with windows, but with curtains ) you will have to show papers first to the muttaween at the door.

    As women being allowed to drive at any time now, so you can expect the opening of the LTR at any time now.

    Ithurtsdoesn’tit, actually there are quite a lot of women here tempted by Saudi Jeans. I expect you are just totally jealous. And totally hopeless too if your insipid comment is the best you can come up with.
    Hurt’s doesn’t it?

    • “More comfortable men’s carriages”?

      Aren’t all these carriages the same?

      And showing papers to Muttaween at the door? No one shows any papers whatsoever to the them in any place, be it airports,bus stations,malls or anywhere else.

  9. Man Ahmed, You’re so pessimistic I get depressed every time I read your blog. :(

    If I cut myself it’s your fault. :(

    But to be serious, I think it will be completed soon simply because they’ve contracted a foreign company to do it similar to the haramain railway project.

    And for those calling women only passenger cars ridiculous you should know that women only subway cars are run in Japan,Egypt, India, Taiwan, Brazil, Mexico (at certain times of day), Belarus, the Philippines and Dubai.

    Passengers in other countries are also demanding women only railway lines and they are slated to appear in South Korea as well.

    Also, I don’t think running these will be a problem, I’ve used the Riyadh-Dammam railway and it was pretty good. Much better than Saudi Airlines.

  10. I thought vaporware existed only for software. Here we see urban vaporware. What a great idea, far cheaper than actually doing something.

  11. I was so fed up of using KFR (KIng Fahad Rd) to and back my office and home, that I left that job and moved to Jeddah.
    Well for solutions ::
    1 – There are more than 115,000 taxis/cabs in Riyadh alone. Restrict the movement of empty txi/cab cars. They should be alloted some station/stops in every disricts and be available by calls (Cab meter need to activated for that).
    2- minimize the exit/entry points to main roads like KFR, esp for sleepy driver or the one busy over their phone and have sudden pullouts on exit blocking the whole traffic or atleast breaking the motion of the traffic.
    3- More underpasses/flyovers on main roads,bypassing signals.
    4- Special tracks for public transport ( currently every vehicle is carrying one person, means 1000 ppl, 1000 cars)
    5- Metro to and fro the airport. I hate requesting friends/co-workers for pick and drop.
    5- May be public transport for women only, esp the ones out for window shopping.

  12. Hello Ahmed, I’ve been following your blog for a while now, very interesting posts.
    Actually I have a question about the airports,
    say, as a female Tourist, if I go to Riyadh for a visit, do I already need to be well covered before landing?? and in the airport, when I depart from the plane, do I get into a female only bus/exit into a female only waiting area for a taxi??? How is the airport itself organized from inside?or the seperation start only once you step out the airport??? really appreciate if anyone can let me know…. many thanks !!

  13. You need to be covered at the airport. The buses are mixed. There is no female only taxi area. It is mixed as well. Airport is modern and decent. Avoid mingling with unnecessary men.

  14. Dubai did it, and Riyadh Didn’t ..

    Comparing any place to Dubai only means that it is of high standards. Of course, no place is perfect, but yes some places do excel

    Hope we hear about “Riyadh Metro” & “Women Drivers” some time soon in this century InshaAllah.

    Salaam =)

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