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.