Let’s SCOOT: How Dubai Traffic Systems Work
Dubai has been through a lot of unprecedented growth in the last few decades. Known for its extravaganza that comes from infrastructure, roads, and cars amongst other things, Dubai continues to attract people as well as expand further. It also hopes to have a flying car taxi network by 2020, and so on.
Dubai’s cars are known around the world, and not just those belonging to the people, but even those that belong to Dubai’s Police. But with the increase in cars, also comes with the growth in traffic, which has become increasingly advanced and sophisticated. Therefore, just like every major city in the world, Dubai also suffers from a traffic congestion, and although government and the Road and Transport Authority of Dubai work tirelessly on decreasing the traffic, the problem sure has no signs of stopping.
As per the figures shared by the Dubai RTA of a survey in 2013, Dubai’s economy had suffered a total setback of AED 2.9 billion if the loss of working hours is accounted for, along with fuel and time. And that was years back, and now the losses surely would have reached a higher figure now.
Dubai’s RTA has been working to find alternate routes and ways for decreasing the traffic, and have even planned to start construction on five busy routes for reducing the traffic woes of the Dubai commuters by 2018. Although, authorities are also mulling an option of using a wide variety of bridges and flyovers for replacing the runabouts and the junctions that are currently manned by traffic lights.
However, despite all these measures by the Dubai RTA, it’s mostly impractical to think that a major city like Dubai can work smoothly without signals.
As per the RTA, there are three kinds of signalling systems in use around Dubai:
- SCOOT- This system covers most of the Dubai’s traffic junctions
- Fixed time light change system- This system is used at a very few locations
- Vehicle-actuated system- Sensor dependent system
Dubai has a total of more than 1.5 million vehicles along with an extensive road network, which covers somewhere around 3,760 kilometres. It also has more than 800 signal based traffic junctions whose control is in the hands of the Dubai central traffic command.
Dubai RTA has put in place an automatic advanced signalling system, which controls all of these signals. The system is known as Split Cycle Offset Optimization Technique or as it is popularly known, SCOOT.
SCOOT is highly adaptable and responsive in managing a wide variety of traffic fluctuations as well as situations, in a versatile fashion. The system works efficiently and calculates the duration of each cycle that is based on the number of vehicles that have passed through the signals. This figure is determined the SCOOT’s sensors.
SCOOT has been programmed with maximum and minimum stoppage duration for the traffic signals and hence, adjusts and regulates the vehicular flow accordingly. This causes the traffic to be smoother and makes it even more reliable.
Launched in 2015, the SCOOT was a part of an initiative by the Dubai’s Government for further promoting its wish to turn Dubai into a smart city. The implementation required a complete rehaul of the entire existing system. The cables used in the linking light signals were replaced with a wireless network. However, this was encountered with a problem as the far-fetched parts of the Dubai had isolated traffic signals that couldn’t be linked through various wireless means. Finally, the problem was eradicated by the use of 3G technology.
As per Maitha Bin Udai, who is CEO at the RTA’s Traffic and Roads Agency, SCOOT gets all the relevant information through a series of detectors that are concealed beneath the road surface. These sensors work to calculate the vehicular flow to help the agency’s computer systems understand the flow of traffic. After the data is provided by the detectors, a central computer is used for analysis of all the data for calculating the accurate signal timings on a real time basis. This helps improve the vehicular flow at the particular location and reduces traffic blockages.
The priority at the signals is given to the major roads as well as the routes that are most congested to aid the traffic in becoming smoother along these routes. SCOOT manages this, while also implementing a steady flow of traffic on the minor roads too.
However, this system isn’t without its controversies, and one of the key debatable issues about SCOOT and Dubai’s traffic is the overall duration of red and green lights on the traffic signals. There are a lot of opinions, and not everyone agrees on the basis of deciding the duration. Nobody likes a lengthy stay at traffic junctions, and hence they have a tough time accepting the longer stays, even if it’s overall logical. Although, motorists can rarely do a lot more than voice their opinions as the UAE’s government has improvised the federal laws regulating vehicular travel, which are supported by steep fines.
The SCOOT decides the duration of a particular signal as per the volume of vehicular traffic at any particular junction. During normal operational situations, the stoppage will be lesser than 255 seconds, while the minimum approach time is seven seconds.
Normally, the pedestrian phase signals and the normal U-turns are the shortest red lights. SCOOT has been made to have the ability to make choices as per the traffic volume on any particular approach at any intersection.