In Transit : Dubai, A Metro story

A model of a Dubai Metro  station at ATKINS Dubai

A model of a Dubai Metro station at ATKINS Dubai

This past week kicked off a new exciting chapter of my professional life : a two-month internship with ATKINS Dubai! Since a large amount of my daily time is spent in commuting with Dubai Metro, I thought I’d share this transit story with you!

As you may recollect, last year I interned with one of the world’s largest design and engineering consultancies, ATKINS, at their Oman office- only to now have bagged an architectural intern position (for the summer) at their Dubai office, which was responsible for the Burj Al Arab among various other magnificent projects. Now, the Dubai Metro is this wonderful rapid transit system- and I learnt only later that it was designed by none other than ATKINS Dubai themselves.

So, are you ready? Let’s go explore!

Getting the Logistics straight 

Red and Green lines of Dubai Metro

Red and Green lines of Dubai Metro

First off, I got one of these cards- a ‘Nol’ card which is what the card machines read in order to let me enter and exit out of a metro station. With the number of zones that I end up traversing daily, I shell out 10 dirhams a day with my regular route. 1 AED = 0.27 USD. Phew! These cards can be recharged with cash of most denominations at any of the ticket counters or information booths at the stations. Plus, the card readers inform you of your balance as your card beeps against them, so you can always be updated about whether it’s time to recharge or not.

Info plaques at the station

Info plaques at the station

The other thing to look out for at the stations are the information plaques. Here you can clearly discern where you need to be going. As of now, there are two main lines, the Red (To Rashidiya/ To Jebel Ali)  and Green (To Creek/ To Etisalat) lines, which intersect at two stations, Bur Juman and the Union– obviously the points of greatest traffic. (My office is on Bur Dubai, so I get off at Bur Juman taking the Green Line from Al Ghusais, pronounced Gee-sis).

Everything is clearly demarcated in English and Arabic, even the announcements. In a city like Dubai where the expatriate population is close to a 90%, surviving linguistically is the last thing to worry about. Display screens also keep you well-informed about when and at which platform the next train is arriving.

Enjoying a Well-designed Ride

At the lines

At the lines

Of course, there are many things to love about this rapid transit system. While some may not agree, the elevated viaducts of the rail system add to Dubai’s futuristic look as a ‘Smart City’ while these lines chase around skyscrapers against the backdrop of a growing urban jungle. This makes the ride itself enjoyable as you obtain a view of great architectural works and the city as a whole, while you travel to work or school daily, thus killing the monotony of the journey.

At the station

At the station

Moreover, the design of each metro station is classic: the station pods are all quite easily reproducible across the city and are undoubtedly, the city’s new landmarks, in terms of their way-finding aesthetic. Needless to say, their transparency not only lends the streets an avant-garde feature, but also increases travel efficiency for the scores of regular commuters.

What Dubai Metro does really well

In the Women's compartment that borders the General compartment

In the Women’s compartment that borders the General compartment

Gender Reservations

Gender Reservations

There are reserved compartments for General, Gold Class and Women and Children. I obviously use the Women’s compartment which guarantees me a seat every time. Let’s face it : the female workers ratio is quite low. Hefty fines though if you are a male specimen and are found within this compartment! They even have compartments that ensure accessibility for the specially challenged.

Know your pole!

Know your pole!

Grasp. Catch. Hold!

Grasp. Catch. Hold!

One extremely brilliant aspect of the abundance of standing room in the compartments that I noticed, are the poles that are ‘trifurcated‘ in order to allow more ‘grasping area’. In other words, when folks wish to catch on to something to support themselves, as the train jolts it way around, the efficiency of this design ensures that more people can grab on to the pole.

Moody Blues: Bur Juman Metro Station

Moody Blues: Bur Juman Metro Station

Last of all, each station is not a replica- which is really great because it keep things interesting and relevant. For example, the Bur Juman station (which opens to Bur Dubai, the Wall Street of Dubai) is all decked in dark blue moods with strange giant jellyfish for lighting: an exquisite underwater theme that plays off Dubai’s pearl sea diving origins. Other stations show off their Art Deco references and Islamic heritage styles.

Al Ghusais Metro Station on a weekday morning

Al Ghusais Metro Station on a weekday morning

All in all, the Dubai Metro is the city’s newest and indispensable lifeline. It’s worth the ride.

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