Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pooling the Wool over my Eyes

Great news! The denizens of Dubai can carpool again.

What's that? Surprised?

A little background may be in order. This article from Arab News covers it nicely. You see, carpooling has been (at least officially, but sometimes practically) illegal for several months now. Apparently the guvvies decided to lump carpoolers in with illegal cabbies. To make this new "uncivilized" offense sound all the more ominous, they decided to call it "passenger smuggling", which, according to gov, "jeopardizes the standing of the [transport] agency as a service-providing body seeking to deliver optimum services in innovative methods in line with the best global practices applicable in this vital field". Wow, that was a mouthful and a half. And should you dare to give your teammate a lift home, you may have to cough up 5K diddies.

Fact is, the illegal cabbies are doing well because of the dearth of real cabbies ... when and where they are really needed, that is. Dubai taxi drivers, apart from their legendary politeness and consideration, are notorious for making themselves unavailable even when they have their availability lights on. Phone a cab and expect even worse delays, ironically (I nearly missed  interviews because of dis service). Perhaps one can point to safety issues with illegal cabbies who pick up passengers on the kerb, but the legal taxi monopoly can never match the punctuality rates of the illegal phone-a-cab network in Dubai with their attitude.

Anyway, carpooling has finally been declared legal and even A Good Thing so as to mitigate the worsening traffic conditions. Ah, but there's a catch ... or three. First, you have to register yourself as a carpooler. Then you have to register your carpool partners. Then the agency does background checks on all of you. Then you get a certificate. THEN you can carpool legally. Wow, when the agency says they want to encourage carpooling, they really mean it. I'll bet people from around Dubai will be lining up to register themselves, as they have absolutely nothing better to do.


  1. wow, just wow. I guess traffic is not one of Dubai's strong point (yet). Still would like to visit it soon.

  2. It's ironic how in other parts of the world, you get paid to carpool, and you get a special lane if you do. The RTA cannot "encourage" carpooling and suffocate it in red tape at the same time. I don't know any other part of the world where registration, background checks and certification is required for carpooling. What is really confounding is that the newspapers have entire sections devoted to advertising carpooling (and house subletting, which is also supposed to be illegal), but the authorities do nothing about that. But people have been stopped and fined on the road, on the other hand.

  3. Perhaps corrupted government officials "and more perhaps importantly not very bright ones who got there through nepotism" more interested in protecting their own interests than the general good? Of course the general good is still important to some extent since longer term that is what keeps people flocking to Dubai.