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West Bay bus

Ankita Menon

West Bay bus

Passengers will soon have to pay to ride Qatar’s shuttle bus through Dafna/West Bay, after the service’s contract was renewed for another year by the government.

Starting April 1, riders will be charged an unspecified “fair price” for the commuter and tourist service, the Ministry of Transportation and Communication said in a statement.

The two-year-old shuttle rides are rarely used by people in the area, despite a parking crunch, due to time constraints, many have said.

To tackle this issue, the two routes that currently wind through the office towers in Qatar’s central business district will be consolidated into one.

Buses will run more frequently, picking up passengers every 12 minutes, down from every 20 minutes, for a total of 76 daily trips. The service starts at 6am and ends at 9pm, three hours earlier than when it first launched in 2014.

“As per this converged single route, we hope to serve the passengers better by more accessibility and frequency and also reduce their travel time,” the ministry quoted its director of technical affairs as saying.

New West Bay Bus route

Ministry of Transportation and Communication

New West Bay Bus route

(Click here to see a PDF map of the New West Bay bus route.)

The new route starts at Khalifa Tennis and Squash complex and swings through the Qatar Post Office before zigzagging through the streets between the Corniche and Majlis Al Taawon St.

The route also services the new Doha Exhibition and Conference Center, City Center Mall, the Four Seasons, Hilton and Intercontinental the City.

Parking woes

The number of office workers in Dafna vastly outstrips the amount of available parking in the area, resulting in many commuters illegally leaving their vehicles on sidewalks and other prohibited areas each day.

Additionally, the volume of vehicles entering and exiting the area during rush hour frequently causes traffic jams.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Zafra Bint Afker

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In a bid to ease congestion, the government began operating the West Bay Shuttle Bus slightly more than two years ago with two overlapping routes running every 15 minutes.

Both started and ended at the southwest edge of Dafna, where free parking is more plentiful.

However, the service was slow to catch on among residents, with few passengers using the free service a month into its operations.

Last month, the Gulf Times reported that many of the buses were still running nearly empty.

The newspaper spoke to several would-be passengers who said they would rather pay for parking or a taxi than spend the extra 15 to 20 minutes required to take the bus.

Others, however, have complimented the shuttle:

Have you used the West Bay Shuttle Bus? What was your experience? Thoughts?

Dafna double-deck proposal

Video still / KEO International Consultants

To handle an expected increase in vehicle traffic in the coming decades, a team of consultants has recommended the construction of multi-level, one-way thoroughfares at the southwest edge of West Bay/Dafna.

Architectural and engineering firm KEO International Consultants has pitched the idea to officials at the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning, according to a source with knowledge of the project.

He told Doha News that while the ministry was initially receptive to the idea, government officials now question the viability of the project.

Specifically, there are concerns over the impact of three years’ worth of construction as well as the cost, which could run as high as QR8 billion ($2.2 billion). The individual said more meetings between KEO and ministry representatives are planned.

A five-minute video of KEO’s West Bay/Dafna proposal – as well as a project to revamp the Al Shamal Road interchange at Landmark Mall – was published on YouTube earlier this year and recently circulated on social media sites:

It appears to show the split-level lanes starting near Oryx intersection and extending along Majlis Al Taawon Street before rejoining at ground level slightly before the Tornado Tower.

At its widest, there are six lanes in each direction – unencumbered by traffic signals – in addition to service roads.

There are at least two pedestrian overpasses above traffic, as well as lanes connecting to the planned Sharq Crossing.

Capacity constraints

Commercial real estate firms note that many of the office buildings in Dafna are not fully occupied. As vacancy rates edge downward in the coming years, more and more workers will be entering Doha’s central business district daily, putting increased pressure on the city’s roads.

While the Doha Metro is expected to ease the strain somewhat, planners predict many residents will still have a preference for private vehicles, necessitating the need to expand roads in the area.

One of the advantages of the double-decker option, according to the engineering source, is that it can be built almost entirely within the government’s existing right-of-ways, negating the need to expropriate land.

Simply widening Majlis Al Taawon Street, he added, would be virtually impossible without demolishing existing buildings.

The proposed vehicle tunnel for traffic leaving Dafna is about 1.2 kilometers long, the source said. It’s about 10m below the surface at its deepest point – shallow enough to have an adequate buffer between the vehicle tunnel and the Doha Metro running below.

Landmark interchange

Al Shamal and Al Markhiya interchange

Video still / KEO International Consultants

The video also includes a proposed reconstruction of the interchange of Al Shamal Road and Al Markhiya Street – at Landmark and Ezdan malls – that allows motorists to enter and exit the expressway without crossing a set of traffic lights.

According to the engineering source, this “free-flow” design has been approved and authorities are currently pre-qualifying companies to bid on the project.

Thoughts? What do you think of the double-deck proposal?