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In a recent conversation, the CEO of a small to medium-sized — he prefers ''boutique'' — real estate developer told me that when it came to leasing, access was among the top three concerns of the prospective tenants of his properties.
Location, facilities and access was the mantra he recited, as he explained how most people are very wary of moving anywhere they couldn't get in and out of easily.
Long-time residents are aware of the crunch experienced in rental hotspots along Shaikh Zayed Road over the years. First it was The Greens, then Jumeirah Lakes Towers and now Discovery Gardens. Each one has taken its turn in the grip of relentless gridlock, as commuters struggle to get in or out at either end of the working day.
Eventually though, things change. New roads, better connections and improved public transport options all make access better. And although change is often slow to come, it does arrive eventually.
The same could be said of the long-awaited Dubai Tram. Residents in Dubai Marina have come and gone, while this stop-start project made the roads tricky to navigate and all but banished the U-turn. However, next month, the past could be quickly forgotten.
As the tram rolls into operation, it looks set to improve access in several ways. Firstly, the roads in Dubai Marina could finally be finished. As a result, teeth sucking taxi drivers may no longer cringe when asked to drive there and the forest of hands flagging down a cab at commuter o'clock will finally catch a ride.
Of course, less people will need to drive in the first place now that buses won't be marooned in a sea of cars and cabs. That the tram connects with the Dubai Metro at a couple of points, as well as the bus network, is only sensible and gives passengers the interconnected options that are the lifeblood of a successful public transport system.
Effects on residents
What will this mean for Dubai Marina's residents and landlords? It will take time to tell. As with any new system or urban feature, the Dubai Tram will take a while to bed in. There will be fools on the road who drive into it. The occasional miscreants will find themselves locked in a cabin, asleep at a station or caught between the doors.
The local papers will find a few moaners who will say it's still not quite convenient enough for them.
This will pass. Then, as what happened to the metro, it will be relegated from news to novelty, and finally to necessity. Only then—when the Dubai Tram has become part of the fabric of daily life, a feature that people can't live without — will we find out what it's really worth.
As with the metro, it could take visitors to remind us how cheap, clean and clever it is.
Once this happens, ambitious landlords will start to test the rental boundaries for property within walking distance of a stop. Those already near the metro could be safe, but those whose close connection to public transport is new can expect another bump in their already premium rents. Such is the selling power of easy access.
Other more distant parts of Dubai Marina could feel a knock-on effect too, as they are gradually disentangled from years of road works and traffic congestion that goes with it.
If the results are positive, what then? Well, Dubai Marina could end up being more popular than ever as a place of residence. More importantly though, developers and authorities could look for more innovative transport solutions to bolster the strength of the public transport network and boost the city's liveability.
The growing bus network increases in convenience on a regular basis, with well thought out routes. The metro will grow to meet anticipated demand ahead of the World Expo 2020. But what else can be done?
The answer could lie in the private sector. While private car companies have come to the fore in recent times, thanks to the rise of smartphone apps, there are other possibilities out there. Smartphone technology is also helping carpooling commuters find each other for regular, fixed, point-to point journeys.
The culture of sharing being promoted by carpooling is also seen in the popularity of rental bikes available in the Downtown Dubai area. It would not be too great a leap for the bikes to be found in other densely developed areas.
As small electric cars become more economically viable, perhaps they too will join the ranks of bikes available for short-term rental at the tap of a Nol card. Whatever the possibilities, the drive to extend the options in the transport network will not end with the Dubai Tram. It's just a matter of time before we all get connected.
Did you know - Dubai to have Dh30b worth of projects for Expo 2020
Source: Stuart Matthews, Special to Property Weekly
Stuart Matthews is a journalist and editor who has been writing about the design, construction and property industries in the Middle East for seven years. He has a great personal interest in clever engineering, good design and practical sustainability