GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Challenges and Options of Public Transport in Muscat/Oman
Paper Proposal Text :
This paper is based on a research undertaken in January 2016 with students from TU Dortmund and German University of Technology in Muscat, supervised by the author. As main methods, site analysis, expert interviews, SWOT and user surveys were applied. The paper addresses all three topics of the workshop: urban space (mobility), urban politics (urban and regional development) and urban society (changing lifestyle pattern mobility).

“Oman has experienced an era of intensive and rapid modernization with the Capital Area of Muscat and its surrounding region undergoing an almost unprecedented process of urbanization” (cf. Nebel 2014)
Today, the capital´s spatial dimension is spread along the coastline at a length of about 60 km and 10 km width. This is due to the geographical setting between the coastline and the mountains. Several new residential areas were developed over the past decades in the West and have now gradually merged into one metropolitan city, the Capital Area (cf. ONSS 2014/2: 11). They are characterized by a low residential density accommodating only about 600,000 residents.
Moreover, the current planning policies support the tendency towards urban sprawl. Through the policy of a land lottery, the government assigns rather randomly every Omani a plot to build a house. The plots are cut generous and create wide-spread, single family housing areas as the prevailing residential type. Furthermore, some of the plots remain undeveloped, because the owners have no current need to build or financial capacities to develop it, which leads to a sparsely populated urban area (cf. ONSS 2014/3: 22). This low density is the reason for the great distances in the Capital area and generates a huge amount of individual car traffic from the new residential areas in the West to the CBD (Ruwi) in the East.
The motorized individual transport (MIT) is the most important mean for commuting. The population increases yearly by 5 % and the number of the cars increases, too (cf. Website Oman statistics center 2015). These facts show the problem resulting in traffic jams, especially in the rush hour. Moreover, it seems as if the roads are not much longer able to cope with the population growth of the Muscat agglomeration (cf. ONSS 2014/4: 4f.).
The mobility situation has besides its environmental impact due to air pollution also a social dimension. Beside the Omani population, mainly using own cars, there are about 61% foreigners living in Muscat, not having all access to a own car or not getting a driving license (Deffner 2015: 10). They have to use taxis, baiza buses (mini buses) and public buses. This can be in some cases more expensive and provides only a low accessibility (Deffner 2015: 13). One solution of these mobility problems is the implementation of a sufficient public transport.
In this paper, the existing transportation system will be analyzed and evaluated and recommendations concerning the potential improvement of the public transportation system will be developed. The study focusses on the Capital area with expert interviews and user surveys (individual cars and bus user) and for the implementation on the local level on two research areas in Muscat: the residential area of Azaiba and the high density commercial area of Ruwi.

The public transport system is currently under expansion. By February 2016, it consists of three public bus lines. Two of them are serving inner parts of Ruwi with rather short distances. The other new line follows the main arterial road, the Sultan Qaboos Highway from East to West and crosses the agglomeration area parallel to the Ocean. The travel time of this line is above one hour. It was opened in November 2015 and serves as the starting point of the research by conducting the first user survey of the new system.
The paper addresses the following research questions:
• “What are the main transportation modes of the current commuters?”
• “What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the current transport system?”
• “What are external factors influencing on the transport situation?”
• “What are the deficits and strengths regarding the first and last mile situation?”
• Which institutional adaptations are necessary to enable a functioning public transport system?”
• “Which features does the future public transport system need to have to be attractive for the citizens?”

The paper concludes in recommendations for urban planners, policy makers and transport planners and presents detailed concepts to improve the existing public transport system regarding the first and last mile by the design of bus stops and feeder lines. Goal is the improvement of the current system towards a Bus Rapid Transport System.

Nebel, Sonja; Scholz, Wolfgang 2015: Editorial. In: TRIALOG 110 3/2011-2012 Urban Public
Oman National Spatial Strategy 2014: Chapter 6-Transport, mobility and technical infrastructure (unpublished draft)
Oman information Center 2011: Express your self. Oman needs public transport. Available from
(access on 08.12.2015)
Deffner, Veronika; Pfaffenbach, Carmella 2015: Urban Spatial Practice of a Heterogeneous Immigration Society in Muscat, Oman. In: TRIALOG 110 3/2011-2012 Urban Public Transport.