By Ramesh Mathew/Staff Reporter
The West Bay shuttle bus service was launched on January 15, 2014 with the aim of providing a mass transportation solution that would help ease congestion in Doha's business district. However, two years on, that hasn't exactly happened, say commuters.
Route planning, dearth of proper waiting facilities at the designated stops and time-consuming trips are cited as some of the main reasons behind the lukewarm response to the service.
The shuttle service is operated 15 hours a day, starting at 6am, at 12-minute intervals, according to sources. However, West Bay regulars - while acknowledging that the intention behind launching the service is noble - say the buses have not been able to find too many takers and are mostly seen running empty or with only a handful of passengers.
Most commuters, they point out, are not keen on using the service due to a host of factors.
Some residents said they preferred using their own vehicles to commute to and from West Bay despite the traffic congestion and parking woes there. This was because of the nature of the routes followed by the shuttle buses, which made the trips time-consuming and often delayed commuters' arrival at their offices, they argued.
Another factor that contributes to the delays is the time spent by commuters while waiting for a bus to arrive - both after parking their cars near the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex (the starting point of the shuttle service) while going to work and at the bus stop closest to their office while returning.
For instance, according to commuters, it takes some 15-20 minutes to reach City Center Doha from the tennis complex by the shuttle bus. It usually takes a lot less time to travel that distance by car or taxi, they add.
A long-time resident said he was aware of the merits of using the shuttle bus service, but still preferred taking his car to work due to the time factor.
"The shuttle bus service is no doubt a convenient travel option. Using personal transport in West Bay has its disadvantages, particularly in terms of parking. Those without dedicated parking slots face difficulties in finding space. There are other options, but those come with a steep parking fee," he said.
"However, I still prefer paying the parking fee than keeping the car at a faraway place from where the shuttle service originates," he noted. "This is because I have to spend precious time waiting for a bus to arrive to go to office in the morning. The same applies to the return journey as well."
The absence of proper waiting facilities for commuters at a number of stops along the route is another reason why many people avoid using the service, it is found.
As of now, the buses ferry some passengers when the offices open in the morning and again at the end of work hours. For the rest of the day, the buses mostly run with only a handful of passengers - or sometimes not even that, say West Bay office-goers.
Sometimes, if lucky, the buses get one or two passengers who happen to stay in some of the hotels in the area, say sources.
"Those responsible need to look at the problem areas and come up with solutions. It is a good idea, which, if executed properly, will prove highly beneficial and popular," said a resident.
The route includes stops at Qatar Sports Club, General Post Office, Ministry of Interior, Qatar Petroleum HQ, Maersk, Tornado Tower, Al Bidda Tower, Alfardan Tower, Ashghal 1, City Center Doha and Ooredoo HQ, among several others.
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