I can’t really remember when was the last time I took this form of public transportation in Amman, but It might have been a full decade ago.
From age 7 or 8, till I was 18, I almost had a daily bus ride. My last 3 years at school at Al Hussein College in Jabal Al Hussein involved a bus trip to downtown Amman and sometimes a ride on a Service-Car (Al Abdali Al Da’iri line). When I moved to university, I soon got my first car (a 1973, beat up Mini) and my bus rides became very rare.
For some weeks now I have been noticing the new busses on the Medical City-Downtown line, which overlaps with the car drive to my office, located in the lower part of Wadi Saqra street. Some of the new busses are of the proper urban type (as opposed to the military-style, huge and noisy transporters we’re used to in Amman). The electronic sign on their front, which displays the line name in Arabic and English give these busses a touch of urban modernity. In the back of my mind I was planning to take the bus to work as an experiment anytime soon.
I have been car-less for the past 2 days (it’s in repair), so I took a taxi to my 4 pm meeting near 8th circle. After the meeting I wanted to take a taxi back to the office, but all of the ones that passed were occupied. Suddenly a large (military style) bus appeared. I said to myself: why not, and waved for it to stop. Luckily I had enough change on me (a full 20 piasters) which I threw into the plexiglas container near the driver. I took a seat among the other citizens and off the bus went towards downtown.
The bus was pretty clean and well kept. The driver was communicating with someone (central command?) with a dashboard installed Xpress phone (which also has GPS capabilities). The ride was pretty smooth and I think the bus only stopped at the proper bus-stops (and not every 5 meters as it used to do in past).
A million ideas were going through my head during the ride. I watched different kinds of people get on and off the bus. I also remembered the horrible, rather offensive, anti-bus ad published recently by the Bank of Jordan (see below).
I got off at Third Circle and walked the rest of the way to my office feeling good about myself as I saved at least 1 JD by taking the bus
While the bus ride was OK, I jut find it mind boggling that:
* Our bus stops don’t have any information on bus lines and time tables.
* That Amman doesn’t have a bus map.
* That inside the bus, there isn’t an sign announcing where you currently are.
* That we still haven’t managed to create a bus ticket system.
These are NOT new inventions. These are standards for any modern bus system in the developed world. Implementing these standards isn’t rocket science or too costly.
If you follow all the stories of how Amman will grow and expand in the coming 5 years then you probably realize that, unless we build one heck of a public transport system in this city, we are setting ourselves up for a major urban disaster. Even Dubai, which we seem to be imitating in Amman, has a major traffic problem. A friend recently told me that his car commute time increased almost SEVEN fold (from 3 minutes to 20) over the past 3 years in Amman.
A recent news story revealed that a train line is being considered between Amman and Queen Alia Airport. Now that would be cool. But more is needed.
Every urban planner, big name real estate developer, CEO of a big company and Minister should be forced to leave their SUV/Big Car at home and take the bus at least once a month. It’s called ‘eating your own dog food’ in consulting lingo. Test the experience of masses of people on the bus. And let’s start imitating Berlin, London and Prague when it come to public transportation. Or are we too cool for that?
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