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Mowasalat plans public transit expansion with more buses on Doha roads

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Despite declining public demand and limited interest among parents in Qatar to send their children to school on buses, the country’s state-owned transportation firm has announced plans to massively increase its fleet size in the coming years.

That includes increasing the number of school buses 42 percent to 780 vehicles, Mowasalatofficials said at a press conference yesterday.

To encourage parents to actually use the service, the company has been experimenting with a new smartphone app that would allow school buses carrying children to be tracked via GPS.

Speaking to the News, executive director Nasser Al Khanji said that some 80 buses from three schools would initially be outfitted with the technology as part of a three-month trial starting in time for the start of the new school year in September. He added that the GPS service would be rolled out to buses serving some 227 schools across the country.

Only about one-third of the roughly 200,000 school-age children here travel to and from school on buses, according to a 2012 report issued by the Rand-Qatar Policy Institute.

Many parents cite safety concerns including the high rate of road collisions in Qatar, among other issues, as the reason they rely on alternative forms of transportation.

Several tragedies in recent years have contributed to those perceptions. In an extreme instance, a four-year-old student at the DPS-Modern Indian School died in 2010 of suffocation after falling asleep in her school bus.

The driver didn’t notice her and parked the vehicle at the end of his shift, leaving it locked on a hot day.

Public transit

Meanwhile, with traffic congestion in and around Doha seemingly getting worse by the day, Mowasalat is pushing ahead to make public transportation a more attractive commuting option.

The number of daily users has fluctuated in recent years, including a decline attributed to delays and congestion. Currently, about 60,000 people use the bus daily, officials said.

In an effort to boost ridership, Mowasalat said it plans to more than double its bus fleet from 120 to 250 vehicles by the end of this year.

CEO Khaled Nasser Al Halil said the transportation company will take delivery of the new vehicles in stages, starting with 40 additional buses this month. That will be followed by 30 more in June and an additional 60 buses towards the end of the year.

Mowaslat plans to continue to expand its public transit fleet by 150 to 200 buses annually until the 2022 World Cup, Al Halil added.


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