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Projects | Mobility DNA Oman

MOMO | Muscat Optimized Mobility Oragnization

Idea

As the capital area is the most dense urbanization in the country, it has the highest potential for efficient public transport solutions. Some basic approaches to public transport (e.g. buses) already exist, but these are neither very reliable or comfortable nor do they have a really good image among the population. All these problems should be solved by establishing the MOMO, the “Muscat Optimized Mobility Organization”.
Before designing the MOMO concept certain requirements for a public transport system in Muscat were defined:

  • The transportation should run on renewable energy
  • The transportation should be able to transport a lot of people at once
  • The transportation should be air-conditioned
  • The transportation should be economic
  • The transportation should be accessible within a few minutes from (almost) every point of the city
  • The transportation should be attractive to use under all weather conditions
  • The transportation should have a symbolic function
  • Keeping all these points in mind, the concept for public transportation in Muscat was developed: MOMO is a two-staged transportation system, which combines the speed and efficiency of a high tech maglev train with the comfort and flexibility of a taxi. This cooperation combines the strengths and compensates the weaknesses of both means of transport: A high speed maglev can transport a large number of persons at a time over a big distance, but is expensive to build and operate, needs a lot of space and is not flexible concerning routing. Taxis on the other hand are rather cheap to buy and run, are extremely flexible where to move in the city but can only transport a small number of passengers, cause a lot of traffic and therefore need a lot of time to overcome larger distances. As a conclusion MOMO makes it possible to overcome big distances fast with the maglev train but allows passengers to reach their exact destination by taxi.
    Nevertheless MOMO can be seen as one mean of transport which can be used with only one ticket. An essential part of the MOMO concept are also the stations, where it is possible to change between taxi and maglev without being exposed to the climate. Hot temperatures especially during summer make even short stops in the sun uncomfortable. This problem can be avoided by perfect connection of train and taxi in cooled stations. A challenge concerning the MOMO is the organization of the taxis. Due to the high acceptance of the Omani population of modern cell phones a “MOMO App” (or something similar) could be programmed which allows passengers to indicate their location in order to get picked up by a taxi.

    Implementation

    Maglev: One or two main maglev routes connect the city along its east-west-axis, orientated at the Sultan Qaboos Highway. The most important and most dense areas should be rather close to the maglev stations as figuratively shown in the picture below. Important points connected by these routes are for example the university, the airport, the Rusayl Industrial Estate, the business areas of Ruwi and Medinat Qaboos, the touristic areas of Qurum and Muttrah.

    Possible routing The maglev train itself should be more than just a way of public transportation but a symbol for Muscat. It is an intentional decision not to just copy the concept of a metro or bus system from another city but to develop a combined transportation method which is especially suitable for the settlement structure of the Muscat area. The design of the maglev train should be comfortable and modern and underline the advantage of public transport over driving a car by being able to just lean back and read a book or write an e-mail while arriving at one's destination.
    The energy which is necessary to run the maglev train should be produced in a sustainable way by solar or wind energy (see energy concept). Other advantages of a maglev lie in low maintenance cost, the high level of operational reliability, the little noise and zero air pollution.

    Maglev train Taxis: Based on the maglev stations the taxis circulate around the stations in a small radius of a few hundred metres so that every passenger can reach his or her desired destination. It is important to point out that the MOMO taxis are not usual taxis but part of the public transportation system. This means that the taxis are not private and also people who don't know each other can share a taxi if they go in the same direction. Besides reducing traffic through the city the aim of MOMO is to minimize the emissions produced by traffic. Therefore all MOMO taxis are electric cars which run on renewably produced energy.

    Taxis
    Stations: The stations form the link between maglev train and taxis and play an important role in the MOMO concept. Due to the hot weather, changing between different means of transport can be exhausting and impractical for the passengers. It is therefore essential that the passengers of MOMO can change from maglev to taxi (or the other way round) without leaving the cooled stations. Built in a modern way the stations include a waiting area for the taxis to offer the best and most comfortable connections between the different transportation methods.

    Station
    Organization: Besides the establishment and connection of the two means of transport, the organization of the MOMO is important to make the concept work. A so far unresolved challenge is the call for a taxi that brings the passenger to the closest metro station. There could be a so called “MOMO App” for smartphones which allows passengers to indicate their location so that they get picked up by a taxi within a few minutes. The disadvantage of this method is that it requires a smartphones with internet connection. An alternative could be to order a taxi by phone which requires more time and employees.
    Moreover a large number of taxis is needed to provide fast transportation even during peak time. This number of taxis might not be in use during the less frequented hours which reduces the efficiency of the transportation system. These logistic challenges have to be faced in detailed planning.

    Time frame

    Short- to medium-term
    As the MOMO is a leading project in the vision DNA Oman the implementation should start as soon as possible. An efficient public transport system for the Muscat area is long overdue and there shouldn't be wasted any more time to start with the detailed planning.

    Financing

    Of course the realization of the MOMO project requires a lot of financial investment. These costs can be divided into non-recurring investment costs to build the infrastructure and the rolling stock and recurring operating costs to cover personal expenditure and maintenance.
    Investment costs: Of course it is very difficult to estimate the costs of a huge infrastructure project because a lot of adaptations to the specific situation have to be made. Generally it can be said that the construction costs are between 5 and 9 million Euros per kilometre and track system. In comparison the construction of an underground subway costs between 80 and 100 million Euros per kilometre. Establishing a maglev train with two track systems in the around 60 kilometres long Muscat area would therefore cost between 600 and 1080 million Euros (with the price range of 5 and 9 million Euros per kilometre).
    Of course this investment seems rather big, but nevertheless the development in a public transport system is essential at this point in time. As the use of public transport is a merit good which should be supported, the investment should be made by the Sultanate to avoid delay and insolvency which could occur in the private sector. With the relatively high income of the state from oil production the maglev could be realized in a few years only and would be an investment not only in mobility but also in sustainability and the protection of environment.
    Operating costs: The operating costs of a maglev train are relatively low compared to other train systems because of the contactless construction technique of maglev and track. The operating costs should be defrayed by the profit out of ticket sales and advertisement on the trains. Concerning the ticket prizes it should be kept in mind to include special offers for young people, students and families. If the younger generations get used to travelling in public transport the MOMO will meet high acceptance in future decades.