Forget Wealth Gap – Dubai Might Create a Car Gap

Mideast nation may ban poor from owning automobiles.

by on Feb.14, 2014

Just your typical parking lot in Dubai.

Wealth has its price.  And in the Mideast nation of Dubai, a booming economy has created a burgeoning traffic problem as more and more of its citizens take to the roads.

With more and more Ferraris, Bentleys and Bugattis caught in traffic, one of the nation’s political leaders has a neat solution to give them a little more room on the road: ban the poor from owning cars.

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“Everybody has their luxury life,” Hussain Lootah, director general of Dubai Municipality, told the National. “but the capacity of our roads cannot take all of these cars without ownership laws.”

Lootah and other Dubai officials are looking at several options but one gaining traction in one of the world’s wealthiest nations would be linked to salaries.  It would ban those earning below a set threshold from owning cars.

The government has been looking at other options, such as boosting generally cheap, subsidized fuel prices, boosting parking and insurance fees, even trying to get the nation’s residents to carpool.

But such “soft” rules, Lootah lamented, “don’t work any more.”  The reality, he said, is that, “Unless you go hard, no one will obey.”

(Carsharing could become big business. Click Here for the story.)

Speaking at a business and economic forum in Hamburg, Germany, the director general stressed that while “green and electric cars are important for Dubai’s future,” the “biggest challenge” for the country’s future is “the number of cars.”

For those who might suddenly find themselves without wheels, Lootah did point out that the city of Dubai’s new tram system which began operations last week.

“There are other alternatives — taxis, buses, metros. I will build more metros,” declared the Dubai director general. “We will expand the metro, station by station. We have buses, luxury buses — but the people don’t go for it because their cars are very cheap.”

(More and more American households going carless. Click Herefor more.)

The booming economy has compounded Dubai’s traffic problems because it has encouraged a flood of migrant workers, as well as tourists – an additional 8.7 million passengers coming through the capital city’s international airport last year. Car sales, meanwhile, have been rising at double-digit levels.

Dubai isn’t the only place looking to limit vehicle ownership.  In fact, Hamburg was an appropriate place for Lootah to make his comments as Germany’s second-largest city is now debating a popular plan that would phase out automobile access over the next two decades.

Beijing and a growing number of Chinese cities are putting in place restrictions on the number of new vehicles that can be registered each month. And London’s costly commuter tax on vehicle’s entering the center city is being hailed as a model for other cities across the globe.  But Dubai would become the first place to specifically set an income test for potential motorists.

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One Response to “Forget Wealth Gap – Dubai Might Create a Car Gap”

  1. Jorge M. says:

    You can bet U.S. consumers paid for all of those toys…and Europeans too.

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