Saudi 'Solution' to Traffic Jams: No Foreign Drivers

riyadh saudi arabia cars freeway photo

Some 86 percent of Saudis have cars. Photo of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, via Ar-Riyadh Development Authority.

From instituting traffic calming measures to building metrobus systems, there are plenty of ways to ease congestion on the roads. But radio listeners in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, think they have a better idea: Keep foreigners and the elderly from driving.Blogger Saudi Jeans recently wrote about a call-in show on the country's MBC-FM station where host Rana al-Qassim "decided to tackle the dilemma of zahma, aka the chronic congestion of Riyadh streets." He writes:

As calls came in from people telling her their stories of daily horror and misery on the roads, Rana insisted that she wants to hear no whining or complaining. "I want solutions!" she exclaimed... The few calls I had the misfortune to hear offered some pretty innovative suggestions. "Ban all foreigners from driving," one caller said. "Take old people off the streets," another one demanded. None of the callers I heard said anything about public transportation.

Riyadh, a city of 6.5 million people, has no public-transportation system, Saudi Jeans writes, though plans for a light rail are supposedly in the works -- with no target operational date announced.

Even if one were to be eventually built, it would likely face some of the same obstacles as the recently opened metro system in Dubai, the first in the Gulf region. The Dubai system ended up costing twice the estimated amount, the BBC reported at the time, expressing doubts that authorities would be able to "persuade motorists, who are used to subsidized fuel and the privacy of air conditioned comfort, to swap their cars for a mass transit system" -- even one with luxury leather seats.

That's going to be a hard sell in Saudi too, which "boasts" the second-highest rate of car ownership in the world -- 86 percent -- just behind the United States.

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