A well-built and reliable transportation infrastructure can be extremely beneficial to a metropolis, as mobility is essential to support sustainability.
Cities and metropolises grow and expand as population increases within an urban space, and city authorities are mainly responsible for maintaining and upholding efficient modes of mobility. A community that lacks public transportation infrastructure – which can include metro, buses and walkable streets – is thus not sustainable because the area will lack efficient flow of people and goods needed for a city’s survival.
In Bahrain, the habit of prioritising car infrastructure and lack of regulation around car parking hinders long-term sustainable development. Over-dependency on car infrastructure prevents the diversification of mobility for people, and creates an array of problems including severe congestion and pollution.
The car has become a major symbol of status and wealth, leaving a large portion of the population preferring their individual cars over public transportation. This is why it is important for Bahrainis to be aware of how things such as unorganised car parking, over-dependence on cars, and weak transportation planning creates a negative multiplier effect that impacts the economy, the environment, and overall social welfare.
From 2010 to 2018, the car population in Bahrain went from 300,000 to more than 700,000, according to the Traffic Directorate. The human population in Bahrain as of 2018 reached 1.4 million. This means that the car to person ratio is well on its way to being 1:1, meaning that the overwhelming majority of Bahrainis over the age of 18 will own a car, which will cause a mobility disaster.
While driving around the popular Adliya district in Manama, known for its restaurants and is a popular spot for both tourists and locals, I started taking note of all the cars parked along the curb, as well as those on the sidewalk.
There were no parking meters anywhere to charge drivers for parking, and there seems to be an accepted attitude by drivers to take up sidewalk space if there are no other options or available locations for parking their cars.
As it stands, Adliya, and most other towns in Bahrain, have no parking meters and no source of generating city revenue. Instead, towns and neighbourhoods in Bahrain are left with constant traffic congestion and unregulated parking lots with cars scattered all over. The long-term effect of little to no parking regulation and no alternative modes of transportation will be the complete gridlock of roadways.
The built environment not only shapes the physical appearance of a city, it also determines the success or failure of a city’s economy. Urban areas create demands for technology and are in turn shaped by it. This is mostly because cities around the world throughout history shifted from being the centre for manufacturing to service economies, where information and technology are essential.
In the case of Bahrain, the technology needed to further boost the economy and decrease oil revenue dependence is improving and it is necessary to increase sustainable public transportation infrastructure system to ensure an efficient flow of people and goods around the country.
Auto manufacturers and marketers work strenuously to perfect the image of the car into being something that every person needs to have, while working their best to conceal the negative externalities and burdens that come with owning a car. As Bahrain continually invests more in road infrastructure, opportunities for freedom of movement become further limited as more and more urban space is allocated to the car.
Cars are the source of congestion, CO2 emissions harming the air, and the isolation of people into little bubbles preventing them from physical movement and social interaction. After people have better infrastructure, become less car-dependent, have an organised parking and congestion pricing tax system for the government to generate revenue; sustainable development can be achieved. This is because revenue from parking tax and congestion pricing on major highways will be generated, collected, and later reinvested to fund more mass public transportation projects.