There has always been a startling contrast between the transportation systems of developed and developing countries with the former usually having well planned, modernized and efficient methods of transportation while the latter is usually considered mired in bureaucratic entanglements, inefficiency and a lack of sufficient urban planning that transport systems are seemingly added on as an afterthought to a city’s creation.
Such contrasting natures can be seen in the case of Riyadh and Vancouver wherein both cities exemplify the differences in urban planning and transportation development between developed and developing countries and as such make an interesting case to observe whether any similarities in transport systems exist despite the inherent differences between the two.
One of the first major similarities between Vancouver and Riyadh is that both cities have major airports situated “relatively” close by with Vancouver International Airport located 12 km from the downtown district of the city while Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport is located 35 km away.
On average the King Khalid International Airport handles 15 million passengers a year while Vancouver International Airport handles 17 million a year, this shows a relatively close similarity in the sheer amount of people that pass through both cities on a yearly basis and is a good starting point in order to determine whether other similarities between these two diverse locations.
Before proceeding any further, it is necessary to bring up the fact that due to Vancouver’s proximity to large bodies of water the city does have an alternate method of air transport in the form of planes that can land and take off from the water (Boyle, & Haggerty, 2011).
Though such planes are not as well used now as they were before, they still constitute one aspect of Vancouver’s transportation system and truly sets it apart from Riyadh due to the fact that such planes are not used at all within this city due to its proximity to one of the largest deserts on the planet.
The main difference between the two cities in terms of transportation capacity is the fact that Vancouver has several light rail transport systems meant to offset traffic and make it easier for people to move from one part of the city to another.
These transport systems are composed of the Sky train, the West Coast Commuter Express, the Expo line, the Millennium line and the Canada line, all of which service millions of commuters a day. It must also be noted that the Sky train transport system actually goes all the way to Vancouver International Airport which makes it all the more easier to travel for travelers to reach the city at a quick pace (Boyle, & Haggerty, 2011).
In comparison, Riyadh is relatively lacking in terms of a sufficiently capable mass light rail transport system within its transportation system with only a traditional mass rail line operated by the Saudi Railway Authority being the only comparatively close system that is even “similar” to the rail transport systems Vancouver has at the present.
It must be noted though that there are currently plans to build the Riyadh Light Transit Railway (LTR) in order to service various parts of the city, unfortunately this particular plan has suffered considerable setbacks in the form of bureaucratic entanglements to the extent that despite being announced two to three years ago the basic foundations for the light rail transport system have yet to even be established (Gcc Meet To Discuss Railways Network, 2007).
It is quite interesting to note that despite the fact that Vancouver has a more efficient system of public transportation and urban planning it lags behind Riyadh in terms of the sheer amount of highways that service the city.
At the present, Riyadh is serviced by the Eastern Ring road (which connect the southern and northern parts of the city), the Northern Ring Road (this connects the eastern and western halves of the city), while the King Fahd road goes entirely through the center of the city and connects its north and south end.
It must also be noted that the Makkah road which is situated parallel to the Eastern Ring Road connects various aspects of the city’s financial and diplomatic district with other sections within the eastern half of the city. Vancouver on the other hand merely has Highway 1 as its primary highway transport artery and is situated near the north-eastern half of the city.
The main reason why there is such a strange disparity between the cases of Riyadh and Vancouver in terms of the number of highways that service the city is due to divergence in focus between the two. In the case of Vancouver, local city councils and urban planners in the 1960s-1970s focused on the development of long term plans which espoused mass transportation systems and easy methods of commuting rather than place an emphasis on the use of cars as a the primary method of transportation within the city.
This particular train of thought continued to carry over in successive councils which was further influenced by the “green movement” within various western countries which led towards the promotion of clean transportation systems and less reliance on gas guzzling vehicles.
As a result, despite Vancouver’s increasing population rates the city has actually experienced a 7% decline in car usage ever since the early half of the 1990s. This particular emphasis on mass transportation and “green living” has also manifested itself in the form of stricter rules and regulations on the use of cars which is meant to encourage commuting rather than driving.
On the other end of the spectrum, Saudi Arabia due its status as an oil exporting country has relatively low local fuel costs as compared to that of other countries (Saudi Arabia, 1999). With no limits on personal car ownership (so long as you can afford it) this has encouraged the use of cars as the primary method of transportation within the city of Riyadh.
Unfortunately, this has brought with it a host of various problems such as increasing numbers of traffic jams, delays in commuting, and the proliferation of lung related diseases as a result of the sheer amount of carbon dioxide emissions. It must also be noted that there is a distinct lack of environmental ownership within the case of Riyadh and as such it is unlikely that any method of urban transportation and development which focuses on “green living” will be developed any time soon.
Aside from owning your own car, taxis and buses are the primary method of transportation within Riyadh with most people opting to use a taxi whenever possible due to the relatively poor conditions of the public bus system and the fact that several of the buses are at times not air conditioned at all (a relatively troublesome factor given that that Riyadh is for all intents and purposes located within the center of a desert).
Vancouver on the other hand has developed an entirely different set of policies for its internal transportation system with relatively few taxis and Translink being the provider of bus transport related services within the center of the city (Jump in, 2010).
Before proceeding it must also be noted that due to its emphasis on clean living, the city has actually encouraged the use of various methods of manually powered methods of transportation (i.e. biking or walking) as a means of reducing environmental pollution and encouraging people to live healthier lifestyles. This has been generally well accepted by member of the local community and continues to be a favored method of transportation within the city.
It must be noted though that the one reason why such a policy system would not work in the case of Riyadh is due to the fact that the extreme temperatures of the city (which can reach 40 degrees Celsius or more) dissuades alternative methods of transportation given the fact that the temperatures alone are not conducive towards manually powered transportation schemes.
Proximity to a large body of fresh water, this is the main difference between the two cities and is defining factor of this section which explores the water transportation mechanisms within Vancouver which are all but absent in the case of Riyadh. Presently, the city is serviced by two ferry terminals located at Horseshoe Bay (which is to the west of Vancouver) while the other is located further south in the Tsawwassen area.
On average these ferries transport people and various types of cargo from area of Vancouver at a relatively affordable rate. Though slow, this classic method of transportation does go through the “scenic” route which showcases the beauty of the local area. Considering the fact that Riyadh has no water transport methods that can transport goods in between areas of the city, this in effect is one of the main divergences between the two.
Based on the various facts presented, it can be seen that while there are “slight” similarities in the transportation systems utilized between Vancouver and Riyadh, there are more inherent differences between the two.
Various reasons behind this divergence stem from either the different local environment (where Vancouver is definitely colder than Riyadh and has a different regional ecosystem all to together) to variances in the way in which local government units view the necessity of mass transportation systems and the implementation of “green technologies” as a means of combating pollution.
It must also be noted that since Saudi Arabia is an oil rich nation with gas prices being relatively low, this enables people who live within Riyadh to affordably utilize their cars at all hours of the day which is in direct contrast to the relatively high price of gas within Vancouver.
On the other hand, based on the data that has been shown it can be seen that the transportation systems inherent within a city are direct reflects of the quality of life within the area with people living in Vancouver having a far cleaner and healthier way of living due to the lack of pollutants in the air as compared to their counterparts within Riyadh.
Boyle, P., & Haggerty, K. D. (2011). Civil Cities and Urban Governance: Regulating
Disorder for the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Urban Studies (Sage Publications, Ltd.), 48(15), 3185-3201.
Gcc Meet To Discuss Railways Network. (2007). Arabia 2000.
Jump in. (2010). Weekly Reader News – Senior, 88(16), 4.
Saudi Arabia. (1999). MEED: Middle East Economic Digest, 43(11), 30.