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A Massive New Public Transit System For Car-Obsessed, Oil-Rich Qatar

In a nation where a gallon of gasoline is cheaper than bottled water, a city looks to lure its citizens from their cars and cool them from the searing desert heat.

A gallon of gas in the oil-rich country of Qatar costs less than a dollar, and sprawling local roads have been designed for cars, not pedestrians. So it’s not surprising that most Qataris choose to drive. Over the last decade, as more people buy cars, oil consumption in the country has more than tripled. But now the capital city of Doha is trying to move in the opposite direction with a huge new public transit system.

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The new Metro Network will eventually include around 100 new train stations, each designed to lure citizens from their cars. The architects wanted to make taking the train more comfortable than driving, especially when desert temperatures soar above 100 degrees, and people are even less likely to want to walk.


“The use of public transport is a way of avoiding the heat while driving around or moving from a car to a building,” says Ben van Berkel, co-founder of UNStudio, the architecture firm in Amsterdam designing the train stations. “You can quickly move from one part of town to another part of town on the Metro–it’s directly connected to many locations in the city.”

With stations placed at busy intersections throughout Doha, the network also gives pedestrians a safe way to cross the street, and reminds drivers stuck in rush hour traffic that they have an alternative.


The stations are also designed to build community. “At the moment, it’s a city of cars,” says van Berkel. “The Metro system is going to generate new public space–we wanted to reduce the use of the car, but also create more interaction. If everyone’s in cars, it becomes an isolated city. Public transport introduces more openness.”

It’s possible the Metro system might also make it a little easier for women to get around the city. Even though, unlike in neighboring Saudi Arabia, women in Qatar are legally allowed to drive, it’s still a little taboo. And right now, if someone happens to be female in Doha and wants to go somewhere, she often has to wait for a ride.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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