Q&A: What are some major traffic engineering design challenges in the Middle East?

The Middle East’s dependence on private automobiles as the major mode of transportation creates unique challenges for new development projects in the region. Not only does it require an efficient design of roadway infrastructure to process high traffic volumes, but also requires a smart design of space to provide on-site parking spaces. A majority of developments in the Middle East are mixed-use projects that have a wide array of users including residents, professionals, retail customers, restaurant patrons, and hotel guests. The traffic and parking demand generated by this diverse user base varies throughout the day creating challenges for traffic engineers. It is important to design a traffic circulation and parking system that will not consume a lot of space while at the same time is efficient in processing the project’s peak traffic and parking demand. This can be achieved by working closely with the master planners and architects early on in the design process to identify locations for siting connections with surrounding roadway networks and highway ramps, and developing an efficient parking layout and internal site circulation plan.


Langan provided transportation and parking services for the design of the iconic Four Seasons Hotel in Bahrain. (Photo Credit: SOM | © Future Brand)

With the increase in transit infrastructure developments in the Middle East, specifically in Saudi Arabia, it is important to consider the changes in commuting patterns in the future. A shift in commuting from private automobiles to mass transit will result in decreased traffic and parking demand and should be accounted for in future traffic planning estimates. Given that land is at a premium, specifically in large cities like Jeddah and Riyadh, a lower parking demand will consequently require less parking, freeing up space for more financially viable uses. Therefore, as a first step, it is critical to conduct due-diligence to obtain information on infrastructure work as well as potential future development projects for the area.

Like most other urban regions of the world, there is a growing shift in the Middle East to create walkable neighborhoods that serve as cultural hubs — entertainment, dining, and leisure destinations. Many mixed-use projects in the Middle East are now incorporating designs emphasizing safe and efficient walkable environments for the community. Currently, we are working closely with master planners and landscape architects to design an inviting walkable public space for a large-scale confidential mixed-use project in Saudi Arabia. As part of this effort, Langan is assisting the design team in establishing unique pedestrian connections for retail, hospitality, entertainment, and residential uses within the site.  One important aspect of this design process is to strike the right balance between safety and functionality. This is achieved by applying design techniques such as removing excess width from traffic lanes, providing space for pedestrian refuge islands, and adding landscaping in a non-linear pattern to reduce opportunities for speeding and aggressive driving, while at the same time enhancing safety for all users.

About Adnan Pasha, PE
As Director of Transportation and Traffic Engineering at Langan International, Adnan has over 18 years of international experience with transportation, real estate development, site/civil engineering, Transit Oriented Development (TOD), project management, and finance.