Five Ways The New Metro Will Transform Riyadh

By Nick Halloway
01 November 2018
Artist's impression of one of Riyadh Metro's new stations, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects 
Artist's impression of one of Riyadh Metro's new stations, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects 
Next year, Riyadh is expected to open the biggest urban mass transit system that has ever been created from scratch. Here are five ways it will transform the city for the better

The network will comprise six metro lines – both overground and underground - that connects 85 stations and span nearly 110 miles of track. Opening in 2019, and becoming fully operational in 2021, the driverless Metro will cost $23 billion and is projected to carry 1.16 passengers daily when launched, increasing to nearly 3.6 million within 10 years. Here are five areas that will be impacted by the new metro.

Culture

The Kingdom is going through a period of social reforms and the introduction of a mass transit system will advance that in subtle but significant ways. Mingling of men and women on platforms has already been discussed, but more broadly it will encourage the integration of people who would previously have been cocooned in cars. Only around two percent of Riyadh’s population of six million currently use the existing public transport, but as that increases so will the mingling of cultures and ethnicities.

Snohetta-Makkah metro

Architecture

It’s a big leap forward for Saudi in terms on notable architecture. While most of the significant buildings in the city are towering monoliths, this is something that people will interact with daily and rather than a single building, it will be a series of Metro station buildings from some of the best architects on the planet. The project represents a significant investment in creating notable architecture that is part of daily life as the likes of Norwegian firm Snøhetta, Perkins+Will from Chicago, and Zaha Hadid’s practice all contribute to changing the face of the city. 

Traffic

Residents of the city spend an average of one hour and 54 minutes in traffic every day, driving at an average speed of 27 kilometres per hour - the default state of being in the city is “late”. But with 170km of rail, vast numbers of people will now have a viable alternative to driving. And while many will never be persuaded to leave their cars, the 1.16 million passengers who are expected to use the Metro every day will no longer be on the roads, reducing the traffic for the rest. With connections to key locations, including the financial hub, airport and malls, it will hugely help movement of people in a city that’s set to grow from six to eight million people by 2030.

Perkins Riyadh metro

Property

Mass transport systems are known to affect real estate, but in Riyadh the effect will be even more pronounced. With the existing demand for property in the city moving from large villas to smaller and more affordable homes with good transport links – especially for younger Saudis – this will facilitate the move away from the family-home dynamic and incentivise property developers to create homes near Metro stops.

Economy

Ibrahim Al Sultan, President of ‎Arriyadh Development Authority, estimates that each riyal spent on it would generate an indirect economic return of three riyals. Millions in Saudi will have a financial incentive to use the systems, opening viable job opportunities around the city. And although women can now legally drive, not all will choose to, and this will give them increased freedom of mobility as well as creating mixed-use urban regeneration around key metro hubs with restaurants and shops having a reason to exist in those areas.

Omrania Metro Station