Investigating factors affecting the mode choices of commuters in Kuwait city & surrounding urban areas: Strategies for a higher quality and more sustainable public transport system

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Abstract

This paper reports on the social, cultural, and demographic factors affecting Kuwaiti commuters. The objectives were to 1) investigate the awareness of Kuwaitis of transportation problems, 2) examine the perceptions of Kuwaitis of daily traffic congestion and how it affects them emotionally and physically, and the main objective 3) study the attitudes of Kuwaitis towards using public buses. An online survey was used to examine these factors, and a sample of five hundred transportation system users was obtained. The primary findings showed significant associations between the use of public transport buses and the user’s nationality, gender, age, education, and income level. Men are 2.6 times more likely to use buses, and non-Kuwaiti residents are 6.4 times more likely to use them. In relation to the perceptions of daily traffic congestion, findings indicate that with increase in travel time, commuters, in general, developed more negative feelings, such as exhaustion and stress. A large proportion of the sample population is aware of current local transportation problems and future transportation projects. The results of this study fill a gap in the knowledge of the socioeconomic and cultural factors that influence the success of sustainable public transportation solutions to the traffic challenges found in Kuwait. This knowledge is also crucial to foreign consultants working on planning and transportation projects in the region. It is recommended that officials use this new knowledge on cultural factors to develop integrated land use and transportation plans of the urban areas in Kuwait and to develop more effective and sustainable transportation demand management policies in support of UN Sustainable Development Goals that Kuwait has signed up to pursue.

Introduction

Kuwait is one of the fastest growing developing countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region and is undergoing challenging transportation issues. This rapid growth is expected to continue because of government initiatives aimed at transforming Kuwait into a global financial and commercial investment hub (Elmi & Al-Rifai 2011). Kuwait’s rapid growth has already increased the pressure on the existing transportation system. Traffic congestion has risen to unacceptable levels, leading to degradation in both quality of life and the environment. Therefore, there is a need for appropriate policies, plans, and projects to provide a safe, affordable, and efficient transportation system to attain sustainable environmental development objectives.

Kuwait has used, and continues to use, foreign consulting companies to prepare its master plans. Those external consultants have frequently recommended solutions and plans from their home countries that might be successful for a population with entirely different characteristics than Kuwait (Hutchinson 1990). Besides, current studies focus on increasing road capacity (United Nation Development Program 2009), whereas sustainable solutions must consider many interrelated environmental, social, cultural, and economic factors. A key opportunity for mitigating the current negative transport-related impact is to reduce the amount of driving. Reduced Vehicle-Km Travelled (VKT) can be accomplished by a systematic shift from private vehicles to high quality, convenient public transportation (Litman 2017) while at the same time supporting other active transportation modes such as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Meanwhile, improved public transportation has the potential to reduce not only congestion in Kuwait, but also air pollution, health risks, economic burdens (Mohammad 2014), all of which significantly impact Kuwaitis’ quality-of-life.

When reviewing related literature and reports for Kuwait, little in the way of public participation or cultural factors have been found. The research providing the basis for this paper is intended to fill the knowledge gap surrounding the socioeconomic aspects for a comprehensive and sustainable solution, including a better understanding of public perceptions, culture, and status surrounding the transportation system in Kuwait, and a better understanding of the motivating factors behind users’ choices. This study provides a primary database, which will help the Kuwaiti decision makers and foreign consultants in implementing more efficient and effective public transportation solutions. The main objective to investigate is the attitude of Kuwaiti residents towards using public buses. The paper analyzed the Kuwaitis’ awareness of transportation problems and examined the Kuwaitis’ perceptions of daily traffic congestion and how it affects them emotionally and physically, in addition to the main objective.

Study Area

Kuwait has experienced significant road safety problems. In 2017, the total number of crashes was 71,616 with 428 persons killed, and 10,305 persons injured (Kuwait Central Statistical Bureau 2017). In general, the number of fatalities related to road crashes is around 28 per 100,000 in Kuwait; whereas the global rate is 19 per 100,000 (Hajeeh 2012). This places Kuwait as one of the least safe places in the world to drive, in addition to its failure to meet its commitments to pursue the UN Sustainable Development Goals (specifically goal number 11: make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable). Al-Rukaibi et al. (2007) found strong shortcomings in driver education in Kuwait and concluded that most crashes occur because of intentional driver violations, especially speeding and running red lights.

The massive road congestion in Kuwait affects many facets of Kuwaitis’ lives. A recent study measured the average travel time from Shuwaikh city to some popular destinations in Kuwait with and without congestion (SraayNews). The results showed longer travel times during congestion ranging from 267% to 600% of normal (i.e., free-flow traffic). Given this situation, walking or cycling might be more efficient than cars. However, the climate of Kuwait may result in public transportation being a more popular option. No study was found that could provide an understanding of how congestion in Kuwait affects the people emotionally and physically, nor why more people don’t walk, bike, or take public transportation. Internationally, studies have been made of the relationship between mode of commuting and feelings, although the study of this subject has been ignored in the past (Novaco et al. 1979), and is still ignored in the Kuwaiti context. Results from Montreal, Canada showed that cyclists and public transit commuters are less stressed than are car commuters (Brutus, Javadian & Panaccio 2017). Moreover, the Office for National Statistics in the UK revealed a linear relationship between time of commute and negative feelings such as stress and wellness (Friman et al. 2017).

In Kuwait, the largest growth in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions has come from power generation and road transportation, with the latter producing one-third of its 27.3 metric tons (MT) per capita (IEA Statistics; World Bank). Therefore, a key opportunity for mitigating these emissions is to reduce the amount of driving (vehicle-km travelled, VKT). Reduced VKT can be accomplished by a systematic shift from private vehicles to high quality, convenient public transportation (Litman 2017). This is most often supported by retrofitting existing and/or building new communities to provide compact, coordinated, and connected land use patterns, often termed SMARTer Growth Neighborhoods (Grammenos & Lovegrove 2015). Unfortunately, in Kuwait, the present strategy in response to traffic congestion continues to be increasing the capacity of roads while giving means of public transportation little attention. Kuwait is still overbuilding its roads, due to lagging demand forecasts and uninformed decision-making. This paper reports on public attitudes towards transportation choices; research on Kuwaiti land use patterns has only just been initiated.

Factors that affect travellers’ decisions on mode choice

Travellers’ needs and decisions are affected by rapidly changing societal and lifestyle patterns (Beirao & Cabral 2007; Van, Choocharukul & Fuijii 2014). Therefore, understanding individuals’ behaviour related to mode choice is one of the key elements for planning any transportation system (Jiang 2011). In this section, the factors that affect users’ decisions on transportation modes are reviewed.

  • • Demographic factors (Xia, Jun & Wei 2009; Yun, Liu & Yang 2011): household size, age, gender, education level, race, income level, worker status, vehicle ownership, and availability of a driving licence.
  • • Socio-physiological factors: trip purpose (Guo & Shi 2007), an individual’s habits regarding using a certain mode (Van, Choocharukul & Fuijii 2014; Idris et al. 2015), past experiences, attitudes and personality traits, social acceptance, an individual’s emotional feelings, and benefits to the system user (Van, Choocharukul & Fuijii 2014).
  • • Characteristics of the environment and land use: transit-oriented development, vehicle-oriented development, SMARTer Growth development, mixed-used compact city, rural area, urban area, suburban sprawl, and the size of the area (Sarker et al. 2002).
  • • Level-of-service transit attributes: mode of transportation, distance to destination, travel cost, travel time (Sarker et al. 2002), the number of stops (Mohammad 2014), travel speed, comfort, safety (Guo & Shi 2007), crowding level, reliability, and transit technology (Idris, Nurul Habib & Shalaby 2014).

Demographic and socio-economic factors in Kuwait

With the period of rapid economic development experienced after the discovery of oil in commercial quantities, and the approval of the first Master Plan, an urgent need appeared for more specialists and professionals in all areas to support the city’s growth. Lacking a domestic capacity to train and provide specialists in the service and technical sectors, more foreign workers have been attracted to job opportunities, leading to a rapidly growing transient, migrant, non-Kuwaiti population (Ghabra 1979). This population growth and economic development has been accompanied by a growth in private vehicle ownership (Elmi & Al-Rifai 2011). The number of vehicles is increasing on roads built in the 1950s, which were designed for a much smaller population. The roads were designed to accommodate 700,000 cars, and there have been few significant increases in their capacity. In 2007 the car number reached two million vehicles (i.e., about three times greater than the design capacity) with a yearly increase of 120,000 cars (Kuwait News Agency). This rapid increase in population is affecting the transportation system, not only due to the prevalence of congestion but also as a result of the users’ behavioural patterns. Users’ attitudes and their behavioural and travel patterns are also changing with essential differences, socially and economically, between the two populations (Kuwaiti and non-Kuwaiti).

Public Transit Level-of-Service Attributes, Land Use Characteristics Factors, and the Kuwait Metro Project

Although Kuwait has had a public bus system since 1962, people continue to rely heavily on their privately owned vehicles for various reasons, leaving the bus fleet with limited users (United Nation Development Program 2009). There has not been any previous research providing estimates of bus use by Kuwaitis. According to Basel Al-Loughani (2015), the author of ‘Car history in Kuwait’, high private vehicle ownership in Kuwaiti culture is historical, pre-dating the public bus service by many decades (Personal communication, May 12, 2015). Another factor appears to be the built form and pattern of community development in Kuwait, which encourage car use due to 1) longer travel distances that cannot be conveniently reached by walking, cycling or public transit; 2) lack of dedicated high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to reduce transit travel time; and 3) poor accessibility to bus stops. Dr Farah Al-Nakib (2016), divide urbanization in Kuwait into two major eras; pre-oil period and after oil period. Before the discovery of oil, the country was a ‘cosmopolitan place’ characterized by low population and spatial proximity of urban spaces that made the city diverse, accessible, and friendly; ‘it was closer to a shared public space’. With the onset of oil, Al-Nakib described urban life in Kuwait as very different and divided into zones stating that:

‘People go to work in the city centre, spend their leisure time along the coast, shop in the new commercial district, and then they go to rest in their homes in the suburbs, and they travel between these spaces in private cars.’

The Kuwait Public Transport Company (KPTC) was the exclusive provider of transit services for buses and limited ferry trips to some islands until 2002 when a private company (City Bus) started its services (Kuwait Online Government). In 2005, another private company named Kuwait Gulf Link started operation (Kuwait Online Government). In 2009, the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) participated in a meeting organised by the Ministry of Interior to discuss a draft of the comprehensive national strategy for traffic in Kuwait. Following the meeting, a memorandum prepared by the KCCI included observations about the draft and presented some suggestions to be considered by the Ministry of Interior. One of the main observations was the problem of having multiple public transit companies in the country. Kuwait has allowed the two private companies along with the official state one to conduct transport services – using the same routes, bus stops, and bus stations. Also, the three companies compete to get a larger number of passengers, causing traffic disruption and increased congestion (Kuwait Chamber of Commerce & Industry). Moreover, the lack of dedicated bus lanes in Kuwait ensures that buses get stuck in road traffic and therefore provide an inefficient service.

While its public transit system consists entirely of buses, the idea of passenger rail (Metro) as a means of public transportation is not new to Kuwait. A study by the Ministry of Public Works back in the seventies indicated the need for a better public transit system than buses. The Ministry proposed the Kuwait Metro Rapid Transit (KMRT) project to ease daily commutes, reduce energy consumption, increase road safety, enhance air quality, and reduce travel time; however, it has not yet been constructed.

Materials and Methods

To undertake this research, several surveys were designed to better understand the underlying cultural and socio-economic factors related to transportation habits, attitudes, and preferences that motivate residents. The team conducting this research was comprised of Kuwaiti and non-Kuwaiti nationals and was based in North America with limited in-person travel to Kuwait. Therefore, the most appropriate research method was a web-based questionnaire to draw together the perceptions of public transportation from various segments of the resident population (Hay 2010; Bryman, Bell & Teevan 2012). The main advantages of using a web-based questionnaire include the ability to cover a large sample size, absence of effects of the interviewer on the interviewee, less missing data, protection of privacy, time efficient, and relatively low cost.

The main disadvantages of using a web-based questionnaire include: 1) the population of Internet users is not identified or registered, so it is not an easy process to select a fully representative sample; and, 2) the population of non-Internet users is excluded and missed in the sampling (Bethlehem & Biffignandi 2012). In Kuwait, the fact that the Internet and smartphones are widely used (79.2% of the population in Kuwait use the Internet (International Telecommunication Union), minimises the risk of under-representing the non-Internet user population. In addition, there is the possibility of the unintentional exclusion of individuals with a low income and the elderly, who might not be familiar with the technology. First, to overcome the problem of the exclusion of the low-income population, ‘Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk)’ was used to distribute the survey, a workplace via Amazon in which ‘workers’ complete online jobs posted by ‘requesters’ for monetary rewards (Simons 2012:1). MTurk was initially developed for commercial use, but a growing number of academic researchers now use it. While few studies using MTurk have been published, those that did indicate promising results (Buhrmester 2011; Simons 2012; Holden 2013), with slightly higher data quality in the MTurk samples when compared with other distribution methods. Moreover, these studies suggested that MTurk appears capable of encouraging low-income residents to participate in research and minimise unintentional exclusion. Second, according to the Kuwait Central Statistical Bureau (2017), the percentage of individuals aged 65+ with access to a personal computer and Internet network is 89%, significantly assuaging concerns about the exclusion of the elderly.

The final distribution method used was a combination of the MTurk tool and a snowballing technique (i.e., a sampling technique that recruits participants through current participants often used when facing difficulties reaching the target population). Confidentiality is an issue when sending questionnaires through regular mail, phone, or emails due to its association with individual identification. In this research, participant privacy was protected by giving each questionnaire a unique ID number, and by separating respondent answers from their personal information. It is left to future researchers to conduct a more comprehensive national public transportation survey locally to confirm the results of this initial research prior to finalising transportation and development plans in Kuwait.

The survey started with a consent letter followed by questions to qualify participants (age and location). The first section explored and ranked awareness of transportation problems. The second section gathered travel data and commuting trips. The third section investigated participants’ feelings about daily congestion during commuting and non-commuting trips. Questions in the fourth section were in a hypothetical form to indicate the stated preference mode and situation for travellers. As mentioned earlier, each participant is identified by a unique ID. In addition, an Internet Protocol address was accompanied with the ID to restrict multiple participation. Note that the authors’ university ethics review committee approved the research protocol used for this study.

Statistical analysis

The preliminary analysis was mainly descriptive, followed by advanced statistical analyses to test the research hypotheses. The standard statistical methodology of weight adjustment recommended by Bethlehem and Biffignandi (International Telecommunication Union) was also applied. The data collected consists of categorical discontinuous variables that fell into one of two categories: binary or nominal. To evaluate the association between categorical data, the appropriate analysis carried out was either the Chi-Squared Test for independence or Fisher’s Exact Test, dependent on the ratio of the tables. The hypothesis tests were followed by Phi and Cramer’s V tests to determine the strength of association between the variables measured (Bryman, Bell & Teevan 2012) with a 95% level of confidence. P-values of less than 0.05 were considered statistically significant.

Results

Applying this methodology, an online survey of the Kuwait community was posted between July 17, 2014, and September 17, 2014, resulting in 500 responses with 331 (66.2%) fully completed questionnaires. The survey consisted of 45 questions, and 95% of them were completed by all 500 respondents. To avoid low completion rates in the future, the questionnaire design would be shorter and simpler.

Most respondents, 78%, were Kuwaiti, another 20% non-Kuwaiti, and the remaining 2% stateless. A total of 63% of respondents were female, with 62% holding undergraduate degrees (Bachelor) and 31% holding graduate degrees (Master’s or higher). The typical respondent age range was 30 to 40 years old. High school respondents made up 4%, Middle school 2% and Elementary 1% only. More than half of the respondents are working in the government sector followed by 25% in the private sector, 10% self-employed, 6% students and 5% unemployed. The most common family income level category was 750–1,500 KD per month. The geographic distribution of home address within the six governorates ranged from 8% in Al Jahrah to a peak of 26% in Hawali. Also, the percentages of non-Kuwaiti respondents related to the number of years they have been residents are 34% for one to five years, 21% for less than a year and more than 15 years, 16% for 6–10 years and 8% for 11–15 years (Fig. 1.).

Figure 1
Figure 1

Survey results: (a) Participants’ gender/nationality; (b) Participants’ income level; (c) geographical distribution; and (d) Breakdown of participants by age

Source: Jamal 2015

Citation: Urban Development Issues 63, 1; 10.2478/udi-2019-0017

The dominant work trip mode used in Kuwait is driving private cars at 67.1%. Combined with an additional 22.3% of trips made by cars as passengers, a total of 89.5% of all commuting trips are made by car. On the other hand, the combined percentage of commuters choosing public bus or active modes (walk and bike) is around 10.5%. Females are less likely to use public transit, walk or cycle options, and show some interest in telecommuting.

Table 1 shows the differences revealed between the study population and the sample. While most socio-economic segments were within an acceptable margin (i.e., < 5% difference), a more significant difference was observed between the sample and the overall population in the proportions of respondents based on gender and nationality. As such, a simple weighting method was used to adjust the sample to better match the socio-demographics of the population (i.e. weight = proportion of the population that the segment comprises/proportion of the sample that the segment comprises). In any case, our sample is generally representative of the population of Kuwait present during the survey time in the summer of 2014. Surveying during the summertime was our greatest limitation since 60.6% of the population are expatriates who usually travel home at that time. Table 2 provides a comprehensive breakdown of commuting choice in Kuwait in relation to nationality and gender. Analysis of the research hypothesis is summarised in Table 3.

Table 1

Comparison between respondents and the study population

NATIONALITYPOPULATION (%)SAMPLE (%)
KUWAITI39.177.94
NON-KUWAITI60.621.15
GENDERPOPULATION (%)SAMPLE (%)
FEMALE53.3762.83
MALE46.6237.15
Source: Jamal 2015
Table 2

Commuting trip mode split by nationality and gender

CAR, DRIVE (%)CAR, PASSENGER (%)BUS (%)WALK (%)BIKE (%)MOTORCYCLE (%)TELECOMMUTING (%)GRAND TOTAL (%)
KUWAITI54.317.52.101.50.32.177.95
MALE18.75.71.800.90.3027.4
FEMALE35.611.70.300.602.150.4
NON-KUWAITI8.74.83.30.33.31.20.322
MALE3.61.51.50.31.80.60.39.6
FEMALE5.13.31.801.50.6%012.3
TOTAL63.122.35.40.34.81.52.4100
Source: Jamal 2015
Table 3

The statistical tests on the results

HypothesisResultsSignificance
1Awareness of future transportation projects (i.e., KMRT) difference between Kuwaitis & non-Kuwaitis?P = 0.130 Not significantNo difference in the awareness level between the two populations, less than half of the participants are familiar with the project.
2Does the use of public transportation abroad, affect peoples’ use of Public Transit in Kuwait?P = 0.043 SignificantInternational use of public transportation does affect the use of local buses positively.
3Are perceptions of their daily commute travel time in Kuwait different between Kuwaitis & non-Kuwaitis?P = 0.005 SignificantKuwaitis perceive commuting from two opposing views; one as a waste of time, and the second as valuable time.
4Are people’s perceptions of their daily commute in Kuwait different between male & female?P < 0.001 SignificantMale commuters are more stressed than females.
5Does the use of public transit differ between Kuwaitis & non-Kuwaitis?P < 0.05 SignificantMore non-Kuwaitis use buses than Kuwaitis
6Does the use of public transit differ between males and females?P = 0.001 SignificantMore males use buses than females
7Does the use of public transit differ between different income levels?P < 0.01 SignificantIncome level: 1,501 - 3,000 KD does not use buses. Income level: 251 - 750 KD uses buses.
8Does the use of public transit differ between different education levels?P < 0.001 SignificantThe bus users’ education level is mostly Master’s degree & higher. Non-bus users mostly have only a Bachelor’s degree.
9Does the use of public transit differ between different age categories?P < 0.01 SignificantIndividuals in the age category 24–29 use the bus system the most.
10Is the use of public transit affected by the number of years that non-Kuwaiti participants have been living in Kuwait?P < 0.001 SignificantNon-Kuwaitis that have been living in Kuwait for 1 to 5 years use buses. After this period, there is a trend towards driving private cars.
Source: Jamal 2015

The analysis suggests significant results in support of the research hypotheses. Only the first hypothesis was not supported. Moreover, perceptions of the daily commute vary by nationality and gender. Non-Kuwaitis have more neutral perceptions of commuting; Kuwaitis perceive commute travel time as either wasted time or valuable time, with, male commuters more stressed than female commuters. The significant demographic factors are nationality, gender, income level, education level, and age. Although non-Kuwaitis use the bus more than Kuwaitis, their usage significantly decreases over time; however, they appear to retain a latent desire to use it if improved. Additionally, having used public transport abroad has a positive influence on Kuwaiti residents’ use of Kuwaiti buses; those that have used them elsewhere are more open to using them in Kuwait. The only non-significant finding in this study suggests that nationality does not influence the level of public awareness of transportation problems.

Discussion

Many socioeconomic factors revealed a significant association with the use of public transport buses. The characteristics of the typical Kuwaiti bus traveller were found to be non-Kuwaiti resident, male, age 24–29 years, monthly income between 251 and 750 KD, and a graduate degree (Masters or higher). Except for the group with higher degrees, all other characteristics are predictable in a country like Kuwait, where the existing public bus system is very inefficient and unreliable. If we link the high educational degree with wealth or higher income level, then the trends in use of public transit by highly educated individuals in Kuwait are similar to those observed in Manhattan/New York, where affluent residents frequently use public transit (Kun 2012). This pattern may relate to the value they assign to travel time (i.e. minimising wasted time, maximising productivity while on the transit), or their desire to ‘do the right thing’ (i.e., minimise pollution and GHG emissions). Another interpretation of this observation could be that these are highly-educated expatriates who are new to Kuwait and looking for job opportunities while having limited income. These traveller characteristics must be explored in future research as a possible public transit marketing and communications strategy to promote the use of improved transit and metro services. The rate of usage of public buses by non-Kuwaitis is 6.7 times higher than that of Kuwaitis; and males use public buses 2.4 times as frequently as females. Both users and non-users of public buses agreed that all elements of the system need improvement, which is likely to be a contributing factor explaining the trend for Kuwaitis to commute via private cars and for non-Kuwaitis to also shift to drive cars.

These trends in private car use and the characteristics of bus users in Kuwait are consistent with those found by researchers in other developing countries such as India (in gender, age, income and education) and China (in income and education) (Xia, Jun & Wei 2009; Ashalatha, Manju & Zacharia 2013). However, the survey results in Kuwait also suggest that a large segment of the population (especially young workers, low-income residents, and more highly educated classes) could be influenced to use the bus service with minor changes to the Kuwaiti transit system, along with those who are related to/dependent on these potential new users (i.e., partners, children, students). Although the characteristics of the Kuwaiti bus user may suggest that the current users of the system are individuals with no other alternatives, the tendency for the most highly educated group to use the bus does offer optimism that users remain rational about their transportation decisions, and therefore can be influenced by system improvements.

As far as the perceptions of daily traffic congestion are concerned, commuters develop more negative feelings, such as exhaustion and stress, especially in males. G. Green, J. Morris & M. Wada (2012) identified an adverse effect of long travel times on family finances, quality of life, health and well-being. Other researchers have concluded that an increase in travel time would also increase the use of private cars (Ashalatha, Manju & Zacharia 2013). Although private cars users are negative, they do not see public buses as reducing travel time. Some considered commuting as a waste of time, but for others, the trips are used for audio-based education, suggesting that people can adapt to longer than expected commuting times. Similarly, a study in New York City found that car commuters have higher levels of stress and more negative moods than train commuters (Wener & Evans 2011).

Other factors not previously explored that showed a significant association with the likelihood of using local public buses are: 1) using public transportation abroad, and 2) the number of years that non-Kuwaiti residents have been living in Kuwait. First, exposure to a positive experience of using public transportation abroad increased acceptance of using the local public bus system; residents that had been living in Kuwait for one to five years were willing to use the system. Second, the longer (+5 years) a non-Kuwaiti stays in Kuwait, the less willing they become to use public buses; over time non-Kuwaiti residents shift to commuting via private cars due to the inefficiency of the bus service. These observations suggest latent demand for future transit use if improvements to the local transit system are made.

Kuwaitis are known for their love of travel, the high quality of public transit abroad is encouraging them to utilize the system. For example, in 2014, the number of passengers from Kuwait International Airport exceeded five million passengers travelling to different destinations around the world (Kuwait Central Statistical Bureau 2017), with non-Kuwaiti residents accounting for 67% of that total. This international travel holds the potential to foster a significant latent demand for any future Kuwait metro project, given Kuwaitis’ exposure to public transit abroad. Moreover, to attract Kuwaiti travellers, future public transportation projects should also consider providing a higher-quality bus service and passenger rail. This would lead to positive thoughts and experiences of public transportation, and promote resident loyalty towards public transit.

The non-significant factors found in this study are related to nationality and awareness of transportation problems. These non-significant results could be related to their equal importance for both populations. The respondents (Kuwaiti citizens and non-Kuwaiti residents) both ranked ‘transportation and congestion’ fourth in importance among local issues that need government attention, with 67% believing that ‘congestion’ is the top transportation problem, followed by ‘an inadequate public transit system’. This high ranking suggests that they would support the government making transportation system improvements a higher priority.

Cultural Factors

When asked about the cultural aspects behind their transportation decisions, 22% of respondents indicated that the first barrier to using the bus system, even after improvements, is social acceptance (Fig. 2. shows all other barriers). In Kuwait, a poor social image has been attached to bus system users for some time, which leads to locals favouring the use of private cars (Ben-Akiva & Morikawa 2012). The results from this study support H. Van, K. Choocharukul & S. Fuijii (2014) study as measured through public opinion surveys on the impact of social image on bus use versus car use in six different Asian countries. Their results confirm that younger generation commuters (mainly university students) are more likely to use a mode of transportation that has a positive image attached to it. It appears that a positive image is attached to the proposed Kuwait Metro Rail Transit (KMRT) metro project based on the 56% of survey respondents that would consider using it in the future. This could, however, possibly be due to its relative novelty. Moreover, M. Ben-Akiva & T. Morikawa (2012) concluded that there is a preference for rail travel over bus travel, especially when rail delivers a better quality service. For those not considering the use of the metro system, social image was not their primary concern, as only 7% consider it a barrier. Respondents ranked the top three reasons for not using the metro as an unsuitable route, the availability of a car, and preference for a car. Lastly, it appears that awareness of the negative impacts associated with private cars is enough to convince more highly educated travellers to overlook any social perceptions and use public transit. Consequently, the success of public transit improvements in Kuwait will depend significantly on service quality, route convenience, and a positive image.

Figure 2
Figure 2

The barriers to using buses in Kuwait, even after the improvements cited by participants in the survey

Source: Jamal 2015

Citation: Urban Development Issues 63, 1; 10.2478/udi-2019-0017

Another barrier to current system usage, ranking third (8% of respondents) is personal security while on board. One local example of how to overcome this barrier is the Dubai Transportation Authority, which has reduced personal security issues by imposing a bylaw that allows bus drivers and metro operators to issue penalty tickets ranging from 8 to 165 KD. The bylaw has not only successfully improved personal security, but it has also helped to reduced riots, vandalism and tampering on transit property (Alittihad). Dubai’s public transportation network, including metro, trams, buses, and ferries, has had a zero crime rate recorded during the past eight years (Nassar 2016).

Finally, while much can be made of the results, they do have certain limitations. First, there was a lack of background data and literature related to the transportation situation in Kuwait, and in some cases, conflicting information between sources. Second, in the online survey, there were more than five hundred and eighty responses, and only three hundred and thirty-one questionnaires were completed (the completion rate is 66.2%). Although the sample size is still significant, and the completion rate is relatively high (compared to other transportation studies, where the completion rate is typically below 20%), this affected the analysis process on questions with long lists of options. The length of the survey, especially the length of the list of alternative answers, was a frequent comment from respondents.

Consequently, completing a long survey might affect the accuracy of the responses, and aborting the survey affects the sample size. In this case, the risk of a Type II error (i.e., failure to reject a false null hypothesis) is increased. Lastly, the survey was conducted during the summer period; the summer holiday stretched over three months in Kuwait (extended further for more than four months to include the month of Ramadan starting from the summer of 2016). Launching the survey during summer holiday time may explain the under-representation of male and non-Kuwaiti residents, who typically leave for the summer. We acknowledge that our data is considered preliminary and reflects the importance of having a future national transportation survey in Kuwait.

Policy analysis

A more sustainable and efficient transportation system in Kuwait will require improved transit and land use planning that carefully addresses cultural factors. M. Hajeeh (2012) analysed traffic problems in Kuwait using an Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) and found that more efficient traffic monitoring systems, encouraging greater use of public transportation, and stricter enforcement of traffic rules and regulations will contribute to minimising traffic problems, especially in reducing fatalities and injuries. To this end, we recommend the following:

First, the history of the outcomes observed following the adoption of each Kuwait Master Plan provides lessons for transportation planners and officials to encourage them to set clear, precise, adaptive and ongoing long-term goals. These goals must include a theory for a sustainable environment, population growth, and improved public transit. For example, public transit must be reliable; its routes must serve more areas; communities must be denser, mixed, and connected; and, metro rail must be the backbone to attract both citizens and expatriates.

Second, understanding the psychological, social, economic and cultural determinants of behaviour with regard to transportation is a key factor in successful planning for public transportation in Kuwait. The results of this research show a tendency for non-Kuwaiti residents and males to use public buses more than other categories. Any reforms to the transportation system should be based on a proper assessment of the target group, including barriers to changing behaviour. Barriers might include family size, weather conditions, quality of buses, drivers’ professionalism, social, and cultural aspects. A good starting point to change the negative image that people associate with buses and encourage their use might be through media campaigns.

Third, participants in the online survey highlighted the currently deteriorating condition of public buses in Kuwait. The small number and poor condition of public buses, and inadequately trained drivers need to be addressed. Results also indicate that improving the quality of buses will encourage their use. Bus improvements might include air-conditioning units, upgraded seating, and Wi-Fi access. Moreover, more buses would allow for more convenient routes, shorter travel times, shorter walks to/from transit stations, and a higher frequency of service.

Fourth, participants also underlined the issue of personal security on buses such as violence and abuse. More female users will be urged to use the system if personal security matters are addressed. For example, like Dubai, Kuwait should authorise bus drivers and onboard security officers to issue tickets for violations, and encourage Kuwaitis to try travelling by bus.

Finally, to reduce the frequency and severity of traffic collisions, injuries, and congestion, a passenger rail metro is needed as soon as possible. The vast majority (86%) of respondents support the metro project as the solution to the transportation problems in Kuwait city and its surrounding urban area. Furthermore, 40% of respondents have stated that they would use the metro on a regular basis for both commuting and non-commuting purposes.

Conclusions

This study contributes critical initial research to aid understanding of the significant cultural and socioeconomic factors that influence choice of travel mode in Kuwait. It has begun to fill in knowledge gaps regarding public attitudes and travel habits, improved public transit systems, and how to implement more sustainable land use and transportation planning projects and policies in Kuwait. Factors such as nationality, gender, age, and education contribute significantly to the prediction of the use of public buses in Kuwait. The characteristics of the typical Kuwaiti bus user were found to be: non-Kuwaiti resident, male, age 24–29 years, monthly income level 251–750 KD, and a primary or graduate degree (Masters or higher). Non-Kuwaiti residents use the public bus system 6.4 times more than Kuwaitis do, and men are 2.6 times more likely to use buses than women are. Unfortunately, the quality of the existing urban transit service in Kuwait is relatively poor, and as such, public transit in Kuwait is mainly used by the transit-captive, lower socio-economic level residents. Therefore the unreliability of the system paralyses the lives of a large number of service workers which further aggravates social inequity and congestion problems.

Although Kuwaitis appear unwilling to use the bus system (even following improvements) due to its generally negative social image, a large segment of society (especially young workers, low-income residents, and the more highly educated) could be influenced to use it with relatively minor changes (e.g. penalty bylaws, bus priority, driver training). Furthermore, unlike buses, the KMRT metro has a more positive social image, with 56% of non-users willing to use it. This high level of public support suggests that there would be no social barriers precluding the success of a metro project in Kuwait.

These results are preliminary and have significant limitations including a less than ideal completion rate (many survey responses were incomplete due to its length) and demographic differences between the sample respondents and the Kuwaiti population (likely due to summer vacation leave). Given these limitations, the results and inferences may include some bias; however, the sample provides a significant initial dataset and demonstrates that surveys can be an effective aid in decision-making. This preliminary dataset provides the Kuwaiti government with an important foundation for future work designed to produce sustainability-oriented solutions. It also provides valuable insights to international planners and engineers wishing to understand the Kuwaiti culture and provide value-added services in GCC and Middle Eastern contexts. We recommend that prior to finalising transportation and development plans in Kuwait (specifically Kuwait’s Fourth Master Plan), further research will be required along with more comprehensive survey efforts, which are likely to be an in-country effort, to confirm results and build on this initial research. Research on Kuwaiti land use patterns and further social factors within the transportation system has only just been initiated by the authors.

References

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  • Xia Y. Jun C. & Wei W. (2009) Travel characteristics and mode choice behavior of public transportation in China International conference on transportation engineering 2195–2200.

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  • Kuwait Chamber of Commerce & Industry

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If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Al-Nakib F. (2016) Kuwait transformed: A history of oil and urban life Stanford University Press Stanford California.

  • Al-Rukaibi F. AlKheder S. AlOtaibi N. & Almutairi M. (2019) Traffic crashes cost estimation in Kuwait International Journal of Crashworthiness. DOI:10.1080/13588265.2019.1567966.

  • Ashalatha R. Manju V. & Zacharia A. (2013) Mode Choice Behavior of Commuters in Thiruvananthapuram City Journal of Transportation Engineering 139(5) 494–502.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Beirao G. & Cabral J.A. (2007) Understanding attitudes towards public transport and private car: A qualitative study Transport Policy 14(6) 478–489.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Ben-Akiva M. & Morikawa T. (2012) Comparing ridership attraction of rail and bus Transport Policy 9(2) 107–116.

  • Bethlehem J. & Biffignandi S. (2012) Hand book of web surveys NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc. New Jersey.

  • Brutus S. Javadian R. & Panaccio A. (2017) Cycling car or public transit: a study of stress and mood upon arrival at work International Journal of Workplace Health Management 10(1) 13–24.

  • Bryman A. Bell E. & Teevan J. (2012) Social research methods Oxford University Press United Kingdom.

  • Buhrmester M. (2011) Amazon’s Mechanical Turk: A new source of inexpensive yet high-quality data? Perspectives on psychological science journal 6(1) 3–5.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Elmi A. & Al-Rifai N. (2011) Pollutant emissions from passenger cars in traffic congestion situation in the state of Kuwait: options and challenges Clean Technology environmental policy 14 619–624.

  • Friman M. Olsson L.E. Stahl M. Ettema D. & Garling T. (2017) Travel and residual emotional well-being Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour 49 159–176.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Ghabra. S. (1997) Kuwait and the Dynamics of Socio-Economic Change Middle East Journal 51(3) 358–372.

  • Grammenos F. & Lovegrove G. (2015) Remaking the City Street Grid: A Model for Urban and Suburban Development. Jefferson Mac-Farland & Company Inc. North Carolina.

  • Green G. Morris J. & Wade M. (2012) Health sustainability and student travel Nurse education in practice 12(1) 41–45.

  • Guo H. &Shi H. (2007) Study on Traveler’s Behavior Value in City Passenger Traffic System International Conference on Transportation Engineering 2007 564–569.

  • Hajeeh M. (2012) Analysis of traffic problems in Kuwait Recent Researches in Engineering Mechanics Urban & Naval Transportation and Tourism 85–90.

  • Hay I. (2010) Qualitative research methods in human geography Oxford University Press Canada.

  • Holden J. (2013) Assessing the reliability of the M5–120 on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Computers in human behavior journal 29(4) 1749–1754.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Hutchinson B. (1990) Spatial differentiation transport demands and transport model design in Kuwait Transport reviews 10(2) 91–110.

  • Idris A.O. Nurul Habib K.M. & Shalaby A. (2014) Dissecting the Role of Transit Service Attributes in Attracting Commuters: Lessons from a Comprehensive RP-SP Study on Commuting Mode Switching Behaviour in Toronto Journal of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) 2415(1) 107–117.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Idris A.O. Nurul Habib K.M. & Shalaby A. (2015) An Investigation on the Performances of Mode Shift Models in Transit Ridership Forecasting Journal of Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice 78 551–565.

  • Jamal E. (2015) Assessing public transportation options as a potential solution to the transportation challenges in the State of Kuwait unpublished master’s thesis University of British Columbia Kelowna BC Canada.

  • Jiang S. (2011) Household planning of transportation use International Journal of Business and Social Science 2(14) 61–70.

  • Kun J. 18.10.2012 Where the rich use public transport…. City Atlas. Available from: http://newyork.thecityatlas.org/lifestyle/developed-area-rich-public-transport-ways-city/ [accessed: 10.07.2019 ].

  • Kuwait Central Statistical Bureau (2017) Annual statistical bulletin of transport 2012 Available from:https://www.csb.gov.kw/Pages/Statistics_en?ID=41&ParentCatID=%2070 [accessed: 10.07.2019].

  • Litman T. (2017) Evaluating public transit as an energy conservation and emission reduction strategy Victoria Transport Policy Institute Canada.

  • Mohammad Z. (2014) The development plan did not fit him Al-Muhailbi: lack in the master plan. Al Qabas newspaper 11.

  • Nassar A. 26.12.2016 What is the crime rate at Metro and Tram Dubai? EREMNEWS. Available from: www.eremnews.com/news/arab-word/gcc/662724 [accessed: 10.07.2019].

  • Novaco R. W. Stokols D. Campbell J. & Stokols J. (1979) Transportation stress and community psychology American Journal of Community Psychology 7(4) 361–380.

  • Sarker M. Asce A. Morimoto A. Koike H. & Ono A. (2002) Impact of transportation infrastructure development on modal choice Journal of urban planning and development 128(2) 59–76.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Simons D. (2012) Common (mis) belief about memory: a replication and comparison of telephone and Mechanical Turk survey methods PLoS ONE journal 7(12) e51876.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • United Nation Development Program (2009) Implementation of the Comprehensive and Long Term National Traffic and Transport Sector Strategy for Kuwait Available from

  • http://www.undp.org/content/dam/kuwait/documents/project-documents/Human%20Development/General%20Directorate%20of%20Traffic%20Project%202009–2013%20SIGNED.pdf [accessed: 10.07.2019].

  • Wener R. & Evans G. (2011) Comparing stress of car and train commuters Transportation research part F: Traffic Psychology and Behavior 14(2) 111–116.

    • Crossref
    • Export Citation
  • Van H. Choocharukul K. & Fuijii S. (2014) The effect of attitudes toward cars and public transportation on behavioral intention in commuting mode choice: A comparison across six Asian countries Transportation Research: Part A Policy and Practice 69 36–44.

  • Xia Y. Jun C. & Wei W. (2009) Travel characteristics and mode choice behavior of public transportation in China International conference on transportation engineering 2195–2200.

  • Yun M. Liu J. & Yang X. (2011) Modeling on mode choice behavior based on trip chaining: A case study in Zhongahan City In Icctp 2011: Towards Sustainable Transportation Systems Reston VA.

  • Alittihad: www.alittihad.ae/details.php?id=1668&y=2009 [accessed: 10.07.2019].

  • IEA Statistics http://www.iea.org/stats/index.asp [accessed: 11.07.2019].

  • International Telecommunication Union: www.itu.int/net4/itu-d/icteye/CountryProfile.aspx [accessed: 10.07.2019].

  • Kuwait Chamber of Commerce & Industry

  • http://www.kuwaitchamber.org.kw/echamber/website/index.jsp?pageID=ws_cmsmenu.jsp&fromPublic=yes&languge=en&-rootMenu=291&menuID=291 [accessed: 10.07.2019].

  • Kuwait Online Government

  • http://www.e.gov.kw/sites/kgoenglish/portal/Pages/Visitors/About-Kuwait.aspx# [accessed: 10.07.2019].

  • Kuwait News Agency: http://www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx-?language=ar&id=1761721 [accessed: 10.07.2019].

  • SraayNews: https://twitter.com/SraayNews/status/276750824682713088/photo/1 [accessed: 10.07.2019].

  • World Bank http://data.worldbank.org [accessed: 11.07.2019].

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Journal information
Figures
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    Survey results: (a) Participants’ gender/nationality; (b) Participants’ income level; (c) geographical distribution; and (d) Breakdown of participants by age

    Source: Jamal 2015

  • View in gallery

    The barriers to using buses in Kuwait, even after the improvements cited by participants in the survey

    Source: Jamal 2015

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