Jeddah hopes a high-design transit network by Norman Foster can transform the Saudi city into a transit capital
British design firm Foster + Partners recently inked a deal reportedly worth upwards of $80 million to master plan a city-wide public transportation network in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Currently, just 12 percent of the population resides within a 10-minute walk from a transportation hub, and just 1–2 percent of commuters use public transportation. But can high design lead to higher ridership? The new network will encourage pedestrianization with shaded streets in deference to the sweltering climate, while the ambitious transportation grid will introduce a 42-mile light rail metro system and public spaces at key locations below the elevated tracks. The grid will also build on the existing ferry, bus, and cycling networks, and this three-line network will operate from 22 stations. In addition, a sea transport network with 10 stations will be built along the Corniche to boost tourism. The overarching "architectural vision" by the British firm will address everything from station design to trains to branding, all the while with careful regard for the “high-density, compact urban model of Al Balad,” Foster + Partners wrote in a statement, referring to Jeddah's historic district. “Each station node will create a new neighborhood with a unique characteristic.” The Norman Foster–owned firm has set a goal for a 2020 completion date and 2022 opening. According to the Saudi Gazette, the new transportation network could reduce traffic by 30 percent within the next 20 years. Also on board for the project are architecture and engineering firm AECOM, which signed an 18-month contract in May 2014 to provide pre-program management consultancy services. Meanwhile, French railway engineering firm Systra was appointed in July to provide preliminary engineering designs.