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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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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.
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DOI: 10.2478/udi-2019-0017
How to cite: Jamal, E., Scott, D., Idris, A. & Lovegrove, G. (2019) 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, Urban Development Issues, vol. 63, pp. 65–76.
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
is paper reports on the social, cultural, and demographic factors aecting
Kuwaiti commuters. e objectives were to 1) investigate the awareness of
Kuwaitis of transportation problems, 2) examine the perceptions of Kuwaitis
of daily trac congestion and how it aects 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
ve hundred transportation system users was obtained. e primary ndings
showed signicant 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 trac con-
gestion, ndings 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 trans-
portation problems and future transportation projects. e results of this
study ll a gap in the knowledge of the socioeconomic and cultural factors
that inuence the success of sustainable public transportation solutions to the
trac challenges found in Kuwait. is knowledge is also crucial to foreign
consultants working on planning and transportation projects in the region.
It is recommended that ocials 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 eective and sustainable transportation demand
management policies in support of UN Sustainable Development Goals that
Kuwait has signed up to pursue.
submitted: February 2019
reviewed: May 2019
accepted: July 2019
© 2019 Esraa Jamal, David Scott, Ahmed Idris & Gordon Lovegrove. is is an open access
article licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs
License ( by-nc-nd/3.0/).
#transportation planning
#sustainable transport
#public transportation
#public transit
#socio-cultural factors
#public survey
Esraa Jamal
Ph.D. Candidate, e University of
British Columbia
David Scott
Associate Professor, e University
of British Columbia
Ahmed Idris
Ahmed Idris
Associate Professor,
Arab Academy for Science
Gordon Lovegrove*
Associate Professor, e University
of British Columbia
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Esraa Jamal, David Scott, Ahmed Idris, Gordon Lovegrove
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
Kuwait is one of the fastest growing developing countries
in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region and is
undergoing chal lenging transportation issues.  is rapid
growth is expected to continue because of government
initiatives aimed at transforming Kuwait into a global -
nancial a nd commercial investment hub (Elmi & Al-Rifai
). Kuwait’s rapid growth has already increased the
pressure on the existing transportation system. Trac
congestion has risen to unacceptable levels, leading to
degradation in both quality of life and the environment.
erefore, there is a need for appropriate policies, plans,
and projects to provide a safe, aordable, and ecient
transportation system to at tain sustainable environmen-
tal development objectives.
Kuwait has used, and continues to use, foreign con-
sulting companies to prepare its master plans. ose
external consultants have frequently recommended
solutions and plans from their home countries that
might be successful for a population with entirely dif-
ferent characteristics than Kuwait (Hutchinson ).
Besides, current studies focus on increasing road capaci-
ty (United Nation Development Program ), 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 driv-
ing. Reduced Vehicle-Km Travelled (VKT) can be ac-
complished by a systematic shi from private vehicles to
high quality, convenient public transportation (Litman
) while at the same time supporting other active
transportation modes such as bicycle and pedestrian
infrastructure. Meanwhile, improved public transpor-
tation has the potential to reduce not only congestion
in Kuwait, but also air pollution, health risks, economic
burdens (Mohammad ), all of which signicantly
impact Kuwaitis’ quality-of-life.
When reviewing related literature and reports for
Kuwait, little in the way of public participation or cul-
tural factors have been found. e research providing
the basis for this paper is intended to ll the knowledge
gap surrounding the socioeconomic aspects for a com-
prehensive and sustainable solution, including a better
understanding of public perceptions, cu lture, and status
surrounding the transportation system in Kuwait, and
a better understanding of the motivating factors behind
users’ choices. is study provides a primary database,
which will help the Kuwaiti decision makers and foreign
consultants in implementing more ecient and eect ive
public transportation solutions. e main objective to
investigate is the attitude of Kuwaiti residents towards
using public buses. e paper analyzed the Kuwaitis’
awareness of transportation problems and examined t he
Kuwaitis’ perceptions of daily trac congestion and how
it aects them emotionally a nd physically, in addition to
the main objective.
Study Area
Kuwait has experienced signicant road safety prob-
lems. In , the total number of crashes was ,
with  persons killed, and , persons injured
(Kuwait Central Statistical Bureau ). In general, the
number of fatalities related to road crashes is around
per , in Kuwait; whereas the global rate is
per , (Hajeeh ). is 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 (specically goal num-
ber : make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustaina-
ble). Al-Rukaibi et al. () 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 con
gestion (SraayNews). The results showed longer travel
times during congestion ranging from % to %
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 emotion-
ally 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. ), 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 ).
Moreover, the Office for National Statistics in the UK
revealed a linear relationship between time of com-
mute and negative feelings such as stress and wellness
(Friman et al. ).
In Kuwait, the largest growt h in carbon dioxide (CO
emissions has come from power generation and road
transportation, with the latter producing one-third of its
. metric tons (MT) per capita (IEA Statistics; Worl d
Bank). erefore, a key opportunity for mitigating these
emissions is to reduce the amount of driving (vehicle-km
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Esraa Jamal, David Scott, Ahmed Idris, Gordon Lovegrove
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
travelled, VKT). Reduced VKT can be accomplished by
a systematic shi from private vehicles to high quality,
convenient public transportation (Litman ). is
is most oen supported by retrotting existing and/
or building new communities to provide compact,
coordinated, and connected land use patterns, oen
termed SMARTer Growth Neighborhoods (Grammenos
& Lovegrove ). Unfortunately, in Kuwait, the present
strategy in response to trac 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-mak ing. is paper reports on
public attitudes towards transportation choices; resea rch
on Kuwaiti land use patterns has only just been initiated.
Factors that affect travellers’ decisions on mode
Travellers’ needs and decisions are aected by rapidly
changing societal and lifest yle patterns (Beirao & Cabral
; Van, Choocharukul & Fuijii ). erefore, un-
derstanding individuals’ behaviour related to mode
choice is one of the key elements for planning a ny trans-
portation system (Jiang ). In this section, the factors
that aect users’ decisions on transportation modes are
Demographic factors (Xia, Jun & Wei ; Yun, Liu
& Yang ): household size, age, gender, education
level, race, income level, worker status, vehicle own-
ership, and availability of a driving licence.
Socio-physiological factors: trip purpose (Guo & Shi
), an individual’s habits regarding using a cer-
tain mode (Van, Choocharukul & Fuijii ; Idris
et al. ), past experiences, attitudes and person-
ality traits, social acceptance, an individual’s emo
tional feelings, and benets to the system user (Van,
Choocharukul & Fuijii ).
Character istics of the environment and land use: tran-
sit-oriented development, vehicle-oriented develop-
ment, SMARTer Growth development, mixed-used
compact city, rural area, urban area, suburban sprawl,
and the size of the area (Sarker et al. ).
Level-of-service transit attributes: mode of transpor-
tation, dista nce to destination, travel cost, travel time
(Sarker et al. ), the number of stops (Mohammad
), travel speed, comfort, safety (Guo & Shi ),
crowding level, reliability, and transit technology
(Idris, Nurul Habib & Shalaby ).
Demographic and socio-economic factors in Kuwait
With the period of rapid economic development experi-
enced aer the discovery of oil in commercial quantities,
and the approval of the rst 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 grow-
ing transient, migrant, non-Kuwaiti population (Ghabra
). is population growth and economic develop-
ment has been accompanied by a growth in private ve-
hicle ownership (Elmi & Al-Rifai ). e number of
vehicles is increasing on roads built in the s, which
were designed for a much smaller population. e roads
were designed to accommodate , cars, and there
have been few signicant increases in their capacity. In
 the car number reached two million vehicles (i.e.,
about three times greater than the design capacity) with
a yearly increase of , cars (Kuwait News Agency).
is rapid increase in population is aecting the trans-
portation system, not only due to the prevalence of con-
gestion but also as a result of the users’ behavioural pat-
terns. Users’ attitudes and their behavioural and travel
patterns are also changing with essential dierences,
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
Although Kuwait has had a public bus system since ,
people continue to rely heavily on their privately owned
vehicles for various reasons, leaving the bus eet with
limited users (United Nation Development Program
). ere has not been any previous research provid-
ing estimates of bus use by Kuwaitis. According to Basel
Al-Loughani (), the author of ‘Car history in Kuwa it’,
high private vehicle ownership in Kuwaiti culture is his-
torical, pre-dating the public bus service by many decades
(Personal communication, May , ). Another factor
appears to be the built form and pattern of community
development in Kuwait, which encourage car use due
to ) longer travel distances that cannot be conveniently
reached by walking, cycling or public transit; ) lack of
dedicated high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to re-
duce transit travel time; and ) poor accessibility to bus
stops. Dr Farah Al-Nakib (), divide urbanization
in Kuwait into two major eras; pre-oil period and aer
oil period. Before the discovery of oil, the country was
a ‘cosmopolitan place’ characterized by low population
and spatial proximity of urban spaces t hat made the city
diverse, accessible, and friendly; ‘it was closer to a shared
public space’. With the onset of oil, Al-Nakib described
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Esraa Jamal, David Scott, Ahmed Idris, Gordon Lovegrove
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
urban life in Kuwait as very dierent and divided into
zones stating that:
‘People go to work in the city centre, spend their lei-
sure time along the coast, shop in the new commer-
cial district, and then they go to rest in their homes
in the suburbs, and they travel between these spaces
in private cars.’
e Kuwait Public Transport Company (KPTC)
was the exclusive provider of transit services for buses
and limited ferry trips to some islands until  when
aprivate company (City Bus) started its services (Kuwait
Online Government). In , another private compa-
ny named Kuwait Gulf Link started operation (Kuwait
Online Government). In , the Kuwait Chamber of
Commerce and Industry (KCCI) participated in a meet-
ing organised by the Ministry of Interior to discuss
adra of the comprehensive national strategy for trac
in Kuwait. Following the meeting, a memorandum pre-
pared by the KCCI included obser vations about the dra
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 compa-
nies in the country. Kuwait has allowed the two private
companies along with the ocial 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 trac 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 trac and
therefore provide an inecient 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 in-
dicated the need for a better public transit system than
buses. e 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 underta ke this research, several surveys were designed
to better understand the underlying cultural and so-
cio-economic factors related to t ransportation habits , at-
titudes, a nd preferences that motivate residents. e 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. erefore, the
most appropriate research method was a web-based ques-
tionnaire to draw together the perceptions of public trans-
portation from various segments of the resident popula-
tion (Hay ; Bryman, Bell & Teevan ). e main
advantages of using a web-based questionnaire include
the abilit y to cover a large sample size, absence of eects of
the interv iewer on the interviewee, less missing data, pro-
tection of privacy, time ecient, and relatively low cost.
e main disadvantages of using a web-based ques-
tionnaire include: ) the population of Internet users is
not identied or registered, so it is not an easy process
to select a fully representative sample; and, ) the pop-
ulation of non-Internet users is excluded and missed in
the sampling (Bethlehem & Bignandi ). In Kuwait,
the fact that the Internet and smartphones are widely
used (.% of the population in Kuwait use the Internet
(International Telecommunication Union), minimises the
risk of under-representing the non-Internet user popu-
lation. In addition, there is the possibility of the unin-
tentional exclusion of individuals with a low income and
the elderly, who might not be familiar with the technol-
ogy. 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 Ama zon in which ‘workers’ complete online jobs post-
ed by ‘requesters’ for monetary rewards (Simons :).
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
; Simons ; Holden ), with slightly higher data
quality in the MTurk samples when compared with other
distribution methods. Moreover, these studies suggested
that MTurk appears capable of encouragi ng low-income
residents to participate in research and minimise un-
intentional exclusion. Second, according to the Kuwait
Central Statistical Bureau (), the percentage of indi-
viduals aged + with access to a personal computer and
Internet network is %, signicantly assuag ing concerns
about the exclusion of the elderly.
e nal distribution method used was a combina-
tion of the MTurk tool and a snowballing technique (i.e.,
asampling technique that recruits participants through
current participants oen used when facing diculties
reaching the target population). Condentiality is an is-
sue when sending questionnaires through regular mail,
phone, or emails due to its association with individual
identication. 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 le to future research-
ers to conduct a more comprehensive national public
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Esraa Jamal, David Scott, Ahmed Idris, Gordon Lovegrove
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
transportation survey locally to conrm the
results of this initial research prior to nal-
ising transportation and development plans
in Kuwait.
e survey started with a consent letter fol-
lowed by questions to qualify participants (age
and location). e rst section explored and
ranked awareness of transportation problems.
e second section gathered travel data and
commuting trips. e third section investigat-
ed part icipants’ feelings about daily congest ion
during commuting and non-commuting trips.
Questions in t he fourth section were in a hypo-
thetical form to indicate the stated preference
mode and situation for travellers. As mentioned
earlier, each participant is identied by a unique
ID. In addition, an Internet Protocol address
was accompanied with the ID to restrict mul-
tiple participation. Note that the authors’ uni-
versity ethics review committee approved the
research protocol used for this study.
Statistical analysis
e preliminary analysis was mainly descrip-
tive, followed by advanced statistical analyses
to test the research hypotheses. e standard
statistical methodology of weight adjustment
recommended by Bethlehem and Bignandi
(International Telecommunication Union) was
also applied. e data collected consists of cat-
egorical 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. e hypothesis tests were fol-
lowed by Phi and Cramer’s V tests to deter-
mine the strength of association between the
variables measured (Bryman, Bell & Teevan
) with a % level of condence. P-values
of less than . were considered statistically
Applying this methodology, an online survey
of the Kuwait communit y was posted between
July , , and September , , resulting
in  responses with  (.%) fully com-
pleted questionnaires. e survey consisted of
questions, and % of them were completed
by all  respondents. To avoid low comple-
tion rates in the future, the questionnaire de-
sign would be shorter and simpler.
0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30%
Al Ahmadi
Al Asimah
Al Jahra
Al Kabeer
0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40%
Above 70
0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25%
More than
250 or less
Monthly incmoe in KD
Figure 1
Survey results:
(a) Participants’
gender/nationalit y;
(b) Participants’
income level;
(c) geographical
distribution; and
(d) Breakdown of
participants by age
Source: Jamal 2015
(a) (b)
(c) (d)
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Esraa Jamal, David Scott, Ahmed Idris, Gordon Lovegrove
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
Most respondents, %, were Kuwaiti, an-
other % non-Kuwaiti, and the remaining
% stateless. A total of % of respondents
were female, with % holding undergradu-
ate degrees (Bachelor) and % holding grad-
uate degrees (Master’s or higher). e typi-
cal respondent age range was  to  years
old. High school respondents made up %,
Middle school % and Elementary % only.
More than half of the respondents are working
in the government sector followed by % in
the private sector, % self-employed, % stu-
dents and % unemployed. e most common
family income level category was –,
KD per month. e geographic distribution
of home address within the six governorates
ranged from % in Al Jahrah to a peak of %
in Hawali. Also, the percentages of non-Ku-
waiti respondents related to the number of
years they have been residents are % for one
to ve years, % for less than a year and more
than  years, % for – years and % for
– years (Fig. .).
e dominant work trip mode us ed in Kuwait
is driving private cars at .%. Combined with
an additional .% of trips made by cars as
passengers, a total of .% 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 .%. Females are less likely to use
public transit, walk or cycle options, and show
some interest in telecommuting.
Table  shows the dierences revealed be-
tween the study population and the sample.
While most socio-economic segments were
within an acceptable margin (i.e., < % dif-
ference), a more signicant dierence 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 t he
sample to better match the socio-demograph-
ics of the population (i.e. weight = proportion
of the population that the segment compris-
es/proportion of the sample that the segment
comprises). In any case, our sample is gener-
ally representative of the population of Kuwait
present during the survey time in the summer
of . Surveying during the su mmertime was
our greatest limitation since .% of the pop-
ulation are expatriates who usually travel home
at that time. Table  provides a comprehensive
breakdown of commuting choice in Kuwait
in relation to nationality and gender. Analysis
of the research hypothesis is summarised in
Tab le .
e analysis suggests signicant results in
support of the research hypotheses. Only the
rst hypothesis was not supported. Moreover,
perceptions of the daily commute vary by na-
tionalit y 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. e
Table 1
Comparison between respond-
ents and the study population
Source: Jamal 2015
KUWAITI 39.1 77.94
NONKUWAITI 60.6 21.15
FEMALE 53.37 62.83
MALE 46.62 37.15
BUS % WALK % BIKE % MOTOR
KUWAITI 54.3 17.5 2.1 0 1.5 0.3 2.1 77.95
MALE 18.7 5.7 1.8 0 0.9 0.3 0 27.4
FEMALE 35.6 11.7 0.3 0 0.6 0 2.1 50.4
KUWAITI 8.7 4.8 3.3 0.3 3.3 1.2 0.3 22
MALE 3.6 1.5 1.5 0.3 1.8 0.6 0.3 9.6
FEMALE 5.1 3.3 1.8 0 1.5 0.6% 0 12.3
TOTAL 63.1 22.3 5.4 0.3 4.8 1.5 2.4 100
Table 2
Commuting trip
mode split by
nationality and
Source: Jamal 2015
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Esraa Jamal, David Scott, Ahmed Idris, Gordon Lovegrove
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
signica nt demographic factors are nationality,
gender, income level, education level, and age.
Although non-Kuwaitis use the bus more tha n
Kuwaitis, their usage signicantly decreases
over time; however, they appear to retain a la-
tent desire to use it if improved. Additionally,
having used public transport abroad has a
positive inuence on Kuwaiti residents’ use of
Kuwaiti buses; t hose that have used them else-
where are more open to using them in Kuwait.
e only non-signicant nding in this study
suggests that nationality does not inuence
the level of public awareness of transportation
Many socioeconomic factors revea led a signif-
icant association with the use of public trans-
port buses. e characteristics of the typical
Kuwaiti bus traveller were found to be non-Ku-
waiti resident, male, age – years, monthly
income between  and  KD, and a grad-
uate degree (Masters or higher). Except for the
group with hig her degrees, all other cha racter-
istics are predictable in a country like Kuwait,
where the existing public bus system is very in-
ecient and unreliable. If we link the high ed-
ucational 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 auent residents frequently use
public transit (Kun ). is pattern may re-
late to the value they assign to travel time (i.e.
minimising wasted time, ma ximising produc-
tivity while on the transit), or their desire to
‘do the right thing’ (i.e., minimise pollution
and GHG emissions). Another interpretation
of this obser vation could be that these are high-
ly-educated expatriates who are new to Kuwait
and looking for job opport unities while having
limited income. ese traveller characteristics
must be explored in future research as a possi-
ble public transit marketing and communica-
tions strategy to promote the use of improved
transit and metro serv ices. e rate of usage of
public buses by non-Kuwaitis is . times hig h-
er than that of Kuwaitis; and males use public
buses . 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 ex-
plaining the trend for Kuwaitis to commute
via private cars and for non-Kuwaitis to also
shi to drive cars.
ese trends in private car use a nd the char-
acteristics of bus users in Kuwait are consistent
with those found by researchers in ot her devel-
oping countries such as India (in gender, age,
income and education) and China (in income
Table 3
e statistical tests
on the results
Source: Jamal 2015
Hypothesis Results Signicance
1 Awareness of future transportation projects (i.e.,
KMRT) difference between Kuwaitis & non-Kuwaitis?
P = 0.130
Not signicant
No difference in the awareness level between the
two populations, less than half of the participants
are familiar with the project.
2 Does the use of public transportation abroad, affect
peoples’ use of Public Transit in Kuwait?
P = 0.043
International use of public transportation does
affect the use of local buses positively.
3 Are perceptions of their daily commute travel
time in Kuwait different between Kuwaitis & non-
P = 0.005
Kuwaitis perceive commuting from two opposing
views; one as a waste of time, and the second as
valuable time.
4 Are people’s perceptions of their daily commute in
Kuwait different between male & female?
P < 0.001
Male commuters are more stressed than females.
5 Does the use of public transit differ between
Kuwaitis & non-Kuwaitis?
P < 0.05
More non-Kuwaitis use buses than Kuwaitis
6 Does the use of public transit differ between males
and females?
P = 0.001
More males use buses than females
7 Does the use of public transit differ between
different income levels?
P < 0.01
Income level: 1,501 - 3,000 KD does not use buses.
Income level: 251 - 750 KD uses buses.
8 Does the use of public transit differ between
different education levels?
P < 0.001
The bus users’ education level is mostly Master’s
degree & higher.
Non-bus users mostly have only a Bachelor’s
9 Does the use of public transit differ between
different age categories?
P < 0.01
Individuals in the age category 24–29 use the bus
system the most.
10 Is the use of public transit affected by the number
of years that non-Kuwaiti participants have been
living in Kuwait?
P < 0.001
Non-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.
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Esraa Jamal, David Scott, Ahmed Idris, Gordon Lovegrove
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
and education) (Xia, Jun & Wei ; Ashalatha, Manju
& Zacharia ). However, the survey results in Kuwait
also suggest that a large segment of the population (es-
pecial ly young workers, low-income residents, and more
highly educated classes) could be inuenced 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, stu-
dents). 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 oer
optimism that users remain rational about their trans-
portation decisions, and therefore can be inuenced by
system improvements.
As far as the perceptions of daily trac conges-
tion are concerned, commuters develop more negative
feelings, such as exhaustion and stress, especially in
males. G. Green, J. Morris & M. Wada () identied
an adverse eect of long travel times on family nances,
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 ). Although private cars users are neg-
ative, 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 edu-
cation, 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 commut-
ers (Wener & Evans ).
Other factors not previously explored that showed a
signicant association with the likelihood of using loca l
public buses are: ) using public transportation abroad,
and ) the number of years that non-Kuwaiti residents
have been living in Kuwait. First, exposure to a posi-
tive 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 ve
years were willing to use the system. Second, the longer
(+ years) a non-Kuwaiti stays in Kuwait, the less w illing
they become to use public buses; over time non-Kuwaiti
residents shi to commuting via private cars due to the
ineciency of the bus service. ese 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 , the number of
passengers from Kuwait International Air port exceeded
ve mill ion passengers travell ing to dierent destinations
around the world (Kuwait Central Statistical Bureau
), with non-Kuwaiti residents accounting for %
of that total.  is international travel holds the potential
to foster a signica nt latent demand for any future Kuwait
metro project, given Kuwaitis’ exposu re to public transit
abroad. Moreover, to attract Kuwaiti travellers, future
public transportation projects should also consider pro-
viding a higher-quality bus service and passenger rail.
is would lead to positive thoughts and experiences
of public transportation, and promote resident loyalty
towards public transit.
e non-signicant factors found in this study are
related to nationality and awareness of transportation
problems. ese non-signicant results could be related
to their equal importance for both populations. e re-
spondents (Kuwaiti citizens and non-Kuwaiti residents)
both ranked ‘transportation and congestion’ fourth in
importance among local issues that need government
attention, with % believing that ‘congestion’ is the top
transportation problem, followed by ‘an inadequate pub-
lic transit system’. is 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, % of respondents indicat-
ed that the rst barrier to using the bus system, even
aer improvements, is social acceptance (Fig. . 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 ). e results from this study
support H.Van, K. Choocharukul & S. Fuijii ()
study as measured through public opinion surveys on
the impact of social image on bus use versus car use in
six dierent Asian countries. eir results conrm that
younger generation commuters (mainly university stu-
dents) 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 Kuwa it Metro
Rail Transit (KMRT) metro project based on the % of
survey respondents that would consider using it in the
future.  is could, however, possibly be due to its relative
novelty. Moreover, M.Ben-Akiva & T. Morikawa ()
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 % 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.
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Esraa Jamal, David Scott, Ahmed Idris, Gordon Lovegrove
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
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 percep-
tions and use public transit. Consequently, the success
of public transit improvements in Kuwait will depend
signicantly on service quality, route convenience, and
a positive image.
Another barrier to current system usage, ranking
third (% of respondents) is personal security while on
board. One local example of how to overcome this bar-
rier 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  to  KD. e 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 transporta-
tion network, including metro, trams, buses, a nd ferries,
has had a zero crime rate recorded during the past eight
years (Nassar ).
Finally, while much ca n be made of the results, they do
have certain limitations. First, there was a lack of back-
ground data and literature related to the transportation
situation in Kuwait, a nd in some cases, conicting infor-
mation between sources. Second, in the online survey,
there were more than ve hundred and eighty responses,
and only three hundred and thirty-one questionnaires
were completed (the completion rate is .%). Although
the sample size is still signi cant, and the completion rate
is relatively high (compared to other transportation stud-
ies, where the completion rate is typically below %),
this aected the analysis process on questions with long
lists of options. e 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 aect
the accuracy of the responses, and aborting the survey
aects 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 ). Launching the survey during sum-
mer 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 consid-
ered preliminary and reects the importance of having a
future national transportation survey in Kuwait.
Policy analysis
A more sustainable and ecient transportation sys-
tem in Kuwait will require improved transit and land
use planning that carefully addresses cultural factors.
M.Hajeeh () analysed trac problems in Kuwait
using an Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) and found
that more ecient trac monitoring systems, encour-
aging greater use of public transportation, and stricter
enforcement of trac rules and regulations will contrib-
ute to minimising tra c problems, especial ly in reducing
fatalities and injuries. To this end, we recommend the
First, the history of the outcomes observed following
the adoption of each Kuwait Master Plan provides lessons
for transportation planners and ocials to encourage
them to set clear, precise, adaptive and ongoing long-term
goals. ese goa ls must include a theory for a sustainable
environment, population growth, and improved pub-
lic 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
Figure 2
e barriers to
using buses in Ku-
wait, even aer the
improvements cited
by participants in
the sur vey
Source: Jamal 2015
Lack of information on how to use it
Gender segregation
Motion sickness
Family size
Family decision/opinion
Availability of chauffeur
System is not trusted
Attachment to car
No need for it
Availability of the car
Socially unacceptable
3% 3% 2% 1%
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Esraa Jamal, David Scott, Ahmed Idris, Gordon Lovegrove
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
regard to transportation is a key factor in successful
planning for public transportation in Kuwait. e re-
sults 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. Bar riers
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.
ird, participants in the online survey highlighted
the currently deteriorating condition of public buses in
Kuwait. e small number and poor condition of public
buses, and inadequately trained drivers need to be ad-
dressed. Results also indicate that improving the quali-
ty 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 per-
sonal security on buses such as violence and abuse. More
female users will be urged to use the system if personal
securit y matters are addressed. For example, like Dubai,
Kuwait should authorise bus drivers and onboard secu-
rity ocers to issue tickets for violations, and encourage
Kuwaitis to try travelling by bus.
Finally, to reduce the frequency and severity of trac
collisions, injuries, and congestion, a passenger rail met-
ro is needed as soon as possible. e vast majority (%)
of respondents support the metro project as the solution
to the transportation problems in Kuwait city and its sur-
rounding urban area. Furthermore, % of respondents
have stated that they would use the metro on a regular
basis for both commuti ng and non-commuting pur poses.
is study contributes critical initial research to aid un-
derstandi ng of the signicant cultural and socioeconom-
ic factors that inuence choice of travel mode in Kuwait.
It has begun to  ll in knowledge gaps regarding public at-
titudes 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 signicantly to the prediction of the use of
public buses in Kuwait. e cha racteristics of the typical
Kuwaiti bus user were found to be: non-Kuwaiti resident,
male, age – years, monthly income level –
KD, and a primary or graduate degree (Masters or high-
er). Non-Kuwaiti residents use the public bus system .
times more tha n Kuwaitis do, and men are . 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. erefore the unreliability of the system
paralyses the lives of a large number of service workers
which fur ther aggravates social inequity a nd congestion
Although Kuwaitis appear unwilling to use the bus
system (even following improvements) due to its gen-
erally negative social image, a large segment of society
(especially young workers, low-income residents, and
the more highly educated) could be inuenced to use it
with relatively minor changes (e.g. penalty bylaws, bus
priority, driver training). Fur thermore, unlike buses, the
KMRT metro has a more positive social image, with %
of non-users willing to use it. is high level of public
support suggests that there would be no social barriers
precluding the success of a metro project in Kuwait.
ese results a re prelimina ry and have signicant lim-
itations including a less than idea l completion rate (many
survey responses were incomplete due to its length) and
demographic dierences between the sample respond-
ents 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 signicant initial dataset and demonstrates
that surveys can be an eective aid in decision-making.
is preliminary dataset provides the Kuwaiti govern-
ment with an important foundation for future work de-
signed to produce sustainability-oriented solutions. It
also provides va luable insights to international planners
and engineers w ishing to understand the Kuwaiti culture
and provide value-added services in GCC and Middle
Eastern contexts. We recommend that prior to nalising
transportation and development plans in Kuwait (spe-
cically Kuwait’s Fourth Master Plan), further research
will be required along with more comprehensive survey
eorts, which are likely to be an in-country eort, to con-
rm 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 in-
itiated by the authors.
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... De plus, il est essentiel de savoir le taux de fidélité des passagers aux transports publics, car c'est un facteur majeur pour un système de transport durable [123]. D'autre part, le comportement de la population par rapport au choix modal est l'un des éléments principaux de la planification des systèmes de transport [124,125]. Alors, il est important de connaitre les différents facteurs qui influent sur leurs choix pour le mode de transport préféré [126,127,128]. Selon plusieurs études faites précédemment, la ponctualité, le prix et l'accessibilité sont les indicateurs prédominants qui influent sur la satisfaction des passagers, ainsi sur leurs choix du mode de transport [129,130,131,132]. ...
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