A recent decision by GAM to split up its transportation directorate represents a step back for Amman and must be reversed.
In a surprise announcement in mid-August, GAM said it was splitting up its Transportation and Traffic Management Directorate into two separate units—a Public Transportation Directorate and a Traffic Directorate.
The decision came during the final session of GAM’s provisional committee ahead of the municipal elections. It also included the appointment of Abdulrahim Wreikat to head the new Public Transportation Directorate, leaving the top seat in the second directorate vacant.
GAM’s move is bad for Amman and goes against the basic principles of urban transportation planning.
The integrated Transportation and Traffic Management Directorate was established about nine years ago, shortly after a 2007 law had granted the municipality planning and regulatory authorities over public transport in Amman. The directorate was meant to bring together these newly granted roles together with the traffic engineering function that GAM had long held into one, integrated administrative unit. The directorate was placed under the Deputy City Manager for Public Works and housed three departments: Traffic Operations, Public Transportation Operations, and Transportation Planning.
The rationale behind this arrangement, and behind the law that had granted GAM the new responsibilities was simple; urban transportation should be planned and managed in an integrated, multimodal fashion. Addressing transportation challenges in a city requires the relevant authority to utilize a basket of solutions that includes traffic interventions, public transport, improving the pedestrian environment, and so on. Municipalities are best suited to hold the keys to these solutions given the interdependencies between transport and land use planning (the latter being another key function of municipalities).
In fact, I would argue that many of the problems we face today in Amman could be attributed to GAM’s more siloed approach prior to 2007. Back then, the city was building its way out of traffic congestion and providing more infrastructure for private cars, rather than working towards a more balanced transportation system.
This is not to say that things were completely transformed after 2007. Thinking and planning holistically takes time to seep into the mindset at GAM. Having an organizational structure that supports that shift is critical.
The recent decision, which can only be explained in the context of advancing personal interests, sets us back and makes it more difficult for the city to effectively address its transportation challenges. It must be reversed.
* Hazem Zureiqat is a transport consultant at Engicon, a multidisciplinary engineering consulting firm based in Amman, and a founding member of Ma’an Nasel, a citizen-led public transport advocacy group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on