An assessment of the effectiveness of infrastructure planning standards in a Saudi Arabian city

Testing the planned city approach: An assessment of the effectiveness of infrastructure planning standards in a Saudi Arabian city

Aldosary, Adel S

An essential element of the management ofa city is the planning for its future expansion. However, for cities there are only two approaches for that planning to take place. The first is the planned city approach (design and build for the expansion at the start of the project), and the second one is the growth by accretion approach (expand as you need). Therefore the design of the criteria and standards for infrastructure planning in any community becomes a very important issue. This paper presents the results of a study of the effectiveness of the planned city management approach in a Saudi city (Al-Doha). It examines the effectiveness of the infrastructure design criteria in meeting the future expansion within its planned city approach time frame. A questionnaire was designed and used to collect information on the satisfaction levels of the residents of the infrastructure in AI-Doha. 300 questionnaires were distributed to the residents of the selected area, and 256 of them were received back (853% response rate). The results of the study showed that the infrastructure design criteria used in AI-Doha were found to be appropriate, and could effectively be used by other cities as well, supporting the argument for the success of the planned city management approach in this part of the world.

1. Introduction

1.1 Background

In the Early seventies, the Saudi Government launched an ambitious infrastructure construction and development program for all Saudi cities (MOP, 1990, 1995, 2000). It also decided to build some new towns to absorb the anticipated urban population growth. The common patterns of urban growth are, growth by accretion, and planned cities approach (Lynch, 1982), (De Chiara, 1982), and (Catanese, 1979). The Saudi Government in an unprecedented move have decided to go for the second approach, appropriating billions of dollars to establish new infrastructure development plans across the country (MOP, 1990). That approach involved the planning, design, and building of the massive infrastructure and later managing that infrastructure (AI-Hathloul, 1995), (MOP, 2000). With so much money put into the construction industry in such a short period of time and concentrated in a limited geographical region, the impact was thought to be of interest to planners, designers, and managers all over the world (Aldosary, 1998). Therefore it is important to monitor the changes and developments in these Saudi cities and towns to evaluate the success of the chosen development strategy of the Saudi government (AI-Hathloul, 1985 and 1995). The results would also be useful for the urban planning and city management professionals (AI-Jamea, 1998). The objective of this study is to assess the effectiveness of the massive and fast infrastructure planning in a city in Saudi Arabia, through the planned city management approach.

1.2 Study Area

The study covers AL-Doha town in Dhahran, (MOMRA, 1979). AI-Doha town, which was established in the late seventies in the eastern region of the country to accommodate the high demand for housing created by the boom in the oil industry near by, is considered the largest single home ownership area. It is located about three kilometers northeast of Dhahran. The population in AI-Doha is about 14,154 (Saudi Aramco, 1998). The land on which the Home Ownership community development takes place is owned by Saudi Aramco, which carries out the physical planning and provides the infrastructure services including the road network and utilities. So far more than 37,000 houses have been built through this program, across Saudi Arabia (Saudi Aramco, 1998). The site is located in the tri-polar region containing AL-Khobar, Dhahran and Dammam cities (DMA: Dammam Metropolitan Area), east of Saudi Arabia. More than 2,359 lots cover the site with all the required facilities and utilities for a designed community. In addition to the public facilities such as schools and mosques, commercial areas exist in the site as well. The study is based on the results of a large-scale survey done in AI-Doha town. The sample size was 300 houses and 256 responded (85.3 % response rate). The survey probes the effectiveness of the infrastructure planning standards among other planning standards in the city, and evaluates their appropriateness to the current demographic structure after 30 years. The results showed the success of the government planning efforts in the planning, construction and management of the infrastructure. It is therefore a success story establishing the precedence that may be used elsewhere. Overall, it seems that the comprehensive planned city management approach is possible, provided that the necessary conditions for its success are met. It is also concluded that this successful application of the approach is transferable to other Saudi cities, and to other cities in the world in general, that share the same development conditions.

1.3 Objectives

The main objective of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of the design and planning of the infrastructure standards, which were used in AI-Doha (as a planned city management approach), so that it could be used to design better communities with less physical infrastructure problems after construction. Table I shows AI-Doha growth scenarios at different growth rates for some characteristics of the infrastructure and population. It is for a ten- year plan period. Base year = 1999, and Forecasted year = 2009.

2. Research Methodology

2.1 Methodology

A questionnaire was designed and used to collect information on the satisfaction levels of the residents of the infrastructure in AI-Doha. 300 questionnaires were distributed to the residents of the area, and 256 of them were received back (85.3% response rate). The research methodology is outlined in the following steps:

1. Survey the existing infrastructure current load in different categories through:

a) Indirect way (Secondary Information) which is official data obtained from governmental agencies and Saudi Aramco home ownership program office.

b) Direct way (Primary Information) which is actual data coming from survey and questionnaire.

2. Examine the design capacity of the infrastructure by Saudi Aramco.

3. Compare the results of the steps Number 1 and 2, i.e. the survey of existing data Vs design.

4. Establish the failure or success of the design criteria as a guideline for planning neighborhoods by Saudi Aramco home ownership standards.

5. Summarize the findings of the analysis.

2.2 Assumptions and Limitations of the study

The following present the major assumptions for the study area, which controlled the analysis pattern throughout the forecast period:

1. The plan period of the study is 10 years.

2. There will be no major changes in characteristics of the arrangement of the community pattern.

3. The social and economic factors will not be changing.

4. No major infrastructure investment is expected in the area.

5. No sudden changes in the demographic structure.

6. Assumed growth rate is 3.42%, as published in official statistics (MOP, 2000).

3. Data Collection and Analysis

3.1 Data collection

A questionnaire was developed to collect recent data to compare the design criteria of the infrastructure by Saudi Aramco vs. the actual in AI-Doha town. Also to get the satisfaction level with services provided. It has two main parts. In the first part of the questionnaire, information on the average number of residents in the unit is collected. Also the average number of vehicle in the unit is found out to see the availability of parking and circulation of Al- Doha town. The consumption per month for power, water, and number of telephone lines data was collected for comparison with design criteria. The second part consists of five questions with five attitudinal scale levels. This part is to measure the satisfaction level with services provided by municipality and other governmental agencies with respect to the infrastructure services that were designed for and provided by Saudi Aramco. Almost 258 responded out of 300 questionnaires distributed.

3.3 Comparison Between Actual & Design Capacity of Services

3.5 Future Demand on Infrastructure services.

It seems that the infrastructure facilities in AI-Doha town have the capacity to accommodate expected increase in demand due to the natural growth. However, other supporting solutions are recommended to meet this demand. These are basically management- oriented solutions that require some policy measures to control the demand on the utilities and services. The pricing of the services might also be considered as a policy option to alter the demand.

IV. Summary Conclusions and Recommendation

This study shows the great potential of using the planned city management approach, as demonstrated in the use of Saudi Aramco design standards for infrastructure planning of communities. The result of the study suggest that the infrastructure standards of Saudi organizations such as Dammam municipality can utilize the infrastructure design standards of Saudi Aramco to improve the planning of its communities. They can also be used to regulate the standards of communities developed by the private sector. From the analysis of the data collected and the calculations of the data gathered the results of this study could be implemented in other communities as well. In short, this study has evaluated AI-Doha town from infrastructure point of view. This evaluation can be applied to other communities to estimate the time remaining before the infrastructure of the community reaches its maximum carrying capacity, which can help to better plan for any future increase or change in population size, and avoid a crisis. This can assist in developing and improving any community either before or after development, and in preparing for future infrastructure expansion especially for the areas to be developed in the future.

Aramco which considered the population’s increase in growth rate, should be adopted across the country as a planned city management approach, which also gave a period of delay for future expansion of Al-Doha community (excess capacity factor). Some of the standards need to be overlooked again, while others need to be redesigned.



The author would like to thank Mr. Mohammad Bubshait for his assistance in the data collection, and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals for providing various facilities for conducting and publishing this research.


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Adel S. Aldosary

King Fahd University, Saudi Arabia

Copyright International Journal of Management Jun 2002

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