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Urban Areas Accessibility in Saudi Arabia Proposal

Description of Proposed Research

Accessibility is a term designating the proximity of one place to another, which indicates whether it is easy for citizens to reach their destination using the available transportation system (Alhowaish 2015). This factor plays a crucial role in the future development of the spatial organization since it directly determines how public facilities are going to be located to increase their usability to maximum (Youssef, Al-Kathery & Pradhan 2015). If amenities are made accessible, they enhance social interaction and cohesion as more people can use them (El-Awady 2016).

Since Saudi Arabia is a developing state, the old traditional settlements and regions are found side by side with modern pieces of infrastructure. That is why it is important to ensure that these facilities will be accessible to the intended audience (El-Awady 2016). This aligns with Saudi Vision 2030–a plan to free the country from its heavy reliance on oil and to diversify the economy. These goals can be achieved only through the development of the public sector, including infrastructure, tourism, and recreation.

The accessibility of public facilities can be analyzed using GIS technology. The analysis is based on the measurement of the distance between the indicated areas and citizens they are intended to serve (Ishimatsu et al. 2017).

The scope of the research at hand is rather broad since it will cover the patterns of accessibility in the whole country and make generalizations as per the perspectives of the future growth, population distribution, housing shortage, environmental problems, and other related factors in Saudi Arabia. Also, it is expected that the research will come out with an adequate evaluation of the centroid urban form expansion. This means that the results of the study will help develop an alternative, more effective model of the urban infrastructure in Saudi Arabia that would take into account all the above-mentioned issues. The current system is challenged with limited agricultural land, sea-level rise, loss of wildlife habitat (owing to urbanization processes), and the inability to meet the housing needs of the growing population (Alhowaish 2015). The specific aspect that the study will concentrate upon is the relationship between geographical and social factors as per their impact on accessibility. Consequently, it will make it possible to elaborate on a region-specific plan based upon the distribution of the influence of these two factors. The research thereby is going to bridge the existing literature gap as natural and social factors were studied in separation, which did not allow shaping a holistic picture.

The key research question that the study aims to answer is: “Can we eliminate accessibility problems of the urban sector development when studying the current situation and measuring the vision of 2030 for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia based on geographic information systems and public participation?” Other questions are:

  • How can the geographical characteristics of the region (mountainous area and slopes causing landslides) affect the mobility of the population as per the access to public facilities?
  • How to improve the case study based on suggestions of citizens based on social surveys?

Correspondingly, the objectives include:

  1. To identify and assess the current situation as per accessibility in Saudi Arabia.
  2. To find out whether geographic information science (applied through the use of GIS systems) can provide a more detailed picture of the existing problems.
  3. To devise ways to meet accessibility challenges based on the data obtained on the current situation.
  4. To estimate the impact of slopes on the mobility of the population and to determine whether they pose a significant threat to accessibility.
  5. To propose how to use suggestions of citizens participating in the study to improve the situation and what different public contribution makes for the analysis.

As far as research deliverables are concerned, they are:

  1. To make expansion policies of the country effective.
  2. To ensure that all the required facilities are accessible to the population.
  3. To eliminate threats posed by slopes.
  4. To successfully deal with traffic jams, congestion, and poor air quality.
  5. To contribute to the existing bulk of knowledge on the topic.

Background and Rationale

Saudi Arabia is a rapidly developing country, the government of which is deeply concerned with the welfare of the population as well as their lifestyle, economic status, and environmental issues that affect their quality of life. That is why the problem of accessibility is among the most pressing ones (Alsultan & Rahman 2015). Yet, at the same time, the public opinion and suggestions on the topic are rarely taken into consideration. Moreover, the increase in traffic density has raised mobility problems aggravated by slopes (Youssef et al. 2015).

Thus, the importance of the study at hand is supported by the fact that there are urgent problems related to urban growth in Saudi Arabia that must be resolved to ensure that the country achieves its objectives for 2030. Better accessibility to public amenities will mean that people and their activities will be distributed in the best possible way, making it affordable for each citizen to improve his/her living conditions (Rahman 2016). Community welfare is the major expectation that this study is trying to achieve.

It is also expected that some industries will benefit from the results of the research. According to the theory of natural movement, public spaces are more frequently visited when they are properly distributed in the area. When they are situated in more legible places, people are likely to change their moving patterns to attend them more often (Abdalla & Alharbi 2017).

The study intends to analyze in what regions the major everyday activities of the population are concentrated, how people interact with one another, and what limitations they face as per their traveling and social behavior. GIS makes it possible to study these factors in a new way as it brings visualization to an unprecedented level and provides information (that could not be obtained before) using a series of spatial indicators such as density, proximity, and accessibility.

Since the current body of knowledge lacks this information, the unique contribution of the present study is that it will clarify accessibility issues concerning land use and development, transportation, geographic obstacles to mobility, and distribution patterns of public conveniences (Jamali & Rahman 2016).

Finally, the study will also touch upon the important obstacle to accessibility, mobility, and urbanization–the geographic peculiarity of the region. Namely, it will speak about slopes (Abubakar, Al-Shihri & Ahmed 2016). Since Saudi Arabia occupies a mountainous area, bridges and tunnels are required to connect various parts of the country. Areas of different topography are quite dangerous as landslides and rockfalls may lead to numerous life losses if the accident is not prevented (Alhowaish 2015).

Research Methodologies and Timelines

The proposed research is going to be a three-year-long project that will include three key stages:

  1. The business scenario of the expansion of the urban centers (analyzing accessibility problems connected with urbanization).
  2. Master Plan 2030-2040 scenario (suggesting changes to the land use).
  3. Scenario implementing suggestions made by citizens while they take part in interviews and community surveys.

To obtain answers to the questions mentioned in the previous sections, the first stage must include the following steps:

  • analyzing land use and development ratio;
  • measuring accessibility (by car) based on time and distance to basic services such as holy mosques, universities, hospitals, shopping malls, and other places;
  • measuring slopes to find out what effect they produce on mobility;
  • estimating the effect of traffic jams;
  • clarifying distribution patterns and population density.

Proposed data sources and their application:

governmental reports to obtain data on land use and development ratio
GIS to measure accessibility to public services
geodetic surveys and peer-reviewed articles to estimate the effect of slopes
public survey to collect opinions of the population

The problem is that all the studies devoted to the issue of accessibility analyzed the situation from one perspective only (either concentrating on the obstacles posed by the geographical position of the country or analyzing social activities of the population). The situation is typical mostly of developing countries due to their constantly growing population as the focus is shifted from environmental and geodetic issues to the necessity of satisfying housing needs. The research gap that appears due to such limitations is that it is still unclear what can be done to improve the situation taking into account that accessibility is hindered by both social and natural factors. It can be demonstrated by the following chart:


The second part of the research is the Master Plan 2020-2030 scenario. To know the extent of change in the future based on the situation and the current system in the population increase, the study will dwell upon traffic congestion (especially after allowing the woman to drive the car in the year 25 September 2017). The model is supposed to guide changes in the urban infrastructure of the country annually until 2030 (Alhowaish 2015). This will be achieved through proper changes in land use.

Finally, the third part of the study will address suggestions made by citizens during interviews and opinion polls.

Research Timelines
Title of Activity Timeline
PhD12 Quarters (fulltime) or 12 Semesters (P/T) Masters 8 Quarters (F/T) or 8 Semesters (P/T)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Literature Review X X X X X X X X X X X
Problem Identification and Analysis X X X X X
Step 1 X X X X X X X X
Step 2 X X X X X
Step 3 X X X X X
Publishing papers X X X X

Expected Implications

I believe that the given structure of the research will bring about several benefits. First and foremost, it will allow obtaining necessary statistical information and geospatial data on the topic that will guide further steps. Second, it will separate the analysis and implementation parts. Last but not least, it will overcome limitations the top-down approach implemented by the government in the past as opinions of the general public will be taken into account.

The outcome expected from the study is to improve accessibility in the region in both social and geographical aspects. Since not much can be done to change the characteristics of the land, the major focus will be the location of the basic services and the modes of transportation. However, the implementation of the change will have to overcome some obstacles connected with funding (especially in rural areas).

Reference List

Abdalla, RM & Alharbi, SM 2017, ‘The role of GIS technology in assessing critical infrastructure resiliency during emergencies in the City of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’, International Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 183-191.

Abubakar, IR., Al-Shihri, FS & Ahmed, SM 2016, ‘Students’ assessment of campus sustainability at the University of Dammam, Saudi Arabia’, Sustainability, vol. 8, no. 1, p. 59-67.

Alhowaish, AK 2015, ‘Eighty years of urban growth and socioeconomic trends in Dammam Metropolitan Area, Saudi Arabia’, Habitat International, vol. 50, no. 5, pp. 90-98.

Alsultan, SH & Rahman, AA 2015, ‘Kingdom of Saudi Arabia geospatial information infrastructure-an initial study’, International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing & Spatial Information Sciences, vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 1-23.

El-Awady, N 2016, ‘Making the most of local expertise’, Nature, vol. 532, no. 7600, pp. S19-S21.

Ishimatsu, T, Doufene, A, Alawad, A & de Weck, O 2017, ‘Desalination network model driven decision support system: a case study of Saudi Arabia’, Desalination, vol. 423, no. 8, pp. 65-78.

Jamali, NA & Rahman, MT 2016, ‘Utilization of remote sensing and GIS to examine urban growth in the city of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’, Cities, vol. 10, no. 7, 11-28.

Rahman, MT 2016, ‘Detection of land use/land cover changes and urban sprawl in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia: an analysis of multi-temporal remote sensing data’, ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 15-29.

Youssef, AM, Al-Kathery, M & Pradhan, B 2015, ‘Landslide susceptibility mapping at Al-Hasher area, Jizan (Saudi Arabia) using GIS-based frequency ratio and index of entropy model’, Geosciences Journal, vol. 19, no. 1, pp.113-134.

Youssef, AM, Pradhan, B, Pourghasemi, HR & Abdullahi, S 2015, ‘Landslide susceptibility assessment at Wadi Jawrah Basin, Jizan region, Saudi Arabia using two bivariate models in GIS’, Geosciences Journal, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 449-461.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Urban Areas Accessibility in Saudi Arabia'. 30 November.

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