Israel’s Transport Ministry recently opened a new entrance to Jerusalem, Highway 16, which is supposed to help serve 40% of commuters entering the city each day. The new road, named after the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, cost nearly a billion shekels ($300 million) and opened last week, a year ahead of schedule.
“The new road is great news for Jerusalem,” Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli said. “But we have to face the truth: the real solution to transport is more complicated and includes investments in public transport.”
A new bus line between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv will soon be operating on the new highway, a response to some of the criticism of the region’s lack of investment in public transport.
“The new road is a brilliant solution. Of course, I have some criticisms regarding the delays in the construction of the intersections that connect it to the city center, but it is still an exceptionally efficient solution to enter Jerusalem,” said Nissim Peretz, CEO of the National Transport Infrastructure. Company of Israel.
“He should definitely be picked up by public transport, but in the appropriate places. Light rail, bike lanes, mass transit routes are all needed – but inside the city,” he added.
While Peretz has some criticism of the new road’s work process, he still refers to it as one of the best infrastructure projects in Israel. But when it comes to the rest of the country, he’s far from optimistic.
“I’m the one responsible for building new infrastructure and I’m very pessimistic,” he said. “The Gush Dan metropolitan area is a complete disaster, and since all major public transport plans are coming in 15 years, in five years we will have an ultimate road disaster. Anyone who builds a non-transit lane in Gush Dan should be hanged,” he added.
Gush Dan, or the Dan Block, is the urban area that includes Tel Aviv and several other towns and villages in central Israel along the Mediterranean coast.
Peretz has a solid program for public transport, based on the traffic density on Israeli roads. According to a 2016 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development report, Israel had the most cars per road kilometer in the developed world. Since then, the number of new cars on Israel’s roads has broken records every year.
Ayalon Street, for example, which is the main entrance to Tel Aviv, is blocked to some extent at most times of the day. The average speed on the Ayalon during rush hour drops to 8 km/h, making it virtually impossible for people to enter Israel’s most important urban center for hours each day.
Israel’s biggest transport project, the Tel Aviv Metro, is supposed to solve part of the problem, but it’s not expected to start operating until 2035. Until then, Peretz says, the roads will be busier, and this isn’t even a problem. silver.
“We have decent budgets, although we can always use more money. The main thing that should change is bureaucracy and regulation. The state needs a transportation dictator who will lead the 4-5 major national projects and oversee all ministries within that,” Peretz said.
Other experts, however, take a different approach to the problem.
“When you talk about ‘solving traffic jams’, you are asking the wrong question. You cannot solve traffic jams. What you can do is help people move from place to place more efficiently,” said Ilya Kogan, an urban planning and transport campaigner.
“The opening of a new road means that people who were avoiding using their cars will now join the traffic as it looks like the situation has improved. But as soon as that happens it’s blocked again. C This is called induced demand or induced traffic.
Kogan has another solution. “What you want to do is create alternatives, so people can choose not to use their car,” he said.
Some of Kogan’s solutions appear on his YouTube channel, “A Livable City,” dedicated to traffic and city planning.
On this issue, Peretz agrees with Kogan: “We need more transit routes because if you want to change public behavior, you have to have solutions. Otherwise, people will continue to buy cars and traffic jams will only increase,” he explained.
But changing the behavior of Israeli commuters may not be so simple. In addition to having acquired a terrible reputation for reliability, public transport in Israel cannot replace private vehicles for most of the population for another reason: it is completely idle for 25 hours a week, every Saturday. . Without public transport on the weekly rest day, people refuse to give up their personal car.
“There is a good path starting now in the ministry, thanks in large part to Michaeli,” Kogan said. ” But there’s still a lot to do. The first thing is to improve the user experience in public transport in Israel. Right now it’s terrible, and I sympathize with people who choose not to use it. When they stop treating people who use buses and trains like people who have no choice and start treating us like respected customers, things will change for the better.
Another area that could help manage Israel’s rapidly growing density on the roads is new technologies.
One such advanced technology is a smart traffic light that manages the intersection using a camera monitoring traffic, and it’s been found to make traffic 22% more efficient, according to Peretz. .
Peretz plans to install another 100 smart traffic lights over the next two years, but Kogan doubts that will drastically change anything.
“Smart technology can be useful if it prioritizes pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. If it’s there just to speed up passenger cars, it won’t help, because of the resulting demand.
But despite the frustration, Kogan remains hopeful that things will improve on Israel’s roads. “I am optimistic. With the right changes, Israel can look like Europe in 20 to 30 years. There will still be traffic jams, but you can choose other alternatives,” he said.