12/28/2010 02:42

Only Tel Aviv-Jaffa is ready to approve a plan to reduce pollution from transportation, the Knesset Health and Environment Committee was told Monday.

The committee met to follow up on the implementation of Correction 84 to the Traffic Order.

Correction 84 authorizes municipalities to draw up plans to reduce pollution from transportation.

In exchange for an approved plan by the Environmental Protection and Transportation ministries, the municipality would receive the authority to draw up traffic regulations, put up their own signs and collect any fines from those who violated the regulations.

In November 2009, the Environmental Protection Ministry ordered Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ramat Gan, Petah Tikva, Holon and Jerusalem to prepare such plans because monitoring found that in those areas pollution from transportation routinely exceeded limits set by regulations.

The ministry gave the municipalities six months to draft the plans.

However, more than a year later, only Tel Aviv-Jaffa is ready to submit a plan because it had started working on a plan even before receiving the order. Their plan relies on prohibiting vehicles with diesel engines that are more than five years old from entering the center of the city.

Because many of the buses run on diesel and are more than five years old, it would necessitate changes to the bus system and therefore the plan has run into objections from the Transportation Ministry, according to a Knesset Research Center report prepared for the session.

Pollution from transportation is the major cause of urban pollution, contributing even more than industry, the Environmental Protection Ministry’s Amir Zaltsberg told the committee.

He added that the ministry had offered financial assistance to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Petah Tikva, Holon, Beit Shemesh and Bnei Brak to draw up the plans. Bnei Brak received a similar order to the one given to the original five cities, and Beit Shemesh has embarked on the process voluntarily.

Jerusalem has started the process of hiring a consultant to draw up a plan – a process which is expected to take eight months after a consultant is selected. The plan will be ready for approval at the end of 2011, according to the research report.

Petah Tikva is expected to submit a plan by June 2011.

The municipality is considering such measures as Bus Rapid Transit with its own lanes, light and heavy rail service (which is not under its jurisdiction), bike lanes, reducing vehicle access to the center of town and other measures.

Ramat Gan is expected to submit a plan by January 2012.

The municipality has hired consultants but has also protested that much of the traffic is metropolitan traffic merely passing through and is not under its control.

In Holon, the situation is more complicated. While the other cities all have transportation pollution monitoring systems, Holon doesn’t. While it has a draft plan, it was drawn up based on data from a general air monitor.

However, according to the Knesset report, that monitor is not at street level and therefore cannot accurately measure pollution from transportation.

Therefore, the city needs to install at least one monitor to generate the data upon which to base a plan that can be approved by the ministries.

Each monitor costs NIS 520,000 and NIS 58,000 a year to maintain.

Holon’s plan includes redistributing the bus lines, encouraging walking, reducing polluting vehicles on the road and other measures. However, without a goal for pollution reduction based on credible data, the plan cannot be approved, the Knesset report found.