Israel has encouraged Israelis to buy new cars, while shelving alternative public transportation projects. By 2030, its economy will lose $10 billion due to decreased mobility, loss of work hours, traffic accidents and pollution.
Haaretz Editorial Sep 15, 2016

It’s hard to shake off the feeling that traffic has grown heavier in recent months. The bottlenecks on the coastal highway and on the east-west roads are lengthening and the entrances to Tel Aviv are blocked earlier each morning. Traffic is also heavy in the north, at the exits from communities in the south-central plain and even on roads to new neighborhoods. This week TheMarker launched a campaign under the banner “extracting Israel from the bottleneck.” The figures cited in it are unsurprising, as are the dire predictions.

In the past decade, the number of vehicles in Israel soared 20 percent and the distances traveled by private cars rose by 50 percent, while the road area increased by just 20 percent and is near saturation. In view of the insufficient public transportation and the forecast of yet another record-breaking year for sales of new cars — around 300,000 — in 2016, it’s clear the things will only get worse.

Successive governments were delinquent in detecting the transportation crisis in the making. They encouraged Israelis to buy new cars, on the overly hopeful assumption that accelerated road-building would match the pace. At the same time they postponed introducing alternative public transportation and didn’t invest in mass-transit projects.
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The decision makers were shown bleak scenarios indicating the losses to Israel’s economy are expected to total some 40 billion shekels ($10 billion) by 2030, due to decreased mobility, loss of work hours, traffic accidents and pollution. Only then did the government change its approach to the looming catastrophe, but it was too late.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon told TheMarker on Tuesday (Sami Peretz, in Hebrew) that the next crisis Israel will have to deal with after the critical real estate situation is the transportation catastrophe. Kahlon is right in detecting the transportation failure, but is wrong about the timetable for dealing with it — it’s now. This is because the real estate crisis was caused in part by transportation failures as well. The limited access to many communities is one of the main reasons for creating the high housing demand in the country’s center and thus raising the real estate prices in the region. This is in contradiction to the socioeconomic interest to spread the population and strengthen the periphery.

The projects the government is promoting today by investing in light rail, metro lines and public traffic lanes are necessary, but will only be applicable in the next decade. Until then the government is obliged to encourage the public to use public transportation by increasing the frequency of buses and trains and adding stations, providing 24/7 public transportation, heightening the coordination between the buses and the trains and regulating the use of private cars.

Private car owners must also take responsibility for changing the situation. They must consider cheaper, greener alternatives to using their cars.
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