Additional parking will only exacerbate Israel's transport problems – analysis

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 Additional parking will only exacerbate Israel's transport problems – analysis

The shortage of parking spaces faced by Israeli drivers is forcing municipalities to take action. However, experts warn that these steps are useless in the long run. In the meantime, the Ministry of Transportation is slow and the procedures for promoting the parking policy have not yet been presented.

For example, the municipality of Bnei Barak announced the grand opening of a huge new parking lot in the city, which is to become one of the main business districts of Gush Dan. The parking lot will have four underground levels with space for 1,280 cars and is being built with an investment of NIS 150 million, which represents a municipal subsidy of NIS 117,000 per parking space.

Yogev Sharvit, manager of the economics department at consulting firm Build Urban Strategy, believes this is a misuse of public resources. Parking is located near the elevated car park and the main public transport lane, 650 meters from the light rail and 800 meters from the Israel Railways station. What's more, its cost is subsidized by public funds, whereas the builder of the building could take care of it.

The Municipality of Petah Tikva, which has made progress in public transport in recent years, is also taking steps in this direction. A “smart parking lot” is being installed near a market in the city center, providing parking for ten cars in a space that would otherwise take up two. The price is the same as municipal street parking and free for local residents. The plant being built in Petah Tikva costs NIS 600,000 and the municipality received it as a free pilot program to test demand.

“The municipality can create parking spaces, but it's all about managing this resource wisely,” – says urbanist and planning expert Dr. Yoav Lerman. “Business owners park in street parking because they come first, and in places like the market in Petah Tikva, you have to provide visitors close to the place. Pleasant market – this is a people market, not a parking lot.”

Urban planning and policy consultant Dr. Lior Glik says that parking can provide access to areas where public transport is scarce.

“We need to use this resource more efficiently. But both with roads and parking lots – Demand will always end up outstripping supply, leading to overcrowding and traffic jams, which is also the cause of the suburbs. In areas served by light rail, access to public transport and bike lanes is clearly preferable.

Best practices in cities around the world show that parking, like any public resource that is in short supply, needs to be managed. The last Law on the economic structure contained a reform in this area, consisting of two parts. The first was the abolition of the maximum price for street parking, which allowed municipalities to charge higher fees. The second, which was due to take effect in 2024, after local elections, provided that cities with a population of more than 40,000 people would be divided into three parking zones, with a parking badge that entitles free parking to be valid only in the areas they live in.

The Ministry of Transport was supposed to submit rules for determining parking zones within a year, but after a year and a half there are still no rules, and the ministry refuses to explain why not. So far, there has also been no national parking plan that the ministry was supposed to draw up.

Lior Steinberg, urban planner and co-founder of Humankind, Rotterdam's urban change agency, says: “The more parking spaces, the more people will prefer to deliver their cars to the city center. The result will be more traffic, more pollution, more noise and less street life. Bus passengers will suffer more because the roads will be clogged with cars. Instead of cosmetically fighting the symptom, it is necessary to solve the – people do not have convenient, fast and efficient ways to get to the city center without cars”.

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