After Israel's Minister of Transport Miri Regev announced last month that she opposes the planned Metro, the project has now come under fire from some of the mayors in the Gush Dan - Tel Aviv Metropolitan area that the underground railway is designed to serve. At various Knesset committee meetings earlier this week, the mayors expressed exasparation at their lack of involvement in the planning process. They now find themselves only able to file objections after the publication of the routes of the M1, M2, and M3 lines, on which they were not consulted.
However, there was a consensus among the mayors that "Globes" spoke to that the Metro is vitally needed and offers huge potential for urban development, but the mayors insist that the NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System planners are cut off from the realities in the field. The mayors feel that their voices aren't being heard and their opinions and familiarity with the local situation are not being taken into account.
Rishon Lezion Mayor Ran Kinstlich is frustrated that the depot will be by the Rishonim Station, near the Rishonim Azrieli mall, which he defines as the city center. "The depot is very attractive for a large service garage but they have put it at a prime location, in an excellent area near housing.
He added, "We asked to move it to the edge of the city. We are opposed to it as a municipality and I will personally fight this. There is not a single person who can say that there is any logic in putting the depot opposite the Rishonim complex."
Another matter that bothers Kinstlich is the lack of a station in the western half of the city (west of Road 4). "We have over 100,000 residents in the west of the city and there is no sense in them not benefitting from the Metro. It's as if they didn't think about anything when they made the plan for such a large city. With the authority that NTA was given, they feel that they are all powerful and don't have to take anyone into account."
Hod Hasharon Mayor Amir Kochavi accuses the NTA planners of not leveraging his city's advantages. "When I assumed the job as mayor the Metro line passed along Habanim Street, which although relatively central has low-rise building without any expectation for future development. There is also a station at Kfar Malal, which is a moshav with 80 families. I understood that NTA is using data that at best is mistaken about what is happening in the field and for sure about the future. We succeeded in canceling the station at Kfar Malal and instead we got a station, which is no less superfluous in Ramat Hadar, a neighborhood of houses and gardens.
"I insisted that in order for the Metro to serve the city it should pass through the southern industrial zone, where there are expectations for one million square meters of construction and 6,000 square meters of housing construction, even before enlarging the building rights because of the Metro. The Metro not only doesn't see the city, it also doesn't see the state's needs. Ultimately, one of the reasons that the state is planning the metro is to develop regions and to increase income."
Why is NTA not ready to move the station to the southern industrial zone?
"The main feeling is that NTA simply doesn't like it when you get involved in planning and doesn't think that mayors need to be involved. When I see the stubbornness of NTA not moving the line one and a half kilometers further south is because they were given the task of the Tel Aviv region of running the Metro through the IMI city region (land vacated by Israel Military Industries in east Ramat Hasharon), then it is complete lack of comprehension of the reality. That city won't be built. Hod Hasharon has three industrial zones and the Metro won't pass through one of them. In terms of Hod Hasharon the Metro at the moment is superfluous."
Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shama-Hacohen doesn't mince his words in criticizing NTA. "Those who live with the NTA, and that's almost every mayor, knows that this is a business organization that behaves with the biggest arrogance, conceit, aggression and bullying. Perhaps you need some of these things to manage the construction of infrastructures like these but not to such a degree."
Where is the problem with the Metro in Ramat Gan
"The city is at the very heart of Gush Dan. It is a city with 200,000 residents and tens of thousands of businesses, two army bases, the biggest hospital in the Middle East and another million plans for millions of square meters of offices, and yet the original plan was for just one metro station in Ramat Gan. That shows the size of disconnection. After we put on pressure and bombarded the Minister of Transport and other senior people on the matter, the decision makers promised us that there would be changes. There is here more politics than planning and more damage than benefit.
Tayibe Mayor Sha'a Mansour Massarwa regrets that the Metro skips his city. "You know that the Metro is not coming to Tayibe. It is a project that shows correct thinking and progress but regretfully the planning does not encompass all of Gush Dan, and won't reach Tayibe, the capital of the triangle and the largest Arab city in the region. We always remain outside of all urban planning. I would be happy if somebody sobered up and listened to the voices of Tayibe's residents. We are demanding that there should be a station here that would serve 200,000 residents."
Ganei Tikva Mayor Lizzy Delaricha is angry that there is no Metro station in her city. "The nearest station to us is in Kiryat Ono. If it were moved just 200 meters it would provide a solution for both towns and it would help develop all of our northern region. During the conference at which the Metro project was presented for the first time, I found out that they had forgotten Ganei Tikva. I don't understand how they can ask to build more housing in the northern and eastern neighborhoods and haven't given us a Metro station. Are the town planners cut off from the people? We know where we are putting our commercial center, high-density construction and we know the Metro's consumers. I filed an appeal on this and it was like a check list. They heard but didn't listen."
Kfar Saba Mayor Rafi Saar said, "The Metro reaches Kfar Saba with several stations but our less pleasant encounter is with the unconceivable decision to place a depot covering 100 acres in the west of the city, close to the 250 homes of residents in the Hayaroka neighborhood. It destroys all the agricultural land of Gan Haim and Sde Warburg, when there are at least two excellent alternatives for its location. Even the planning institutions said that the best option is the outskirts of Tira and then it would also serve the town. The second option is the industrial area in Binyamin."
The main problem is the lack of cooperation. They are about to build a Metro that will link up Kfar Saba in another 20 years and so the planning procedures must be right and you need the cooperation of the municipalities and the residents. To come and decide from above is doing it back to front. They marked the target, decided that the Metro will be to the west of Kfar Saba and from that moment we need to fight them."
Ra'anana Mayor Chaim Broyde is mainly critical of the way the plan has been promoted. "The way in which the Metro has been moved forward is as if you brought an architect into my house and I tell him to do one, two, three and four and he does whatever comes into his head. Throughout the process things were shrouded and there was an awful lack of transparency. The original route that I knew about came from the direction of Herzliya and turned in the direction of Ahuza Street (Ra'anana's main thoroughfare) and from there to Akiva Street and onto Ra'anana's Industrial Zone, and all under the highways. Suddenly, overnight, the route changed and nowe cuts under neighborhood 2005 and then to a much more easterly point in Ahuza Street, and again goes into a residential neighborhood."
"The experience of the State of Israel in metros is zero. It shouldn't be allowed to happen. You cannot come along one day and tell thousands of residents that it runs under their homes."
Bar-Ilan University CEO Zohar Yinon said, "The northern route of M2 is supposed to go under the middle of the Bar-Ilan University campus from south to north with a station between the two student dormitories in the north of the campus. In contradiction of everything that was said about cooperation with the public, no serious preparatory work was done here."
"When you plan a Metro route close to sensitive buildings, for example, in which scientific research is conducted, there is a need to carry out many vibration checks. When the train runs under our 150 laboratory buildings there will be critical damage to our ability to conduct research. We are talking about damage of hundreds of millions of shekels each year. It will cause the university's closure.
NTA said, "The claims by several mayors do not match reality. During planning of the lines, NTA representatives met with the heads of the authorities and their teams hundreds of times. Planning the Metro lines is based on strategic plans by the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Finance and based on demand, population and employment forecasts, and the demands of the authorities and engineering constraints. The Metro is meant to serve tens of millions of passengers each year and we regret that there are those seeking to harm its progress by insisting on looking at it from a local municipal point of view or in other cases as nimbys."
According to data given to the Knesset by NTA VP planning Keren Katz Ganani, to date there have been 270 meetings with representatives of local authorities. However, the project has only been presented to the public after the plans were deposited and in a reduced and limited way. According to NTA's presentation, during July 2020 there were 10 virtual meetings with residents of the authorities in which the Metro will pass, and ads were placed in newspapers and billboard ads were put up along the route of the Metro.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 2, 2020
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