Minister of Transport Miri Regev's desire to cancel Israel's bus lanes has aroused many responses but for the time being Israel's local authorities, including Ashdod, Herzliya and Haifa, are not even enforcing them. This is evident from the municipalities' answers to freedom of information requests submitted by the Or Yarok Association for Safer Driving in Israel not-for-profit organization. The budget for setting up bus lanes between 2021-2026 is NIS 7 billion.
In recent months, Or Yarok has asked local authorities if there is enforcement for bus lanes in their jurisdiction, and they have been evasive. Ashdod Municipality stressed there is no enforcement, but "It can be seen that the public respects the markings, barring a few exceptions."
Herzliya Municipality said, "Public transport lanes were opened in the city only recently. Enforcement will begin during the year." Hadera Municipality said there is no enforcement of the city's 300-meter bus lane. Holon Municipality admitted it has not yet started enforcing its bus lanes, and Haifa Municipality, where most of the city's bus lanes are for the Metronit, insisted that enforcement is the responsibility of the police.
Petah Tikva Municipality is signing agreements to encourage enforcement, and Kiryat Ata Municipality claims enforcement is in the hands of government company Netvei Ayalon, and not its responsibility. Bat Yam and Beersheva municipalities simply stated that there are no enforcement cameras, while Rosh Ha'ayin Municipality said, "As far as public transport is concerned, there is no enforcement."
Enforcement in Tel Aviv: Tickets worth NIS 127 million
Some cities do enforce their bus lanes. According to the data, in 2022, Tel Aviv, which has more bus lanes than any other city in Israel, issued 203,000 tickets for aggregate fines of NIS 127 million. Jerusalem issued 208,000 tickets for NIS 104 million in fines. Between 2018 and 2022, Bnei Brak issued over 78,000 tickets for NIS 40 million in fines, while in the past two years Ramat Gan issued 20,500 tickets totaling NIS 11.4 million in fines.
Or Yarok CEO Adv. Yaniv Jacob said, "Mayors of cities that have public transportation lanes must install dedicated enforcement cameras and commit to an effort to improve the mass transportation system in cooperation with the Ministry of Transport and Road Safety and Israel Police. This will lead to a reduction in vehicles in city centers, reduce congestion, reduce air pollution and reduce traffic accidents."
The deadline for setting up an enforcement unit has passed
In view of the lack of enforcement, in the Economic Arrangements Law in last year's state budget, proposed setting up an enforcement unit in the Ministry of Transport that would enforce violations of bus lanes. Following discussions, the proposed unit's powers were cut and it was decided that it would begin by only enforcing intercity roads, and only on city roads if the Minister of Transport decided that enforcement was insufficient. Although the law came into force nearly two years ago, the unit has not yet been set up and the date of the start of its operation has been postponed time and again, with the June 2023 deadline set by the Ministry of Transport having passed three months ago.
The establishment of the unit, according to the explanatory notes in the Economic Arrangements Law, was because bus lanes allow buses to complete journeys 20% more quickly. However, in order to optimize bus lanes enforcement is necessary.
The explanatory notes in the amendment of traffic regulations says, "Enforcement is currently not sufficient or effective, therefore due to the massive investment by the State of Israel in the establishment of public transport lanes, and to maximize their effectiveness, the traffic ordinance was amended."
Despite the extensive legal infrastructure that has been changed to increase enforcement, Regev plans to reduce it. She recently instructed officials to examine the conversion of bus lanes to carpool lanes, which would rule out any possibility of digital enforcement.
The Ministry of Finance said, "A professional examination of the issue will lead to the conclusion that damage to the public transport system and its priority will significantly harm a large number of public transport passengers, who will experience a slower and more unreliable service than current services. In addition, we believe that a professional examination as mentioned will show that such a step will increase the burden on the Israeli economy, causing damage of tens of billions of shekels annually."
The Ministry of Transport said, "Contrary to the report, in the past six months the subject has dramatically moved forward. Many discussions have been held under the leadership of the minister and director general and the operation of the enforcement unit is in advanced stages, both in terms of of setting up technological systems and hiring and authorizing personnel. These are processes that should have been carried out years ago, and only now have they been accelerated and are nearing completion.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on September 11, 2023.
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