The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has published a new report on ways to unclog Israel's overcrowded roads. Public discussion of road congestion charges has resumed in recent months, with new Minister of Transport Bezalel Smotrich advocating concrete measures to give preference to public transportation and reduce traffic jams. The new report provides insights and conclusions about the effectiveness of congestion charge systems and their use in various cities around the world. It asserts that congestion charges in London, Milan, Singapore, and Stockholm substantially alleviated congestion, with New York also planning a similar system.
An OECD report published last year found that the transportation situation in Israel was worse than in other OECD countries, and would rapidly deteriorate unless measures were taken to address it. In the new report on Israel, the OECD proposes options for designing and implementing a congestion charges system suitable for Israel that can relieve road congestion. According to the report, a well-planned system of congestion charges can ease the existing crowding, while simultaneously improving public transportation can also reduce congestion in the long term. Payment itself should be adapted to the various transportation options that Israel wants to encourage, such as carpools and alternatives to motor vehicles, such as bicycles. The revenue from congestion charges can be used for additional investments in public transportation, and to encourage development of sustainable solutions.
According to the authors of the report, which was presented at a conference initiated by Future Mobility IL, two systems are worthy of consideration in Israel now: charges in three circles surrounding Tel Aviv, and charges in a one-kilometer radius around the city, with the amount of the charge corresponding to congestion. In addition, GPS-based technology should be considered in order to improve effectiveness and provide flexibility in designing and implementing congestion charges. It is possible that the system now being installed in the Ministry of Transport's "Derech Erech" (Value Road) pilot can later be used for collecting charges.
The report concludes that introducing other measures in parallel with congestion charges should be considered. These can include short-term improvements in bus services, means of facilitating share transportation (currently restricted by regulation on the profits of shared transportation apps), and improvements in bicycle infrastructure. Among other possible measures are allowing local authorities to charge a higher price for parking, and eliminating various tax exemptions and benefits that current encourage the use of private vehicles.
The Israeli government has a long way to go before it imposes congestion charges. The minister of transport said that he would not go ahead with them now, even though the plan to implement them was taken out of the ministry's drawers when Yisrael Katz left. The Ministry of Finance estimates the annual damage from road congestion at NIS 35 billion, projected to double by 2040 if no substantial change is made. The Ministry of Finance cites congestion charges as a solution that will not only reduce road congestion, but will make possible greater investment in public transportation.
Future Mobility founder and chairman and former Government Companies Authority director Ori Yogev says, "In order to solve the traffic jams and congestion crisis in Israel, the government has to present a holistic plan combining congestion charges, better public transportation, opening the market to shared transportation, and investment in bicycle infrastructure. Implementation of these measures can reduce road congestion by 50% within two years."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 2, 2019
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