Planning Tel Aviv's Metro begins in earnest

Light rail red line  / Photo: Shlomi Yosef , Globes

With the first budget about to be allocated for detailed planning, "Globes" examines how the underground network could impact Greater Tel Aviv.

Many people may be avoiding public transport during the Covid-19 pandemic but that has not halted planning for the Greater Tel Aviv Metro - the underground railway, which should not be confused with the Tel Aviv light rail, which is only partially underground.

The Greater Tel Aviv Metro will have routes extending over 145 kilometers and reaching 24 cities in the Gush Dan region. Intensive work on the initial plans has begun and the final plans are scheduled for approval in mid-2022.

The Metro system will include 109 stations. Estimates are that it will cost NIS 150 billion and transport two million passengers per day.

The M1 line will run north-south for 76 kilometers and have 59 stations. Two branch lines in the north from Kfar Saba and Ra'anana will merge into a trunk section in Tel Aviv and split again into two branch lines in the south running to Lod and to Rehovot.

The M2 line will run east-west for 23 kilometers from Holon to Petah Tikva and have 23 stations.

The M3 line will be a 40 kilometer semi-circular line with 24 stations. It will start in Herzliya and end in Bat Yam with a branch line running out to Ben Gurion airport.

If the political hurdles are overcome and the Economic Arrangements Bill is passed next month so that there is finally a budget, then it is expected to include clauses about the huge amount of money needed to finance the Tel Aviv Metro. According to the Ministry of Finance, some of the financing will come from future operational revenue (for example fares and business that will be located in the stations) as well as value capture - that is to say the sale of construction rights next to and above stations. In the Economic Arrangements Bill being prepared there will be sections about arrangements for the building rights, taxation, and removing obstacles.

NTA - Metropolitan Mass Transit System Ltd VP planning and design Gilad Zwebner who is in charge of planning the project, told "Globes," "Some of the financing will come from the rise in value of properties near the Metro and increasing their rights. If such betterment fees are currently paid to municipalities then in the future they would be divided between the municipalities and the State, which will use the fees to build the Metro. The depot areas near the terminals of each line are vast and we are now checking how it would be possible to build for commercial use above technical areas. Areas like that are very much in demand."

At the Metro planning team meeting which was broadcast last week on YouTube, the urban economist Dr. Nir Sharav, who heads the project's transport planning team, said that Israel is lagging behind in investment in budgets for public transport. As of 2010, he estimated that he gap was NIS 250 billion and without investing in the Metro it would grow to NIS 350 billion by 2040. He says that the Metro would bring in returns of NIS 550 billion during the lifecycle of the project - in other words triple the investment in it. The business development that the project will bring will allow 150,000 passengers an hour to reach office developments - the equivalent of 75 fast lanes on highways.

How much time will it save passengers?

Zwebner states explicitly that the aim of NTA is to obviate the need to use cars. "The solution is swift transport, which is the Metro, and create dense construction along the route of the Metro so that people won't need other means of transport. Access will only be via the Metro.

Sharav said during the discussions that 90% of traffic in metropolitan Tel Aviv is currently in cars in contrast to other places in the world. "Metro-based systems can bring us to 40% use in motorized transport. According to all the scenarios that we examined, without a Metro, there will be a complete collapse of the entire transport system." He added that lost time to the economy without a metro, would cost NIS 25 billion annually in 2040.

Sharav claims that the estimated profit from the Metro would be far more than the investment in the project and that travel times would be cut by up to one third. For example, the journey from Petah Tikva to Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv which currently takes 72 minutes by bus and 58 minutes by car would take just 27 minutes on the Metro.

Sharav said, "The Metro opens up the metropolitan region for travel from district to district, from one end to the other, not just from the center to the outskirts. This network provides full coverage to all the cities. The urban benefits allows access to jobs, study and a range of services as well as the ability to implement wide-scale urban renewal, which will influence the shape and aesthetics of public spaces and increase options for pedestrians and bicycle riders.

What will be at the stations?

"We can see that in many places around the world they have taken a serious approach in to the areas around the metro stations with quality planning" says the architect Yair Avigdor who heads the planning team for the station areas at the meeting.

He added that in Israel as well the Metro will be built as an urban space. "Access to stations has to be maximal and they will become city centers and the car will sink to the bottom of the pyramid, even if there is parking."

He stresses that the Metro stations will become new hubs for all public transport including the local railway station, the light rail, buses, cars and bicycles. The Metro stations 'passages' will allow major urban development including mixed-usage. "The moment that development in the area around the Metro stations is of a certain quality, this sets demand, attracts offices as well as commercial and residential developments and brings contributions to the municipal and national budgets, which increases the scale of the development."

Aviad Sar Shalom, the environmental consultant of the planning team for station areas is well aware of the positive and negative potential of stations. "In the area next to the station, there can be a major urban revolution. This is an attractive urban area and due to this vehicles can almost be completely removed. We are talking about a radius of 500 meters. We don't know many metropolitan areas that are clean of vehicles with zero carbon emissions. That means you can choose a place to live in an area that provides all your needs including jobs."

The other side of increased value of apartments is a speeding up of gentrification. "Everything is available because even the local population, which depends on public transport, gets pushed out." Sar Shalom observes that very few places in the world know how create a metro environment with various types of affordable housing.

What about the terminal depots?

Depots will be built near the terminals in Rishon Lezion, Ra'anana, Petah Tikva Segula, and Or Yehuda. Maintenance work will also be carried out there as well as technical work, safety checks and cleaning. The plan calls for these locations to also become major urban centers.

The architect Dorit Spinat from Gordon Architects coordinates the team responsible for planning the depot areas. "Each one of the depot areas will cover about 75 acres. The significance of this is that if you want to best exploit the area, you must build above ground level. The challenge is multi-use on the roof, which is 2.5 meters thick and combines with the urban space and leveraging the roof of the depot area for the urban environment can bring it to life and pays municipal taxes.

What can be done on the depot roof?

NTA VP planning matter Keren Katz Ganani says, "In other places in the world, they build many homes, creates parks, and hotels cabove public transport stations. In the Hudson Yards project in New York, it is hard to believe that there is a depot operating. The value of the land is so very high that they want to take advantage of all the space."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 29, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

Light rail red line  / Photo: Shlomi Yosef , Globes
Light rail red line / Photo: Shlomi Yosef , Globes
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