No budget has been allocated yet to the three metro lines planned by the Israeli government for the Greater Tel Aviv area, but the stations for them are already being planned. Sources inform "Globes" that the Ministry of Transport is promoting an initiative to construct two huge transport hub terminals, one at Glilot Junction north of Tel Aviv and the other at Holon Junction south of the Tel Aviv, to serve as the northern and southern gates to metropolitan Tel Aviv. The light railway lines, the metro lines, regular railways, and bus routes will all reach these stations. The two new stations will become the new focuses of development, relegating the Savidor, Hashalom, and Hagana railway stations to subordinate status.
In April 2019, the National Infrastructure Committee discussed the three metro lines. The information on the plan to build the terminals was sent to the Planning Administration only in July 2019, causing a real revolution in the plans being promoted for the Glilot area and Holon Junction. The Planning Administration had to adapt itself to the new giant plans, which are creating a new situation not only above ground, but also below it.
Shai Kedem, transportation planning manager in the Ministry of Transport, one of the initiators of the plan and its main proponent, said, "The Ministry of Transport realizes that a switch to public transportation is necessary. The proportion of people using public transportation has to increase from 15% at present to 40%. We're taking into account Israel's exceptional population growth, and are trying to create not only top-quality public transportation, but also good and proper terminals, as exist elsewhere in the world."
"Globes": What will be the difference between the two new terminals and those existing and planned at the Savidor, Hashalom, and Hagana railway stations?
Kedem: "The biggest failure has always been that the infrastructure systems that we build are unconnected to each other. Research shows that convincing people to switch from their own cars to public transportation requires connectivity between the types of transportation, the ability to move from one mode of transportation to another conveniently and easily. This connectivity is critical for the system's success. If we leave the railway stations now and have trouble getting to the bus station or our destination, it's a problem. The transition has to be a pleasant part of the journey. Everyone wants a bus going from the destination to his or her home, but this won't happen. These terminals are the important points in the network."
What will these terminals look like?
"There will probably be several buildings, both above and below ground. Each of them will serve one or more transportation systems, and the links between them are on the street or underground. It's an area typical of many means of transportation, and the transition is very simple and pleasant. It sounds imaginary, but there are many examples around the world. For example, the Kings Cross railway station in London is located on the northeastern outskirts of the main London business district, where it connects to three or four underground lines, a railway station serving all of the UK, international railways, and bus stations around it. Each of these stations has a building, but the sequence is nice. The transition experience is clear and pleasant."
How will these terminals contribute to their surroundings?
"As far as we are concerned, the first condition is real estate development above them. We and the Planning Administration realize that the development potential is huge. When we plan a terminal now next to the Hashalom railway station, for example, the area is fairly built up. The areas of Holon Junction and Glilot Junction are not built up yet, so they have huge potential for integration between the transportation area and above it - intense enhancement of business, commerce, and residential construction."
The existing central stations are urban eyesores - disaster areas. How will you make sure that things will be different with these terminals?
"First of all, in Western countries, transportation sites like the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station are no longer being designed in the heart of a residential neighborhood without business uses around.
"As I see it, the Jerusalem Central Bus Station is a good example. Ten years from now, all of the buses will be electric, and the pollution and noise will disappear. From a commercial standpoint and where the uses around are concerned, the Jerusalem Central Bus Station is a success story. There's a good reason why the Jerusalem municipality is calling the nearby development project 'City Gate.' It's the right location, a combination of railway, light rail, and buses. In architecture, we've got something to learn from other places in the world."
When will this happen?
"This is a hub. Not everything will be built at once. Sometimes one system is being built, and another system only several years later. The most important thing is that there be one main organizing idea. The first metro lines are expected to open in 2030. I assume that here, too, there are things that will happen first.
"I assume that at Holon Junction, the site will be built before the metro, because we want to move the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station within five years. At Glilot Junction, on the other hand, it's reasonable to assume that the metro element will come before we build the entire transportation hub. It's important for there to be one statutory plan for organizing everything. We want a product that will fit in with its surroundings. We have given the Ayalon Highways Company the task of assembling teams to plan these terminals. Now we're in a dialogue with the Ministry of Finance about budgeting the plan and with the local authorities for planning of the outskirts of the transportation sites. We have to have approved statutory plans for all of these sites within three years."
Where will the money come from?
"We've put a NIS 150 billion price tag on this system, and the Ministry of Finance is working day and night for it. This amount doesn't include all of the terminals, but, as we see in other places around the world, part of the money will come from the rise in real estate values. In London, some of those benefiting from the transportation project have to provide inputs for development of the transportation system. There's mutual benefit here."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on February 2, 2020
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