More parking lots will only worsen Israel’s transport problems

The shortage of parking spots experienced by Israeli drivers is making municipalities take steps. Experts warns however that in the long term, with Israel expected to become the most crowded country in the world within two decades, these steps are useless. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Transport is dragging its feet, and procedures for advancing a car parking policy have yet to be presented.

An example of what the municipalities are doing is to be found in Bnei Brak. The municipality has announced the festive launch of a huge new parking lot on the BBC site in the city that is intended to become one of the main business districts of the Gush Dan area. The parking lot will have four underground levels with space for 1,280 vehicles and is being built at an investment of NIS 150 million, representing a municipal subsidy of NIS 117,000 for each parking space.

Yogev Sharvit, manager of the economics department at consultancy Build Urban Strategy, says that this is an incorrect use of public resources. The parking lot is close to an overground parking lot and to a main public transport lane, 650 meters from the light rail Red Line, and 800 meters from an Israel Railways station. Moreover, the cost is being subsidized by public funds when it could have been taken on by the developer of the building. “Financing the parking lot will deepen Bnei Brak’s commitment to an investment that will make a small contribution to the municipal treasury,” Sharvit says.

For its part, the municipality says, “The shortage of parking space in the area is high and significant. Construction of the new parking lot therefore meets an important local public need. Furthermore, the parking lot represents an income-producing asset. For that reason, the cost should not be looked at as a current expense but as a long-term investment. The municipality is managing to combine provision of an appropriate public service with raising the level of service to residents of the city by increasing its independent income.”

The Petah Tikva municipality, which in recent years has made progress on public transport, is also taking action on parking space. Close to the marketplace in the center of the city a “smart parking” installation is being installed, proving parking for ten cars in the space that would otherwise be taken by two. The price is the same as for municipal street parking, and free for those with a resident’s badge.

Petah Tikva Development Co. CEO Liron Goldenberg explains: “The parking situation is very bad, and we are constantly looking for creative solutions.” Asked whether it is not a lost battle, since there will always be more demand for parking space than supply. Goldenberg says, “In general that’s true, but if you can increase the supply where the demand is high, that’s good.”

The installation being constructed in Petah Tikva costs NIS 600,000, and the municipality has received it as a free pilot program to test demand.

The larger cities are also trying to deal with the parking problem. The Jerusalem municipality has come in for criticism for building giant car parking lots next to light rail stations. In some cases these are “Park and Ride” parking lots on the outskirts of the city, but in some cases they are within the urban fabric, such as the parking lot under construction at the entrance to the city near the Central Bus Station, the Israel Railways Station, and the light rail. In Tel Aviv, a tender was held for a robotic parking lot, but it failed, leaving a hole dug in Bograshov Street. A new tender has been published.

“The building in Bograshov Street was earmarked for public use, so you start with the absurdity of constructing a parking lot and end with a situation in which there is no kindergarten where there was supposed to be one. It’s a warning sign,” says urban planning expert Dr. Yoav Lerman.

“The municipality can create parking spaces, but the whole story is intelligent management of this resource,” Dr. Lerman say. “Business owners park on street parking because they are the first to arrive, and in places like the market in Petah Tikva you have to provide parking for business owners not far from the place. A pleasant market is a market for people, not parking lots.”

Dr. Lerman says that the solutions presented in other cities are also wrong. “Bnei Brak is a poor municipality that builds projects like these and it doesn’t make sense. In Jerusalem, they are constructing parking that comes to half a million shekels per spot, which is just burning money.”

Urban planner and policy consultant Dr. Lior Glick says that parking can provide accessibility to areas where there is little public transport. “If they are going to be built, then more efficient use should be made of this resource. But as with roads, so with parking – demand will always eventually overtake supply, leading to crowded roads and traffic jams, which is also a cause of suburbanization. In areas served by the light rail it is clearly preferable to provide access through public transport and bicycle lanes.”

Another point raised by Dr. Glick relates to priorities, since a municipality has a limited budget and he says that the public should ask whether there is a genuine need. “When a person buys a car, he pays for it and for the cost of maintaining it. Should the local authority put its hand in its pocket and subsidize it?”

No national plan

The professional literature and best practice in cities around the world show that parking, like any public resource of which there is a shortage, has to be managed. So, for example, the number of parking permits could be the same as the number of street parking spots, the price of street parking should reflect demand, and should rise when demand rises, and alternatives for mobility and accessibility should be developed, and street parking reduced.

The last Economic Arrangements Law contained a reform in this area consisting of two parts. The first was cancellation of the maximum price for street parking, allowing municipalities to charge more. The second, which was due to come into force in 2024, after the local authority elections, provided that cities with populations of more than 40,000 will each be divided into three parking zones such that the parking badge entitling resident to free parking will be valid only within the zones in which they live.

The Ministry of Transport was due to have presented regulations for determining parking zones within a year, but eighteen months later there are still no regulations and the ministry refuses to explain why not. The national plan for parking that the ministry was suppose to have drawn up has also not appeared yet.

Lior Steinberg, an urban planner and co-founder of Humankind, a Rotterdam-based agency for urban change, says, “The addiction of our cities to cars is fueled by more roads and more parking spaces. Fighting the problem by adding parking spices is like scratching a wound. It may feel good for a short time, but it makes the problem much worse.

“If there are more parking spots, more people will choose to take their cars to the city center. As a result, there will be more traffic jams, more pollution, more noise, and less street life. Bus passengers will suffer more, because the roads will be packed with more cars. Instead of dealing cosmetically with the symptom, it is necessary to solve the problem – people don’t have convenient, fast, and efficient ways of reaching the city center without cars, and city mayors have a central role to play in this.”

Published by Globes, Israel business news – – on March 19, 2023.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.

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