Traffic Jam Nation

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israel has the worst traffic jams of all countries in the developed world, according to studies conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Globes reported.

“Israel suffers the worst congestion in the OECD, and the situation will unfortunately only get worse,” IMF assistant director Craig Beaumont was quoted by Globes at the end of an IMF delegation visit to Israel.

“The population in Israel is increasing, the standard of living is increasing, more and more people are switching to private vehicles, and the infrastructure challenge is mounting,” he said.

Earlier in the week, the OECD published similar finding in its biannual report. In numbers, transportation density in Israel averages 2,800 vehicles per kilometer of roads, 3.5 times the 800 vehicles per kilometer of roads average density in the OECD and almost double the average density of 1,300 vehicles per kilometer of roads in Spain, which has the second worst road density in the OECD after Israel.

The findings are not news to Israeli officialdom — nor to Israeli motorists — but it is hoped that they will help prod the government to invest much more in transportation infrastructure.

Not that the responsible ministers haven’t been working on it. But they have so far been able to catch up to the soaring number of vehicles on the roads.

Last month, the Knesset Research and Information Center said the number of vehicles in Israel increased by 17 percent in the past five years, while road mileage rose by only 6 percent.

A long-range assessment by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transport from 2012 said that 200-300 billion shekels would have to go into mass transit over the coming decade, or the country would never see the end of the traffic jams.

Beaumont suggested an interim plan to ease the congestion:

“It will take a long time to close the infrastructure gap created as a result of many years of neglect. As an interim solution, we therefore recommend a policy based on managing demand — for example, shared transportation, car pools, and public transportation lanes. All of these are relatively cheap and have a quick effect. A more significant step will be following the example of London and Stockholm by imposing a congestion fee.”

However, the latter idea has already run into opposition from Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), who argues that it’s to punish drivers with a tax without providing adequate alternatives. He also knows that if he endorses such a tax, he is liable to become as unpopular as the tax.