Tel Aviv studies congestion charging
Take a bike: Tel Aviv studies downtown congestion fees
By Avi Bar-Eli http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/831875.html
For the past month, a private consulting company has been assessing the possibility of imposing a congestion charge to ease traffic on the streets of Tel Aviv. Transportation engineers, academics, economists, pollsters and other professionals who represent the company recently completed a survey of congestion charge implementation around the world and have begun to consider creating a plan for Israel.
The cabinet appointed a steering committee to analyze the company's findings, with representatives from the Transportation Ministry, the Accountant General's Office, the Finance Ministry's Budget Division, local authorities and respected academics. The company is expected to issue its final report, with recommendations, next January.
ROM Transportation Engineering, based in Jerusalem, won a Transportation Ministry tender to study options for reducing traffic congestion in the Greater Tel Aviv area, including the possibility of instituting a congestion charge within the city during rush hour. Only three places in the world have a congestion charge: Singapore (as of 1975), London (2003) and Stockholm (2006). There are two main ways to institute the fee. The first is a "ring" system, in which the city, or parts thereof, is divided into a series of concentric rings. The innermost ring, the most congested area of the city center, would cost the most to enter by vehicle, while the outermost ring would cost the least. The zone system, as its name implies, imposes different charge rates for different zones of the city.
Payment is exacted by photographing the vehicle license plates and billing drivers afterward. The actual charges tend to change in accordance with the stage of implementation and the response of drivers. In London, for example, the authorities recently announced an increase in the fee for entering the city center, from five pounds sterling to between eight and 15 pounds.
The construction of parking lots integrated with public transport outside of the charge zones is usually part of the congestion fee plan.
ROM has already begun time studies of commuter routes in order to create a picture of local rush-hour periods, and they are due to start polling commuters to determine their willingness to pay for driving in certain areas. The consultants will also be talking to former ministry directors general and mayors to get their take on the issue.
Sources in the transportation industry say there is probably no way to avoid imposing traffic charges in metropolitan Tel Aviv, the only proven method for effectively reducing traffic on a regular basis.
Other methods to regulate demand, such as toll roads, adding lanes on heavily-traveled stretches, extra interchanges and other means have proven ineffective in the long run and economically unfeasible. The main obstacles to implementing a congestion charge are likely to be political.
The first instance of collecting a congestion charge in Israel is expected to be the extra lane planned for the Ayalon Highway between the Shapirim Exchange and Tel Aviv. It is envisioned as a rapid transit lane with a toll that varies in accordance with the degree of congestion.