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The seventh floor of the new Tel Aviv central bus station was opened exactly two months ago. The Dan bus company's many bus lines, previously scattered through narrow streets near the station, were moved to the new floor, along with some Egged lines previously on the second floor.

Beyond the floor's modern conditions, the move represents a significant change for nearby streets, notorious for heavy bus traffic resulting in air pollution, as well as overcrowding and noise.

Not everyone, however, is happy with the change. Merchants from the sixth floor say there had been a drop of 40 percent in sales since the inauguration of the new floor.

The opening of the seventh floor was delayed due to problems related to the access of buses to that level, as well as budget and permit concerns. Following a NIS 40 million investment and after having received a permit from the Transportation Ministry, the modern and airy floor was opened to the public.

In addition to the 20 Dan and eight Egged lines, the station's bus information office also moved there.

Until the opening, the many lines entering and departing the station caused traffic jams, which delayed departures by as much as 25 minutes. The previous situation also caused environmental damage, including air pollution and noise, to local residents.

With the recent change, the buses travel through a viaduct from the sixth floor that joins up with Hel Hashiryon Street, from where the buses continue on to their destinations.

"The move to the seventh floor is a real victory," says Itzik Kagan, Dan spokesman and board member. "Departure time has been shortened, and some of the lines join up directly with the Ayalon freeway or Hamasger Street without even passing through the neighboring streets."

Figures collected by the Tel Aviv Municipality show that problems caused by buses in neighboring streets have, in fact, been significantly reduced. Before the move, about 1,200 buses traveled through nearby Congress Street daily - now only 760 buses pass through the street, a reduction of 36 percent; 1,260 buses passed through Matalon Street daily and now the figure stands at 470, a 60 percent reduction; 1,230 buses traveled through Rosh Pina Street, now it is down to 700, a 40 percent drop; 1,370 buses traveled through Salomon Street daily, now the figure is at 780, a 43 percent reduction; 1,100 buses traveled through Hagedud Ha'ivri Street, now it is down to 650, a 41 percent drop; 1,230 buses traveled daily through Harakevet Street, from Salomon to Hamasger, now that figure is down to 870 percent, a 29 percent drop.

"The reduction is not that dramatic or significant, says Moshe Tsitiat, a neighborhood activist who lives near the viaduct. "It's not that we suddenly got up one day and noticed that an enormous change had occurred. But now that you mention it, there is a certain reduction."

Merchants of the central bus station are unhappy with the opening of the new floor. There are about 30 shops and food stalls on the sixth floor, and the merchants are repoting a sharp drop in sales.

Merchants said that many consumers were going straight to the seventh floor without stopping to shops on their way. Soldiers waiting for buses on the seventh floor do not want to carry their heavy bags up and down stairs, and as a result, they have forgone services offered on the sixth floor.

"Moving the Dan and Egged lines to the seventh floor will improve service for all those using the station as well as the shop owners," says the bus station management. "In management's view, opening the new level will significantly increase passenger traffic in the station, which will benefit the merchants too. There are no shops currently operating on the seventh floor and no commercial activity is planned. We regret any damage done to the merchants and will do our best to improve their situation."

On Wednesday, the Tel Aviv local committee authorized a development plan for Levinsky Street near the bus station, between Rishon Letzion, Yesod Hama'aleh, Tsemach David, Antabi and Lewanda streets. This area, east of the station, is considered as the most seriously damaged following recent changes, especially the addition of the viaduct, which passes very close to nearby apartment buildings.

According to the plan, a green square will be built in the middle of the compound on an area of eight dunams (2 acres). Industrial and residential buildings will be constructed around the square with a parking garage underneath. The viaduct, which passes through the compound, will be sealed to prevent air and noise pollution.

"The idea of the plan is that it creates a large green square on both sides of Levinsky Street," says Tel Aviv City Engineer Danny Keiser.