Plan to Free Up Tel Aviv Parking May Hold Out-of-towners in Chokehold

Plan's goal is to alleviate parking congestion and free up spots for residents; it still needs approval of city council, interior and transport ministries.

Tel Aviv residents will be able to park anywhere in the city for free, while non-residents will be paying the maximum allowed by law, under a new plan the Tel Aviv Municipality unveiled on Tuesday.

The plan's goal is to alleviate parking congestion and free up spots for residents. It still needs approval from the city council, the Interior Ministry and the Transportation Ministry.

Tel Aviv parking - Nir Kafri
Nir Kafri

Now, residents will not have to pay to park in blue-and-white zones outside their home neighborhood. Until now, they had paid NIS 0.69 per hour to park in these zones.

However, non-residents will be paying more - NIS 5, up from the current NIS 4.50. The new rate is the highest allowed by law.

Residents will also be paying less to park in 62 lots operated by municipal company Ahuzat Hahof, the municipality said. Now, they'll be getting a 75% discount, up from the current 50%. The discount will not apply at lots outside courthouses and cultural institutions.

In addition, Ahuzat Hahof is supposed to start operating another 24 lots.

Plus, 7,000 parking spaces in some of these lots will be available to residents for free from 8 P.M. to 8 A.M. on weekdays, and from 3 P.M. Fridays until 8 A.M. on Sundays.

However, the reform neglects to make much new parking available in the city center. Only one new lot, on Bograshov Street, will be added in this area, which is where the parking shortage is most felt.

The plan gives clear preference to residents and its impact should be felt, even if it does not solve all the city's parking woes, said Tel Aviv Municipality Director General Menachem Leiba.

The change was initiated by Mayor Ron Huldai and his deputy Assaf Zamir.

"The parking problem will not be solved, but residents' quality of life will improve considerably," Leiba declared at a press conference Tuesday.

Due to a lack of proper public transportation, many residents resort to cars, he noted. Only better public transport can solve the city's parking woes, and that's something that needs to come from the central government, not the municipality, he explained.

Last summer's Gush Dan public transportation reform improved matters to some degree for non-residents who commute daily into Tel Aviv, but it also damaged city residents' quality of life, he said.

The city had tried to raise parking fees for non-residents in blue-and-white zones in the past, but the Transportation Ministry wouldn't let it, said Leiba.

"As far as we're concerned, non-residents ought to use public transportation," he said.

"Non-residents should pay high parking fees, both in our lots and in the blue-and-white zones. If they could be charged more than NIS 5, we would do so," he said.

Leiba promised that the municipality would continue to seek parking solutions for residents, hinting that the city would turn a blind eye to nighttime parking infractions that do not disturb the flow of traffic.

The municipality is trying to increase the number of parking lots and spaces in the city center, and has plans to build new lots there, he said. One example is a pilot to build an underground parking lot under Sokolow Street, he said.

Opposition council member Sharon Malki, of the City for All movement, said the new plan bore the stench of election politics.

"Huldai thinks that the best way to win residents' hearts is to provide cheaper parking, rather than to invest in quality public transport," she said. "A mayor 13 years in office cannot say 'there is no public transportation.' The most he can do is ask 'What did I fail to do for public transportation?'"

Malki added: "Over the past 13 years, Huldai has encouraged the use of private cars by building new parking lots and roads."

Cutting or eliminating residents' parking fees in blue-and-white zones requires the approval of the city council, followed by the interior and transportation ministries. Municipality officials hope that approval will come through within a few months. The other aspects of the parking reform will take effect on March 1.

Municipality officials estimate that the reform will reduce city revenue by a significant NIS 35 million a year.