Extra Parking May Scuttle Light Rail Use

Reducing the number of parking spaces has been used around the world to curb the use of private transportation. In Tel Aviv, however, which desperately needs to put people on public transportation to relieve its congested roads, that measure will not be employed in the near future.

Last month the Tel Aviv District's Planning and Construction Committee decided not to reduce the number of available parking spaces before a mass transit system based on a light railway is constructed. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel criticized the decision, claiming it would perpetuate the public's unhealthy reliance on private transportation.

Last month the committee debated recommendations to substantially reduce the number of parking spaces in the city's industrial and commercial areas, particularly in areas located between 350 to 650 meters from a mass transit system. The proposal would have reduced the number of public spaces from one per 40 meters, to one for every 125 to 250 meters.

The committee supported a gradual reduction in parking spaces until the light railway is completed. Members argued that a drastic reduction would cause serious traffic problems and cause businesses to relocate outside the city.

"The [committee's] decision means that the reliance on private transport will continue and will cause environmental damage like pollution," Anat Barkai-Nevo, a member of SPNI, said.

Barkai-Nevo said that parking must be limited in the city immediately in order to change the public's habits and increase the future mass transit system's chances of alleviating traffic.

"There are public transportation projects that can be pushed forward without having to wait for the light rail," she said.

Tel Aviv's roads are among the busiest in the world and hundreds of thousands of commuters get stuck in heavy traffic jams on a daily basis. A suburban railway has been discussed for the past 40 years and is currently in the early stages of construction, though completion is still a few years off.

Meanwhile, some politicians, including former mayoral candidate MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), have suggested setting up a rapid bus system similar to ones in Mexico City and Bogota to offer immediate and temporary relief.

However, Mayor Ron Huldai's camp believes the system's advantages would be minimal. They argue that only an underground railway can provide real, long-term relief and suggest investing as much as possible in putting the proposed railway below street level.

At the same time the municipality is building a massive new car park next to the Habima theater and plans are underway to build a similar complex beneath Rabin Square.

Some urban planners fear the availability of parking within the city will encourage people to use private transportation to commute to Tel Aviv.