Tel Aviv Is Waging War on Cars but Jerusalem Gives Them One Free Hour of Parking a Day

Activists says mayor's move will see the city ‘moving backward to increased traffic jams, time wasted and air pollution’

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A traffic jam in Jerusalem, February 2019.
A traffic jam in Jerusalem, February 2019.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

As the Tel Aviv municipality takes action to reduce private cars in the city, Jerusalem’s city hall is taking opposite measures.

Starting in January, Jerusalem residents will get one hour of free parking in zones marked by blue and white stripes. This was one of the election promises made by Mayor Moshe Leon, who took office earlier this month.

Public transportation advocates assailed the city’s decision. “This step will exacerbate congestion and harm pedestrians,” said Yossi Saidov, a founder of the 15 Minutes Public Transportation Alliance. “Free parking encourages the use of private vehicles in a city in which most residents use public transportation.” He claims that this decision will prompt drivers to enter the downtown area, where lanes for private vehicles have been reduced in recent years.

“While Western cities are reducing parking areas and lanes for private vehicles, investing in infrastructure for pedestrians and bicycles, Jerusalem is moving backward toward increased traffic jams, time wasted and air pollution,” said Saidov. “The ones who will be hurt primarily are pedestrians, since the sidewalks they use have becoming parking spots due to Leon’s obsession with parking and the non-enforcement policy adopted by the municipality.”

Leon said that the step was a “happy parking holiday” for Jerusalem. “Jerusalem has experienced a revolution in every area over the last year, and today parking has been added to the mix,” he said. “Over the coming term I’ll continue working hard to raise Jerusalem’s image. Happy parking holiday, Jerusalem.”

In order to activate this benefit, residents need to register on the city’s website using the smartphone app Cellopark or Pango. The benefit applies to Jerusalem residents only and is good for 60 minutes per day, so people can’t move their car after one hour to get a free hour elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Tel Aviv City Hall is looking at the possibility of raising fees for out-of-town visitors parking in blue and white striped parking zones, as well as at limiting the distribution of parking permits for Tel Aviv residents.

The two options are part of an overall plan the municipality is putting together to reduce congestion. The city closed a section of Levinsky Street to vehicular traffic this week and has started charging fees for parking in the Reading parking lot, which used to be free, as part of an attempt to lower the use of private vehicles in the city.