The use of private cars in Israel continues inching up, according to a survey by the Central Bureau of Statistics, which found that the average distance driven reached 16,800 kilometers per car in 2011 - 100 kilometers more than the previous year.
Overall road use by all types of vehicles - private cars, trucks, buses, taxicabs and motorcycles - was up 1.7% for the year, totaling 51 billion kilometers, while the overall distance traveled per vehicle declined from 19,900 kilometers in 2010 to 19,400 in 2011.
This was largely due to average distances covered by trucks dropping from 38,100 kilometers to just 33,400 kilometers last year, and average distances traveled by minibuses and other small passenger shuttle vehicles declining as well. Full-length buses increased mileage covered by 3% in 2011 compared with the previous year.
Not surprisingly, the study found that roads have become increasingly crowded over the past two decades. While distances traveled have soared 172% since 1990 and the number of vehicles has risen 164% over the same period, the road network has only increased 41% in length and 80% in area.
Some of the reasons for the increased use of cars can be found in a survey conducted by Or Yarok, a traffic safety organization, last January.
Only 40% of respondents said they relied primarily on public transportation while among those who didn't, 57% cited lack of convenience, 15% said timetables were too limiting, 9% said it's too slow and 6% cited crowdedness. If these problems were corrected, 60% of respondents said they would be willing to use public transportation.
Transportation Ministry figures show that the rate of public transportation use in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area is among the lowest in the world: just 30%, as opposed to 63% in Zurich, 65% in Barcelona and 70% in Warsaw.
"Improving and broadening the public transportation network is necessary and urgent," said Shmuel Abuav, CEO of Or Yarok. "A transfer of 10% from private to public transportation would mean NIS 5.5 billion in savings and, more importantly, the saving of lives from a consequent drop in the number of traffic accidents."