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Tel Aviv's Monstrosity of a Central Station Is a Symbol of the City's Failures

Joshua Sobol
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Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station last month.
Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station last month.Credit: Hadas Parush
Joshua Sobol

The Tel Aviv Central Bus Station is a monstrous structure that was designed to serve neither city residents nor the passengers who go there. Anyone who comes to the station for the purpose of traveling somewhere encounters a maze of corridors and stairwells that are not designed to lead them to the platform or bus they need via the shortest and friendliest route. Quite the opposite. The labyrinth of hallways, multiple levels and twisting corridors were designed to lead passengers past shops and businesses to tempt them to make purchases on their way to the bus. This grotesque building was designed to serve real estate sharks rather than bus passengers, and ultimately has left hundreds of square meters of deserted storefronts as a monument to the developers’ greed.

>> Plan to close Tel Aviv's central bus station delayed by four years

With tens of thousands of people having to pass through a compound of this kind, which is situated in Tel Aviv's disadvantaged Neve Sha'anan neighborhood, the location and structural elements naturally attract shadowy types who view the transient masses – many of them young men – as a ripe potential customer base for a wide and varied menu of drugs and prostitution.

So it is no wonder that situating the central bus station in an architectural monstrosity in Tel Aviv’s neglected south has done nothing to improve the area but has instead had the opposite effect, in addition to becoming a serious air pollution hazard for the people living nearby.

When the station was still in the planning stages, the Tel Aviv municipality should have foreseen the potential environmental damage inherent in building an antisocial, anti-urban compound like this problematic commercial labyrinth, which, counter to all the rules of thoughtful urban design, is artificially attached to a bus station that ideally should be serving tens of thousands of people a day in the friendliest way possible, without becoming a hazard for the people who live near it.

The municipality should have rejected the construction of the station in its current form, within any of the city’s neighborhoods. It should have allocated land sufficiently distant from residential areas, and not planted a sanitary and social hazard in the middle of a neglected residential area on the city’s fringes that would cause the area to deteriorate even further.

The city’s abject failure to fulfill this duty toward its citizens when the station was in the planning stages does not exempt it now from remedying the injustice that was done to south Tel Aviv residents by planting this hazard in the heart of their neighborhood. The municipality must uproot the station from the residential section of south Tel Aviv and build a people-friendly and environmentally-friendly station outside the residential neighborhoods.

A correct decision to do so was previously made, but for completely unwarranted reasons was postponed and rejected. So, I have a suggestion: As a tribute to his long years in office, let us proclaim that from now on, the station shall be named for the honorable mayor of Tel Aviv. If he chooses to have mercy on the central bus station rather than show any mercy to local residents, let us ensure that above the complex’s numerous entrances there are signs welcoming passengers to the Ron Huldai Central Bus Station. Huldai’s legacy will thus be reflected by the smelly white elephant he has bequeathed to Tel Avivians for years to come.

On the other hand, if the mayor reconsiders the decision and goes ahead with removing the bus station, he could have the privilege of inaugurating the planning committee for Huldai Park to take its place – a green lung and an affordable housing complex that will rehabilitate south Tel Aviv and enable people to see a future in the city without having to climb to the 30th floor of a luxury high-rise.

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