A series of structural reforms that are to be part of the Economic Arrangements Law will be unpalatable for many, but the advantages to the public far outweigh the damage they might cause. One of these is the proposal to levy a toll on vehicles entering the Tel Aviv metropolitan area during the height of rush hour. The purpose of the toll is to reduce traffic jams and encourage the use of the park-and-ride alternative – free shuttles from parking lots outside the area, public transport lanes and increasing the frequency of public transport.
Reducing congestion at entry points to greater Tel Aviv is essential to prevent traffic accidents and air pollution, but it is mainly necessary to prevent the enormous waste of working hours in traffic, the estimated cost of which is 40 billion shekels ($12.3 billion) a year. To reduce this waste, a toll is proposed of 25 shekels in the morning and 12.5 shekels in the afternoon.
Such a toll is the only solution to the problems of clogged roads in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. Criticism of the proposal, that public transportation be developed first, and only then should a toll be imposed – is not a practical solution. At this point, both actions must be taken simultaneously.
But the many people that could be hurt by the toll have been pressuring the Knesset Economic Committee to be exempt from paying it. For example, hundreds of thousands of disabled people, only a small number of whom are severely disabled. A good many of the 375,000 vehicles with disability tags include not only vehicles belonging to the disabled themselves, but vehicles belonging to drivers who transport a disabled person in their own car. These drivers may now take advantage of their disability tag to be exempted from the toll.
Taxis are also seeking an exemption as a form of public transportation, although taxis usually only transport one person, their contribution to pollution is as great as any private car, and people who use taxis at rush hour are usually more affluent.
People who work in the city, suppliers, truck drivers, small business owners, and of course the residents of Tel Aviv itself, are all pressuring the committee for exemptions.
All these requests are invalid in principle. Many people have reasons to enter the city during rush hour. That is why the roads are so congested at that time. If the Knesset is persuaded to hand out exemptions to everyone who asks, only “suckers” who have no lobby will pay the toll. This must not be allowed to happen.
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Courageous public policy almost always comes at a cost. The ones hurt by it will exert pressure to prevent its implementation. The role of the decision makers is, of course, to listen to everyone who might be hurt, but in the end, to prioritize the common good.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.