Undoing the “Gordian Knot”: a transportation roadmap for the short run

Cite As:
Trajtenberg Manuel, Cohen Shuki, Alon Pardo, Sharav Nir. Undoing the “Gordian Knot”: a transportation roadmap for the short run Haifa Israel: Samuel Neaman Institute, 2018. https://neaman.org.il/EN/Undoing-the-Gordian-Knot-a-transportation-roadmap-for-the-short-run

Israel’s chronic traffic congestion and its deficient public transport system have become one of its most pressing problems, with dire economic, environmental and psychological consequences. They are the result of decades-long underinvestment in public transport, and of road expansion without managing rising demand and traffic flow. The large infrastructure investments being pushed forward may mitigate worsening congestion in the distant future, but not in the short and medium run: Israel’s high and rising density, brisk economic growth and galloping real estate prices ensure that rising demand and use of private cars will continue to outstrip the projected expansion of the infrastructure.

The only way to tackle the looming transportation crisis is to bring about change in the behavioral patterns of riders, particularly of the 80% of commuters that drive alone in their cars, contributing decisively to congestion in the center of the country. Such change calls for the joint deployment of strong economic incentives and of enabling technologies, so that at least some of those drivers will switch over to shared trips.

This paper lays out a comprehensive plan to foster the required change in travel behavior, centered on a far reaching reform in taxation: all existing taxes on private vehicles (sales taxes on cars, surcharges on fuel, permits, etc.) will be abolished, and will be replaced by a revenue-neutral charge per km driven, which will vary finely according to route, time and number of passengers; incentives will be given to employers and employees to share rides to business areas; urban bus service will be upgraded to make it competitive with private cars. The plan could be implemented in the short-medium run and does not require huge budgets. However, it does require a deep change in mindset, public pressure and a great deal of political courage - hopefully these will come about in the not too distant future.

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