Right now everyone is up in arms about housing, a few weeks ago it was the price of food.  My guess is that the next powder keg will be transportation.  Transportation is essential to the housing debate.  If you want to live in a central area near a job you need to pay a lot for housing; if you want a good deal on housing you need to commute.  But if you want to commute you run into the problem of not having any way to get back and forth.  Often there is poor (or no) public transportation where you can afford to live and the price of a car is astronomical.  Owning and maintaining a car can cost as much as the amount of money you save on rent (essentially negating the benefit of finding cheaper housing and making it close to impossible to find a place to live that you can afford).

Many Israelis are faced with one of two options when they seek affordable housing by living in an outlying area:  Buy a car and drown in the expense or hitchhike.  This scenario has been created by poor and outdated government policies on cars.   The outrageously high prices are not an accident, cars are out of people’s reach financially on purpose. 

The reason we pay so much more for cars and gas here is because they are heavily taxed, the reason they are heavily taxed is because the government policy is to encourage people to use public transportation. The problem is there is no public transportation!

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This further creates a class divide in the population between the people who have freedom of movement and those who do not.  This flat tax hits the poorer and more vulnerable sections of Israeli society the hardest. 

It seems as if our government officials are completely oblivious to this part of the issue.  They just might be so cut off from the Israeli people at this point that they don’t realize it is happening.  All of the Israeli Ministers are currently driving around in their free Volvo’s purchased with our tax dollars.  I wonder what would happen to our transportation crisis if their cars were taken away and they were forced to use public transportation (or hitch a ride) for even one day. 

The lack of good transportation damages the economy on a whole, on top of the challenge of getting back and forth to work.  Spending a huge portion of income on a car means that people have less expendable income; they shop less and do less.  They have less money for the arts and education for their children.  Not having access to any type of transportation (public or otherwise) means that people will stay home: This hurts the entire economy - stores, entertainment, and other services.   

The truth is, despite the high costs, the number of privately owned cars has gone up dramatically.  The government policy has not achieved its goal of discouraging people. What it has done is created a situation where out of necessity people spend a crippling amount of money on transportation. 

Even the entrance into the market of the electric car from “Better Place” doesn’t change this at all.  Their cars are priced competitively and paying for their charged battery service ends up being the same as buying gas.

Because of the lack of public transportation and the cost of driving, hitchhiking in Israel is standard and many times the only alternative.  People wait on street corners or designated areas and cars stop by and ask people where they are going and will often give them a ride.  I have often looked at this system with pride because this is something that doesn’t happen in many other countries.  It shows the true generosity of Israelis and their willingness to help people. But the truth is, the reason that it doesn’t happen in other developed countries is that it is incredibly dangerous.  You never really know whose car you are getting into or what will happen.  

The current government transportation policy is creating a situation where people need to rely on getting into the cars of people they don’t know and that is a tragedy waiting to happen.   

As part of the housing crisis the government needs to solve the transportation crisis.  The government cannot rely on the system of “tremping” (hitchhiking) as a solution to this country’s needs. They need to either find a way to drastically improve public transportation immediately or cut the taxes on cars and fuel to make it more affordable.   In order to have a functioning economy people need to be able to have safe and affordable transportation. 
 
My prediction is that this issue will come to the forefront soon.
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In response to the comments- Israel has limited public transportation which is fine in central areas- the places that tourists like to go but not for outlying areas... the areas people live in when they cannot afford to live in the cities.  For example- Modi''in has a beautiful train station which can get you anywhere but there is almost non-existent transportation to the train station.  Literally, the only way to get there is pay for a cab or get a ride.   That means that either people have to "tremp" or pay a ridiculous amount of money.  They need to set up a bus line or a light rail but it is not even in the planning stages.


Public transportation is the ultimate solution- BUT it takes time to create infrastructure.  I am not sure that people have the time to wait and keep going as things are.  In the meantime, I think that gas prices must go down.

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