MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and MK Yariv Levin (Likud-Beytenu) launched the
Sustainable Transportation Lobby in the Knesset on Tuesday, in the hopes of
making public transportation more accessible and enabling comfortable travel via
modes other than private cars.
“It’s time that we leave behind the
assumption that transportation occurs only by car – transportation is not only
on four wheels,” Zandberg said.
“The goal of the lobby is not only
ideological, but also practical. We ask, and ask here what it would take to get
past the current situation where we rely on the private car, what would it take
to turn the tide and create accessible transportation and the option to
The first meeting of the new lobby was the keynote event at the
Knesset’s annual Environment Day, which this year occurred one day before the
United Nations-sponsored World Environment Day. In honor of the day, both
Zandberg and MK Dov Henin (Hadash) arrived to the Knesset by bus, while MK Moshe
Feiglin (Likud-Beytenu) rode his bike.
Emphasizing that the lobby hopes
to have both environmental and social ramifications, Zandberg said that an
increased use of bicycles and walking will help reduce toxic emissions.
Meanwhile, she added, a diverse array of transport options will help achieve
accessibility and thereby social equality.
“The issue of public
transportation should become a national mission – we must... encourage the
government to invest in public transportation,” said Levin, co-founder of the
“This issue affects employment opportunities, health,
accessibility and reaching places of recreation and culture,” Levin argued. “We
need to try once again for a breakthrough on this issue.”
Likud-Beytenu MK stressed that in his previous Knesset term, the first thing he
did was try to set up a lobby to promote public transportation, where the
members aimed to achieve breakthroughs in policy and
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz agreed that much more
needs to be done to improve public transportation, acknowledging that public
transport in the Gush Dan region particularly, lags behind the rest of the
While public transportation is critical to society, it is
very difficult to set in motion, according to Katz.
“I would welcome an
additional NIS 250 billion for development of roads and public transportation in
Israel,” he said. Katz did stress, however, that he does not understand “the war
against the private car.”
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz,
who was also present at the lobby launch, said that his ministry has no
intention of being an obstacle to development projects such as those that take
place within the transportation sector, only noting that his office’s job is “to
take care of the smoke behind the vehicle.” Sometimes, he said, bureaucratic
barriers can have values.
“Not every bus that is painted green emits less
exhaust – do not be impressed by the use of green that is often deceptive and
unfair,” Peretz said.
“I hope that we reach the Transportation Ministry,
which is the transportation body that has the right to assign the green tag for
real and not in vain,” he added.
The transportation sector would have the
opportunity to be more sustainable if the government allocated large amounts of
natural gas to the industry, Peretz added. He slammed the Zemach Committee,
which submitted natural gas allocations to the government this fall, for failing
to allot enough gas to transportation.
At the lobby’s opening session,
government officials and representatives of several organizations also presented
data from various reports recently compiled about the transportation
One report, prepared by the Knesset’s Center for Research and
Information at Zandberg’s request, revealed that Israel’s public transportation
level is much lower than that of other developed countries and even of some
developing countries. According to the report, the investment in public
transportation in Israel is 86 percent lower than the global average: 1,400
euros per resident per year as opposed to 10,000 euros per resident per
Dr. Arie Wenger – head of the air and energy department at Adam
Teva V’Din- Israel Union for Environmental Defense – presented a report from his
organization that explores the correlation between the reduction of greenhouse
gases and the promotion of public transportation in Israel. One’s greenhouse gas
emissions from travel by private car are 60% higher than travel by public
transportation, the report found.
The report demonstrated that shortening
travel time on public transportation by 10% will increase the usage of public
transportation by 4%, while a 50% improvement in the frequency of public
transportation availability would increase the amount of passengers by
“While modern countries in the world see the promotion of public
transportation infrastructure as one of the main ways to cope with air pollution
and greenhouse gas emissions, in Israel not only has a bold and innovative
program not been presented for public transportation, but also the meager plans
that did exist are being cut,” said Adam Teva V’Din executive director Amit
Bracha ahead of the presentation at the lobby.
by the Transportation and Finance Ministry have shown that in the coming years
Israel needs to spend about NIS 265b. on infrastructure for metropolitan public
transportation if it wishes to bridge the gap between it and other developed
nations, according to the NGO. Over the span of 25 years, this would amount to
about NIS 10.6b. per year.
Tamar Keinan, head of Transportation Today and
Tomorrow, likewise presented data about Israel’s low investment in public
transportation. She stressed that even if public transport budgets do increase
in the coming years, officials must plan very carefully exactly how that budget
will be used and create solutions for the entire population.