You think traffic’s bad? You’re absolutely right!

IMF and OECD say Israel’s roads worst in Western world

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan and Beit Aryeh-Ofarim Regional Council head Avi Naim point to the missing two kilometers of road.  (photo credit: ROI HADI)
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan and Beit Aryeh-Ofarim Regional Council head Avi Naim point to the missing two kilometers of road.
(photo credit: ROI HADI)
As if Yaron in Tel Aviv and Dara in Jerusalem don’t already know the obvious: Israel has the worst traffic in the Western world, according to two international watchdog groups that blasted Israel for its lack of public investment in infrastructure.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Monetary Fund published corroborating reports this week lamenting the state of transportation in Israel, saying traffic jams would shave future economic growth and limit productivity.
Israel continues to lag behind in spending on transportation infrastructure as a percentage of GDP. The country has 2,800 cars per kilometer of road, or three-and-a-half times the average of 800 cars in the OECD – the group of wealthy, mostly Western countries. That, despite Israelis owning 38% fewer cars per capita than the group average.
Prof. Dan Ben-David of Tel Aviv University and the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research spoke with the authors of the OECD report. “We spoke about the importance of investing in infrastructure, how congestion is affecting and has a very strong negative effect on income, on poverty,” he said.
“It’s something that needs to be addressed. There’s a very huge gap in the level of transportation infrastructure in Israel relative to the developed-world average,” Ben-David said.
The IMF report said that if Israel invested more in mass transit, including buses and railways, it could make a dent in the country’s “considerable road congestion and poor quality.”
The Finance Ministry estimates that traffic shaves some NIS 35 billion from the economy, according to Globes. The number of cars on the road rose by 150,000 in 2017 alone.
The biannual OECD report added that less crowded transportation would improve “access to the labor market, particularly for disadvantaged groups living in peripheral zones. Better infrastructure in disadvantaged areas, especially Arab cities, would improve job prospects and well-being.”
While Israel enjoys a workforce participation rate comparable to the West, fewer than half of ultra-Orthodox men and Arab woman work.
In other words, higher subsidies for Egged’s bus network could help strengthen access for people to commute to centers of employment.
With Israel enjoying 3.5% GDP growth – unparalleled in the West – the IMF urged Israel to use this momentum to spend more on transportation and to alleviate the burden on its road network.
The Transportation Ministry is currently overseeing a number of large-scale infrastructure projects, including construction of the Tel Aviv Light Rail – with three planned lines across the metropolitan area, slated to open in 2022. The Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high-speed railway is projected to open in the fall of 2018. The projects will barely meet current needs, let alone accommodate future growth in population and car ownership.
Ben-David added: “We are spending more money on the one hand, but we have such a huge gap to close... All of this is determined by national priorities. In the 1970s, we had achieved parity in terms of congestion on the road with small European countries.”
The current expenditures aren’t sufficient, especially when considering Israel’s relatively high population-growth rate and the fact that more and more people are buying private cars.
The IMF recommended interim measures such as car-pooling, highway lanes that require multiple passengers, ride-sharing and congestion charges. Transportation Minister Israel Katz opposed a congestion charge for Tel Aviv in the past.