Tel Aviv 'congestion tax' is still far from implementation stage

Knesset research suggests that the program is still at least several years away from implementation.

traffic 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
traffic 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Despite pronouncements that a "congestion tax" proposal in central Tel Aviv aimed at reducing traffic and pollution will be brought before the Knesset within three months, a Knesset research report suggests that the program is still at least several years away from implementation. The report was presented to the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee Wednesday during a first discussion of the proposed tax. The proposal for a congestion tax first emerged out of an inter-ministerial committee in 1999, but there has been little progress since. In 2004 the tenders for creating the program were issued. On Wednesday, Transportation Ministry Director-General Gideon Siterman told the committee the first small stage of their new proposal would be ready for implementation by the end of 2009. Committee Chair Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) urged the ministry to have a bill proposal ready for the Knesset in three months. How much the tax would be and other details have yet to be worked out, but the ministry talked about potentially charging NIS 25-50 per car. While London implemented such a program six years ago and will even increase the tax on polluting cars in the near future, according to the report, bureaucratic wrangling has dragged out the planning process in all three similar proposals being considered for implementation in Tel Aviv. Three parallel proposals for dealing with the congestion have all been held up by arguments and objections from many of the parties involved, including government ministries and bus companies, the report claimed. One proposal calls for preventing diesel vehicles, which produce a larger share of air pollution, from entering an area that would run from Sderot Ben-Gurion to Rehov Shenkin north to south, and east to west from Rehov Ibn Gvirol to Rehov Ben-Yehuda. Trucks and buses generally run on diesel as opposed to private vehicles. The bus companies have provisionally agreed but are still working out the details. The Transportation Ministry has objected to the proposal for several reasons, not least of which is the lack of adequate public transportation to compensate for any reduction in bus service. Another plan calls for a tax on all vehicles entering central Tel Aviv in an attempt to reduce congestion. The congestion tax area would run from Sderot Rokach to Kibbutz Galuyot Way and from the Ayalon Highway to the sea. The third proposal - and the one the committee discussed - proposes a sliding tax based on the amount an individual's car pollutes. The pollution tax area would run from Sderot Ben-Gurion to Rehov Shenkin north to south and east to west from Rehov Yehuda Halevi to Ben Yehuda, with a proposed extension northward to Rehov Ussishkin. According to the report, that plan presupposes the introduction of the first line of the Tel Aviv light rail slated to open in 2013. The report noted that either of these two proposals was at least a few years away from implementation stage. While in Beijing, cars have been pulled off the road and factories closed to get the air pollution under control for the upcoming Olympics, processes in a democracy grind much slower.