Auto-Oriented Transit in Israel

MLewyn's picture

Tonight I saw lawyer Kevin Dwarka speak on smart growth in Israel, focusing on the weaknesses of Israel's railway system.  Although Israel's major cities have rail service, that nation's major rail stations are a classic example of auto-oriented transit: stations surrounded by huge parkiing lots instead of housing and shopping.  

Israel's cities are more compact than most American cities; Tel Aviv has almost 20,000 per square mile, while Jerusalem has 17,000- both fewer than New York City but more than any other major U.S. city.  Israel is also less motorized than the U.S.  Israel has one motor vehicle for every 3 people, less than half the U.S. level.  However, Israel's trend is towards more car use; the number of cars per person increased by 10 percent between 2006 and 2010 alone, while that ratio declined in the U.S. and many other industrialized nations.

As in the United States, population has shifted to automobile-dependent suburbs and rural areas, partially due to road construction facilitating such moves.  Dwarka pointed out that Israeli motorization has created significant pollution problems, such as widespread ashtma and roughly 1400 pollution-related deaths a year.

One unique feature of Israel is that most undeveloped land is publicly owned; thus, auto-based design cannot be blamed on the free market.  However, the political momentum behind change is a little weaker than in the United States; the environmental movement is not as aggressively pro-urbanist in Israel as in the U.S., because many environmentalists still view sprawl as closer to nature. 

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