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Ride-sharing: A solution for congestion in Tel Aviv?

Last week I boarded an early morning train to Tel Aviv from Rehovot; it was packed, so much so that I had a hard time breathing; surprising, considering I come from India
Illustrative photo of heavy traffic on the highway entering Tel Aviv. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of heavy traffic on the highway entering Tel Aviv. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

March 18, 2018: I boarded an early morning train to reach Tel Aviv from Rehovot. The train was packed. So much so, I was having a hard time breathing while struggling to hold onto something while the train was moving. Take this from someone who comes from India (a country known for overcrowded trains and buses), now you can get to understand the severity of the situation. I was accompanied by a Chinese colleague (at the Israel-Asia Leaders Fellowship) and soon we moved to a comparative discussion focusing how public transport in Tel Aviv compares to say, Delhi and Beijing.

There is no denying the fact that Tel Aviv is a growing city. It has more startups than anywhere else (with the exception of Silicon Valley) [1] and is the ninth most expensive city in the world [2]. Everywhere around, you can feel and appreciate the vibrancy. Understandably, with such rapid growth comes tremendous load on the public infrastructure, most notably the public transport. In terms of vehicular traffic, Tel Aviv is already the congested city among OECD nations [3]. With close to 400,000 residents and another 600,000 people commuting to Tel Aviv from surrounding areas – there are already 1,000,000 people directly impacted by transport policies of the city authorities. Not surprisingly, it is already a topic of discussion among these people [4].

As part of the programming of the Israel-Asia Leaders Fellowship program, my cohort of fellows and I were presented with a challenge: to work together to address the transportation needs of the residents of Tel Aviv. We spent the day to understand the system, take note of what residents and commuters have to say, interact with a key stakeholder and think of ways in which city can be relieved of vehicular congestion. We started by looking at the best practices around Asia as most of the major Asian cities (such as Tokyo, New Delhi, Beijing, Jakarta) deal with high volume of commuter traffic and one team of fellows connected with transportation experts from Singapore, Beijing and Hong Kong. To appreciate the aspirations of the people, some of us took to the streets and talked to about 80 people. Heartening to see, a size-able proportion of people were content with the existing infrastructure and wanted to keep it as such. However others were concerned with the growing congestion in trains and buses and said that they would love to see more buses and trains in service. The streets of Israel are already flooded, with new car deliveries breaking the record [5] and traffic jams costing 20 billion shekels a year [6]. Clearly, private cars do provide a certain degree of convenience not catered by public transport at present.

To appreciate the aspirations of the people, some of us took to the streets and talked to ~80 people. Heartening to see, a sizeable proportion of people were content with the existing infrastructure and wanted to keep it as such. However others were concerned with the growing congestion in trains and buses and said that they would love to see more buses and trains in service. The streets of Israel are already flooded, with new car deliveries breaking the record [5] and traffic jams costing 20 billion shekels a year [6]. Clearly, private cars do provide a certain degree of convenience not catered by public transport at present.

(Image credit: Maya Hadash/Israel-Asia Center)

An Israel-Asia Leaders fellow interviewing a commuter outside Tel Aviv HaHagana Station

(Image credit: Maya Hadash/Israel-Asia Center)

Fellows brainstorming on efficient transport infrastructure.

After much deliberation, we came to the conclusion that since adding new bus lines would to take time, it may be great opportunity for the private sector to take the lead. One of the solutions discussed was subscription based ride-sharing formula where daily commuters can subscribe to a monthly ride-sharing option, where the rider and the driver have similar route of commute. That way, you save money, reduce traffic and make new friends!

Tel Aviv transport infrastructure also suffers from unavailability of last-mile connectivity. Although, it doesn’t make a significant impact partly because of the city’s relatively small size, introduction of shuttle service for 2-5 km on certain route would help to refrain people from picking up the car keys. It’s amazing to see ride-sharing being already discussed by the municipality and a trial operation is expected to begin shortly [6]. Hopefully, the exercise will lead to inspiring results and lead to mass adoption in near future.

About the Author
Sandipan is a PhD candidate in Biochemistry at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. He is passionate about introducing affordable patient-centric healthcare solutions to the Indian market. Note: All opinions expressed are personal and are not endorsed by any affiliated institution or organization.
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