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Opportunities and Obstacles for Transit Oriented Development in Tel-Aviv

Section 1 – Introduction

Until recently, suburbanization, urban sprawl and the consequential automobile dependence were issues of concern mainly in the United States, Canada and Australia. These days these issues have spread elsewhere, including Asia, the Middle East, and even Europe. Although the problems associated with these changes vary from place to place, they mainly include environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions and pollution; economic constraints such as increases in costs of infrastructures and external costs of pollution; and social injustices such as racial and socio-economical segregation and social inequity.

In 2003 there was one car for every 11.5 people worldwide. However, this is a world average and it is not proportionally divided among countries. While in North America, Australia and Europe there were three people per car on average, in Asia there were 250-300 people per car on average. The relatively low number of cars per persons in the developing world is not at all comforting, knowing the huge potential for growth. Particularly when most of the transportation funding in the developing world is directed toward road infrastructure (60 percent), while only a small portion (17 percent) is directed toward public transit (Whitelegg and  Haq 2003). Eastern European countries, such as Hungary and Romania, have similar investment trends and are also experiencing an increase in road infrastructures. (Whitelegg and  Haq 2003).

Middle Eastern countries are not immune to global transportation trends either.  In a region with no shortage of oil supply, the automobile serves as the main means of transportation among those who can afford it. Similarly to other regions, most transportation infrastructure investments are bound for roads, even though in many areas of the Middle East transportation infrastructure is not well maintained. In most Middle Eastern cities, public transit infrastructure investments are very low priority. (Whitelegg and  Haq 2003).

Presently, Egypt is the only country in the region with a subway system. Even Israel, which has the strongest economy in the Middle East and is highly westernized relative to the rest of the region, has been experiencing difficulties in expanding its transit system. Only in 2006, more than 40 years after they were proposed, did construction on light rail systems begin in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem (Whitelegg and Haq 2003). Meanwhile, the city of Tel-Aviv which concentrates most of Israel’s economic activity is experiencing most of the urban problems that result from car dependency.

Air pollution, congestion, and land depletion in Tel-Aviv are the results of relatively high car ownership (around 400 cars per 1000 people), which is almost twice the national average. Due to the fact that more than 95 percent of public transit trips are made by diesel buses, Tel-Aviv’s transit system contributes its own share to the urban problems (Shiftan et al., 2003).

Shiftan et al. (2003) identify the major transportation problems in the Tel-Aviv metropolitan area. The first is the high and growing congestion, which is due to the increase in car ownership. According to Sofer (2004) the number of vehicles in Israel increases by 100 percent every decade, while the road infrastructure is increases by only 10 percent.  The second problem is the lack of synchronization between the transit system and the spatial patterns of land developments. New residential and commercial developments are built in areas with no or very little access to public transit, an issue that promotes decentralization and higher car dependency.  The third problem is a lack of coordination between the authorities and parties involved in the transportation system, an issue that causes difficulties in maintenance of the transportation system and in the implementation of new projects.  ADDIN EN.CITE Shahar200527275Shahar, AriaBrin, EldadNachmias, DavidMenahem, GilaMetropolitan Tel-Aviv: Defining its Boarders and the Systems for Cooperation Among the Metropolitan Municipalities Social Processes and Public Policy in Tel-Aviv-Yafothree2005Tel-AvivDepartment of Public Policy, Faculty of Social Sceince, Tel-Aviv UniversityHebrewShahar & Brin (2005) argue that this problem includes the municipalities in the metropolitan area, which have difficulties to coordinate on the issue of the new light rail system in particular.

Finally, the transit system provides a low level of service. There is no reserved right-of-way for buses, bus schedules are unreliable, and there is no coordination between the different service providers. There are more than six bus companies that provide service in Tel-Aviv, all of which are private or undergoing privatization. Some service providers have overlapping routes, while some areas are not well covered. The system of commuter rail on the other hand, is owned by the government. It is mostly used as interurban rail with few stations in each city. Is has approximately 19 stations in the Metropolitan area, and four stations in the city of Tel-Aviv. In 2005 25 million passengers used the rail, from which more than 50 percent used it for inter-metropolitan traveling (http://www.israrail.org.il/). If one needs to use more than one service to reach his destination, it becomes cumbersome and expensive. Those issues negatively affect the reputation and reliability of the transit system, decrease public satisfaction with the system, increase car use, and as a direct result, contribute to negative social, economical and environmental problems (Shiftan et al., 2003).

Many of the problems in Tel-Aviv are similar to those found in North America, and increasingly, in cities in the industrializing world and Western Europe as well. Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is a planning approach that has been proposed to address those problems. TOD is an approach that was developed in the U.S. However, as mentioned in the first section of this review, car dependency and its related problems are similar globally. Therefore, there is no reason why such an approach should not work in other regions of the world with similar problems.

These days, a light rail system is being constructed in Tel-Aviv Metropolitan Area (TAMA). Whether or not this new system will reduce problems in TAMA is a question of time. However, the policies and planning approaches that will complement this system have the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life in TAMA. This thesis examines the ways in which a TOD planning approach could contribute to the success of the new LRT system under construction in Tel-Aviv. It presents the potential for and obstacles to such an approach. Opinions of experts in the field of transportation, urban planning and public policy are presented, in addition to an analysis of the existing planning and transportation reports published by the organizations involved in the light rail development. The analysis is intended to contribute toward a better understanding of planning procedures in Israel and to suggest conduct by which it would be possible to overcome the hurdles that prevent the state of Israel and the TAMA to create sustainable transportation and urban lifestyle.

Chapter Two of this thesis provides a literature review, thus a better understanding of TOD, and transportation infrastructure. Chapter Three presents the methodology used for the analysis, and the way this research was designed. Chapter Four describes the context of the research and the findings. Finally, Chapter five puts the results into context and present a conclusion.

Section 2 – Literature review

2.1 – Transit Oriented Development

TOD is an approach that seeks to diversify opportunities for city and suburban dwellers, and present them with an alternative lifestyle. What is interesting is that even though TOD was presented in the 1990’s as a new concept, much of cities’ growth in the early 20th century was dependent on public transportation, particularly on streetcars. Prior to the private motor vehicle, built environments were accessible by the available mode of transit at that time.  Attributable to the fact that streetcars and trains were the available means of transportation, cities spread according to those means, and thus were more compact and accessible. Hence, by presenting TOD, one is trying to re-establish urban forms that were common historically. Unfortunately today this urban form is no longer organic, and people tend to choose other forms that supposedly promote a high quality lifestyle (Dittmar and Ohland, 2004).

Dittmar and Ohland (2004) define Transit Oriented Development as one which has “a mix of uses, at various densities, within a half mile radius around each transit stop” (p. 21). More specifically, according to Dittmar and Ohland (2004) in order for a development to be referred to as TOD it should follow several criteria. Firstly, they present the importance of location efficiency. This notion refers to the importance of the proximity to transit.  While the costs of owning a car are quite large, proximity to adequate transit increases opportunities for those who cannot afford a car. In communities with inadequate or no transit, car-less families are disadvantaged and restricted. According to Dittmar and Ohland (2004), the three factors influencing location efficiency include density (in order for transit systems to be economically efficient, there is a need for a large number of users), transit accessibility (transit stops should be adequately located within the community, and transit services should be sufficient and with various destinations), and pedestrian friendliness (human scale, interconnected pedestrian networks).

A rich mix of choices is a second criterion for evaluating TOD.A well structured environment offers its inhabitants a variety of choices. By intensifying the choices of activities in a community, one increases the community’s accessibility which is defined by transport geographers as the amount of available opportunities in a certain distance or traveling time (Hanson, 2004). This feature is also connected to walkability, because it is important that those activities will be accessible for people with low mobility.  In such an environment there should also be variety of housing types and prices. By increasing the range of housing choices, there is not only a diversification in terms of socio-economic status in the community, but also a diversification of housing styles for those who may desire an alternative to single family homes.

Value capturing is a third measure for the success of TOD.  In addition to the transit authority that profits from increased rider-ship and joint development, there are also the landowners and developers that benefit from the land value, and enjoy greater approval. There is the government which collects more taxes from more tax paying properties, including commercial businesses within the same area. And there is the public who benefits from affordable houses, lower transportation costs, and better quality of life in terms of local opportunities. When looking at the long term advantages, governments also benefit from less negative externalities of car use, meaning less external costs.

The notion of place making with high quality of urban design is important when creating TOD. Dittmar and Ohland (2004), argue that the quality of urban design is measured according to several features. Firstly, a well designed place is one that is at a human scale and is human oriented. The environment should be safe, attractive, comfortable, vibrant and fun. Second, the new environment should complement and enrich the existing one. Additionally, the environment should have a variety of transportation choices which are accessible and interconnected. In terms of landscape there should be a balance between man-made and natural environment. Moreover, a TOD project should provide a variety of activities that meet the demands of a variety of users, in addition to answering market demands and being economically viable investments. Lastly, projects should take into consideration future needs and changes.

A final criterion for evaluating TOD is the ability of a proposed development to balance the role of a transit node by making it a destination in the local and regional scale (by introducing different activities in the area of the station), and take advantage of fact that it generates movement and activity.

Dittmar and Ohland (2004) add that the aforementioned features of TOD should not be regarded as “written in stone”, and there are different scales of TOD. Most of those aspects are interconnected, yet various urban forms are not suitable for some of these features. The different transit agencies in the U.S (some of which are involved in TOD projects) present the goals they are hoping to achieve. Figure 1 presents the goals according to their importance in percentage.

Bae (2002) takes a more critical approach, arguing that TOD is harder to implement in American cities which are extremely automobile dependent and sprawling. She adds that the success of developing around transit, found for example in many Asian cities, will be difficult in highly motorized countries. She gives the example of Orenco station in Portland, which is to some extent a model TOD and was designed by Peter Calthorpe who coined the term. She explains that because the notion of TOD is rather new, it is quite difficult to evaluate its success. For those who have the option, she argues, the private car is still a preferred choice for mode of traveling (Bae 2002).  On the other hand, a report by the Transit Cooperative Research Program ( ADDIN EN.CITE Cervero20047727Cervero, RobertMurpfy, StevenFerrell, Christopheret, elAnonymous,Transit-Oriented Development in the United States: Experiences, Challenges, and Prospects2004WASHINGTON, D.C.Transportation Research Board10226ReportCervero et al, 2004) presents various examples of US TOD’s which were successfully implemented. According to this report, in residential neighborhoods located near light rail stations there is a 30 percent higher transit use. In addition, commercial activities in TOD increase transit use on weekends and off-peak times. This report presents case studies of TOD from Portland, Washington D.C, San Francisco, New Jersey, Miami, Colorado and Southern California. It presents the primary impacts resulting from the implementation of TOD. One of the most important benefits of TOD mentioned in this report is the increase in ridership. By increasing density and distance to transit alone, transit use increase substantially. In Orenco TOD, located in Hillsboro, Oregon, 80 percent of the residents use public transportation (Cervero et al, 2004). This number is much higher than the average in the area. Additional benefits include revitalization of underused areas, joint development opportunities, attraction of new investments, higher land values etc.

In addition to the main benefits mentioned above, this report presents secondary benefits that should not be overlooked. According to the Texes Transportation Institute the costs of traffic congestion reach 68 billion dollars (Cervero et al, 2004). TOD communities have demonstrated a reduction in vehicles miles traveled (VMT) and congestion, presumably as a direct result of increase in ridership. Other cost-related secondary benefits include increase in revenues from property and sales tax, and a decrease in road expenditure and infrastructure. In terms of lifestyle and health, TOD communities have shown a reduction in crime, and increase in public involvement, better access to labor pools, and increase in physical activity.  Finally, in terms on environmental benefits TOD promotes reduction of sprawl and conservation of urban open spaces (Cervero et al, 2004).

The report by Cervero et al. (2004) concludes that TOD initiatives not only promote more sustainable lifestyles, but are also successful in increasing transit use and revitalizing urban areas. Although TOD in America has not yet passed the test of time, there is no doubt that it provides greater opportunities in terms of transportation choice and local amenities. With the increasing prices of fuel, it seems this alternative will gain popularity in the future (Cervero 2004).

2.2 – Transit Systems

At this point there is no need to highlight the importance of proper transit systems as part of sustainable development. However, one should understand that different transit services provide answers to different needs and forms, and there are key differences among those services. Cervero (1998) emphasizes the role of each transit service (bus, rail, metro, taxi etc) in the regional transportation system. This review will focus mostly on light-rail and its connection to TOD.

The density of the area is a key factor in determining which transit system to use. As density decreases, so does the efficiency of the transit system. If an area is highly dense and relatively large, there is higher justification for building rail tracks. If an area is relatively small and not dense, there is no justification for building rail infrastructure, and in such case the bus is a more convenient solution. Light rail can potentially carry more people, faster, and with less emissions per passenger than buses, although implementing buses with reserved right of way have had some success. In highly urbanized areas a mixture of several interdependent transit systems provides the best solution. Light rail (or metro) provides service in key locations within the city and its limits, while buses or streetcars provide services from the rail stations to the rest of the city. Commuter rail provides solutions at the interurban and regional level  ADDIN EN.CITE Leck2001292932Leck, EranApplying the Transit Oriented Development and Transit Communities Concepts to the Greater Beer Sheba Region: An Expert Opinion SurveyUrban and Regional PlanningMaster of Science2001HaifaTechnion – Israel Institute of Technology(Leck, 2001).

Light Rail Transit (LRT) is a fast, reliable, comfortable, clean, safe, and often an affordable mode of transportation. It is frequently used as a means of connection between CBD, activity centers, and decentralized corridors. Although in some cities it shares right of way (when it is in the form of streetcars or tramways), in most places right of way is separated. One of the most attractive features of LRT is that it can be well integrated within pedestrian environments. The number of LRT systems in the world is continually increasing due to the relative low cost of construction, and their adaptability to existing streetscapes, the ability to develop them incrementally, and the fact that they are considered more environmentally benign than buses. Although the subway systems have some advantages over LRT, many cities prefer LRT because it is a cheaper and faster to construct (Cervero, 1998; Ferdman et al., 2005).

2.3 Transit system in Tel-Aviv

For similar reasons the city of Tel-Aviv decided to construct an LRT system. Construction of the first line of this system began in late 2006, and is schedule to be complete by 2010. The construction is being undertaken by a private contractor, and is financed according to “build-operate-transfer” (B.O.T) model of transportation finance. The constructing company will operate the system for 32 years before handing it to the government. The introduction of this system raises the opportunity to suggest planning approaches that will go together with it and help support it and maximize its use.  At the same time it provides economic leverage for new investments along its layout. In addition, the city of Tel-Aviv is relatively dense and has a lower car use than other cities in which planning approaches such as TOD were realized. Therefore, such approaches have a higher potential in Tel-Aviv. This paper will examine the applicability of TOD concepts to the city of Tel-Aviv.

For the past two decades transportation infrastructure in Israel has been unable to provide a solution for the increasing traffic congestion and rising need for mobility resulting from population growth. Congestion is growing daily and the demand for new roads is more prominent than the demand for better transit infrastructures. Owing to the fact that the existing transportation systems are not under constant evaluation, there are no adequate financing or investments to improve them, and more important there are no sufficient policies to ensure those systems’ proper expansion.  According to Paaswell and Berechman (2001), when considering the new light rail system constructed in Tel-Aviv it is important to recognize that “the transit sector must undergo significant reforms prior to the implementation of such major initiatives” (p. 254). Such a project should not stand on its own, and should come together with overall reforms in the transportation system. An isolated project provides transit solutions on the micro scale, and does not offer answers on the regional level (Paaswell & Berechman 2001).

Buses are the most used mode of transit is Israel. Yet, this is not from choice but merely because bus transit is the only intra-urban public transportation available. In most cases buses do not have reserved lanes. In fact, out of 5,800 lane-km in the metropolitan area only 43 lane-km are reserved only for buses (and only during rush-hour).  While there is some railway infrastructure in Israel, it serves only interurban and some suburban trips. According to Shiftan et al. (2003), those aforementioned transit modes serve 30 percent of the population in Israel; while 70 percent use cars (2003 data).

A recent report published by the Israeli Ministry of Transportation presents the expected investments in transportation infrastructure in Tel-Aviv (Haviv, 2004). Whereas most of the resources are invested in road construction, the development of mass transit is underway, and includes development of a new light rail and extension of the existing interurban railway. With those investments the Ministry of Transportation hopes to improve access to Tel-Aviv’s Central Business District and to the main employment and commercial centers; to improve access to satellite centers; to recover connection to the regional road network; to reduce congestion in cities’ centers and to improve the quality of service provided by the public transit (Haviv, 2004).

This thesis will propose how action to create and evaluate TOD can be undertaken in conjunction to the new light rail system in Tel-Aviv. Some of these actions are already being taken and only need to be reinforced, or coordinated. In order to present these issues, one needs to present analysis of transportation and planning policies in Israel, structure and responsibilities of authorities involve in planning, and approaches and opinions of informed figures. All of which will present a clear picture of the potentials and obstacles for creating TOD.

Section 3 – Methodology

While the nature of this research, and the data required for its completion, is mostly qualitative, some quantitative data was used. The qualitative data was extracted from experts’ opinions and official documents by semi-structured interviews and content analysis. The quantitative data was in the form of statistics and facts from secondary sources.

3.1 – Qualitative:

3.1.1 – Semi-structured interviews:

Semi structured interviews allow the researcher to guide the interview, but at the same time leave enough flexibility for the interviewees and their opinions. This method is also appropriate when there are several interviews in the research, and the researcher wishes to compare the different opinions. In this research seven semi-structured interview forms were sent by email to key informants. The interviewees were selected through a strategic sampling procedure.  Meaning, they were selected according to their expertise, and involvement in the subject. Out of the seven requests for interview, four replied. The interviewees first received a request to participate in the research, and an explanation on the nature of the research. Those who replied positively received a set of 8 to 10 questions. Most of the questions were the same in all interviews, whereas two to three questions were in each interview were unique to the field of expertise of the interviewee.  The first interview was with professor Joseph Berechman, former head of the public policy department in Tel-Aviv university, a professor of Community and Regional Planning in the University if British Columbia, and an expert of transportation planning and economy, and public policy.

The second interview was with Professor Yoram Shiftan, a professor of urban planning and transportation engineering in the Israeli Institute of Technology. The third interview was with a former graduate student of Urban Planning in the Israeli Institute of Technology, who currently work as a transportation planner, Avigail Ferdman. Ms. Ferdman is also an activist in a sustainable transport organization. Her master’s thesis was on land use and LRT. Final interview was with Professor Galit Cohen Blenkstien, a professor of Geography and Public policy in the Hebrew University. Professor Cohen Blenkstien published reports for Metropolitan Mass Transit System Company (NTA).

The purpose of the semi-structure interviews was to gain a better understanding of the general planning procedures, and of the issues standing in the current government agenda. Additionally, the interviews assist in directing the document analysis, and focus the analysis to specific issues.

3.1.2 – Qualitative Content Analysis

Several kinds of documents were analyzed for the purpose of this research, such as internet sources, magazines and newspapers. However, the focus was mainly on official government documents. According to Bryman (2004), qualitative content analysis requires the several steps. First, the researcher needs to present the research questions or objectives. Second, he needs to select several documents and review them. Third, the researcher needs to create categories that will direct the analysis. The researcher needs to approach the document with the knowledge of what he is looking for. Otherwise, he might extract irrelevant themes. Document analysis is a useful method which provides abundant data. Nonetheless, it requires the researcher to be selective and focused.

In this research, official government documents such as policy papers, master plans, and planning guidelines were analyzed, in order to understand planning procedures, bureaucracy, and approaches that might influence the prospects for Transit Oriented Developments in Tel-Aviv. The focus of the document analysis was on development guidelines, sustainable planning policies, and transportation planning and policies. Data  was excreted to assist in highlighting the potentials and obstacles for TOD.

3.2 – Quantitative

3.2.1 – Secondary analysis of statistics

Secondary analysis of statistics from the government and from private sources was used to present quantitative data such as density, car use, and transit use. Such data was not the focal point of this research, but it was used to complement the analysis, and to back some of the notions. The use of secondary analysis has several advantages. First, it saves cost and time, and gives the researcher more time to analyze the data. Second, it allows researcher to cross validate the data (if he collects some data on his own). Third, in the case of official statistics, often the data is of high quality, and better than what the researcher is able to collect on its own.  Finally, it allows the researcher to present his own interpretation of the data. Some of the limitations of secondary analysis are as follow. First, the researcher has no control over the quality of the data, and no way to know how reliable it is. Second, some variables that the researcher wants the analyze are absent, and he has to compromise on the existing data.

Section 4 – Analysis and Findings

4.1- Background:

Figure 4.1: Tel-Aviv Metropolitan Area,

The city of Tel-Aviv is Israel’s financial and cultural capital. Founded in 1909, it is one of the first cities in Israel, and one of the biggest as well. The metropolitan area of Tel Aviv includes 42 local governments and more than three million people. At present, the Metropolitan area is the habitat for 44{3ab7c693efb495afa9cfa5ed3bae9ca6a83fc9331ececd25f4b8df6798b4d127} of Israel’s population, and it is the employment centre for half of Israel’s work force. The centre of the metropolitan area, which is referred to as “Gush Dan”, is the most densely populated area in Israel. The Tel-Aviv Metropolitan Area (TAMA) is made of three rings and a core (Figure 4.1). It includes approximately 40 cities and small municipalities, which increase in size and number every few years.

In 1952 the first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, was the first to suggest a mass transit system in Tel Aviv. Golda Mayer, the eighth Prime Minister of Israel, began to promote the establishment of a light rail and metro systems in April 1973. Nonetheless, only in 1997 the Ministry of Treasury founded “NTA”, which is a government corporation responsible for the development of a metropolitan mass transit system and is under the Ministry of Transportation. After many debates and disagreements, in late 2006 construction began on the first line (the red line) of light rail system. This line will connect the city of Bat-Yam and the city of Petakh-Tikva (Figure 4.2), and will be partially underground (an issue the city of Tel-Aviv insisted upon).  Construction of the first line is expected to end in 2010.

Tel-Aviv’s problems, mentioned earlier in this paper, raises the question whether the plan LRT system will solve them, or whether further intervention is needed to promote long term solutions. In many cities in the world, and especially in North America, a recent type of intervention is Transit Oriented Development (TOD).

TOD would be an appropriate approach to urban development along Tel-Aviv’s LRT lines for a number of major reasons. Firstly, it would regulate developments in the light rail area and increase transit use. Secondly, it would encourage greater attention to Tel-Aviv’s urban design and place making overall, two issues that seem to be missing from the agenda at the moment. Thirdly, although overall population density in Tel-Aviv is relatively high, TOD would promote higher building density and would create opportunities for more accessible residential areas which are in demand in the city. Fourthly, if such an approach was properly integrated it would assist in managing the growth of the metropolitan area by leading and guiding developments along transit infrastructure, including interurban rail which is also being extended. One should note that the areas surrounding the interurban rail are extremely underdeveloped, most likely due to lack of policies.  Finally, as seen in several North American cities, TOD could create more opportunities for households to use cars less, and this could allow more households to avoid traffic congestion

In order to incorporate TOD principles into the built environments surrounding Tel-Aviv’s new LRT, there is a need to recognize and address its opportunities and obstacles. These opportunities and obstacles will highlight the missing features and the existing advantages for creating a better, more sustainable city.  The opportunities and obstacles include policies, perceptions, planning guidelines, and the approaches of government officials, educators, policy and decision makers and urban and transportation planners. These opportunities and obstacles were identified through key informant interviews with scholars and professionals, and from analysis of official government reports, planning guidelines, and media outputs. One should note that even though there are many official and unofficial documents that endorse TOD (and some that are skeptical about it), only few have an influence on official master plans and policies, and this issue will also receive attention in this section.

4.2 – Opportunities and obstacles of TOD

4.2.1 – Density and Diversity

Central Tel-Aviv’s residential population density is generally considered to be high, and increasing over recent years. A high density of commercial and residential activity is a basic component of TOD due to the strong correlation between density and transit use. When creating highly dense areas, diversification of land uses is very important in order to provide basic necessities and employment opportunity for the residents. Dittmar and Ohland (2004) argue that density in TOD is needed in order to allow “sufficient customers within walking or bicycling distance from the transit stops to allow the [transit] system to run efficiently” (p. 24). Figure 4.3 presents the urban density in selected cities around the world. With an average of 72 persons per hectare, density in Tel-Aviv is higher than in many cities in the developed world.

According to Avigail Ferdman (personal communication, February 12, 2007), , and Professor Yoram Shiftan (personal communication, February 3, 2007), density and land use diversity in areas surrounding the proposed Red-line are already high.  The fact that there is relatively high density in Tel-Aviv can act as leverage for the Red line and organically create TOD. It means that there is an existing minimum level of activity which can be strengthened. Yet, both Shiftan and Ferdman believe that at the moment, further developments around proposed light rail are not the first concern of transit authorities.

While there is little doubt about the advantages of density, the way it is managed and related to by officials is quite important in determining its influence in the urban context.  According to Professor Joseph Berechman (personal communication, January 19, 2007), there is a need for a joint effort from several agencies and municipalities.   In an interview he stated that ‘the area is quite well developed already and it will require major efforts by various agencies and municipalities, as well as funding, to achieve TOD’.

A report published by NTA (Cohen et al. 2005), which is the organization responsible for the light rail, discusses the relation between density and transit use. Among other issues, this report states the importance of measuring density at the micro scale. The existing measurements of density in Tel-Aviv mentioned in the literature, do not include, or do not focus on other local municipalities included in the light rail path. This report also highlights the fact that the effect of density on travel behavior might vary according to levels of accessibility, which according to Hanson (2004 p. 4) refers to “the number of opportunities, also called ‘activity sites’ available within the certain distance or travel time”. This density should be interrelated with diversity. On the other hand, according to this report the correlation between density and travel behavior is not strong enough to create density related policies. The same report discussed the influence of diversified activities in travel behavior. While it recognizes the advantages of mixed land used and diversified activities on transit use, it states that they mostly influence non-motorized transportation use. This report concludes that diversity should receive high consideration, and that accessibility and density together have high influence on transit use (Cohen et al. 2005). While published by NTA, its influence on planning and policy making is yet to be seen.

4.2.2- Policies

In 2003 Israel’s Ministry of Transportation published an official report that presented guidelines for planning the LRT. This report dictates policies for mass transit systems planning, and their incorporation in the urban structure. The report highlights the potential of the light rail in urban planning, and its positive influence on urban revitalization. The fact that such a report presents policies for light rail planning that indirectly promote transit oriented planning can act as leverage for creating TOD. The problem however, is that most of the attention is directed toward the physical structure of the LRT itself, and its amalgamation in the transportation system. From this report it seems as if the Ministry of Transportation acknowledges the positive influence of the transit system on the urban structure, but does not take initiative to assist in planning (Ratovitch, Linder & Harari 2003).

In 1999 the Israeli master plan for land transportation was published by the Israeli Institute for Transportation Planning. This document presents a vision for the year 2020, as well as existing and future transportation policies that promote this vision.  As part of the 2020 vision, this document highlights the importance of a well oriented mass transit system. According to this master plan, while a large portion of transportation investment will still be directed toward private transportation infrastructure, the investment in transit will increase substantially. Nonetheless, this plan focuses mostly on the influence of the transportation plan on roads and highway infrastructure, and gives little attention to the influence on urban way of life. Table 4.1 presents the ministry of transportation’s budget for transportation projects in Israel (2005 Data). These data represent a five year (2005-2010) expenditure forecast 80 percent greater than that of the previous five years. While from 2000 to 2005 most of the budget was spent on the Airport renewal, this time there is a stronger emphasis on transit and roads upgrade (Kadmi, 2004).



Light rail in Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa

12.5 Billion N.I.S

Suburban rail line from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem

4 Billion N.I.S

Upgrade of suburban rail to Electricity

1.6 Billion N.I.S

Improvements and upgrades of Road infrastructures

17.7 Billion N.I.S

Other Projects (air and sea transport)

5.7 Billion N.I.S

A more recent plan, published in November 2005, called ‘Master Plan 35′, sheds a more positive light on the potential for TOD in TAMA.  This plan is one of many official national master plans released every few years. It is approved by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and has the greatest influence on policies and planning guidelines directly related to urban development and urban way of life. The objectives of this plan are to improve urban centers while reducing suburbanization, growth management by concentrating developments around metropolitan areas, land preservation for future generations, promotion of mass transit, promotion of inter-jurisdictional cooperation, reduction in pollution and congestion and other urban problems.    Section 12.1.1 in TAMA 35 obliges planners or developers to present a transit analysis in their plans. Section 12.1.2 compels developers to create a minimum amount of public open space and public institutions in the area. The plan also sets density restrictions (minimum and maximum) and promotes land use diversification. Generally, Master Plan 35 restricts developments in outer metropolitan areas, and concentrates developments within the inner areas, while promoting transit use for new developments. Thus, this plan presents a potential for TOD.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection initiated its own report in 1998 on transportation policies for environmental preservation.  This report highlights the contradictions between the environmental and transportation goals, and presents a policy strategy that will reduce negative transportation effects on the environment. The report accentuates the fact that private vehicle use causes most of the negative environmental effects (among all transportation modes in Israel); hence there is a need for car restraining policies to improve the attractiveness of transit. The publication of such a report strengthens concepts of sustainable transportation as a means for reducing car dependency and its negative externalities in Israel ( ADDIN EN.CITE Phaitelson1998363646Phaitelson, E.Solomon, I.Cohen, G.Binstock, M.Nevot, D.The Ministry for Environmental ProtectionTransportation Policy for Environmental Preservation1271998Publishing Division – State of IsraelThe Ministry for Environmental ProtectionPhaitelson et al. 1998). The need for car restraining policies, which many politicians fear mentioning, are beginning to sink into people’s awareness. Such policies are needed to increase the effect of transit systems and TOD. These days the Ministry of Transportation increases its involvement in regional and local planning, and has a clear agenda on sustainable development. The Ministry even published recently a guideline for sustainable development in local authorities. The formality of this document is not very clear, and the test of time will show how this recognition of sustainability will be translated into influencing policies.

Professor Shiftan from the Israeli Institute of Technology (personal communication, February 3, 2007), says that one can see a move toward more sustainable policies in Israel (as can be seen in Master Plan 35, and the Ministry of Environmental protection reports). According to Prof. Shiftan, the Ministry of Transportation recently proposed car restricting policies as well. Perhaps one of the most important potentials for TOD is the recognition by more and more people of the need for sustainable developments, and this recognition is gradually influencing policies. The notion of TOD however, is not as familiar to planners in Israel. For TOD specific policies to be created there is a need for greater education on the topic.

4.2.3 – Real-estate demand

For TOD to be realized, developers, potential residents, and business people, need to show interest in areas surrounding the light rail. However, in order to create efficient TOD, investments should be well managed. As presented by Dittmar and Ohland (2004), “[Developers] do not have the mandate to promote public good. Their mandate is to meet financial requirements of investors and lenders…” Consequently, local authorities should be selective, and allocate land uses to investors.

Indeed developers and investors in Israel have already shown interest in lands surrounding the proposed light rail. Indeed, the company investing in the construction of the light rail, ‘MTS’, is partially owned by the largest real estate developing company in Israel (Africa-Israel). One can assume that this connection is not coincidental, and that this company predicts an increase in land values, hence securing “right of way” for its investments.  Other commercial developers showed interest as well. Nonetheless, one should note that the most commercial developers base their sales predictions on high ridership, rather than on local sales from residents.

In regards to residential developments and residential demand, the case is somewhat different. These days there are between six to eight legal suits in objection to the layout of the light rail. Many people fear that not only will the rail decrease land value, but that it will harm the urban fabric, and create noise pollution and crime. This issue might intimidate some residential developers that targeted areas surrounding the light rail.  Case studies of TOD show the opposite response, by which land value increases and crime decreases. Furthermore, buses’ diesel engines create more noise and pollution than the electric light rail. Hence, the claims made by most of the complainers are invalid, and show that people are misinformed.

4.2.4   – Connectivity:

The advantages of the LRT over other systems in an urban environment were discussed in Section Two of this thesis. However, in the majority of cases LRT can only cover selected parts of a Metropolitan area, and the rest of the area would be better served by other public transit modes such as regular buses, express buses and bus rapid transit (BRT).  In order for TOD to be most efficient, areas surrounding light rail stations must have the highest relative density and the most diverse land uses (with emphasis on commercial activity), and as distance from the station increases, density decreases. BRT could be used to connect distant areas to the LRT (figure 4.4). Each bus station will serve specific area (smaller than the area the LRT station serves). Most of the population needs to have a bus stop  250 to 400 meters from their house  ADDIN EN.CITE Ben-Shaul2003373727Ben-Shaul, P.Transport Today and TomorrowThe Neighborhood We Would Like to Live In: Residents Handbook on Transport in the Neighborhood Sustainable Transport2003Tel-AvivTransport Today and Tomorrow(Ben-Shaul, 2003).

In order to create the aforementioned situation, and to extract the highest possible efficiency from the LRT, there is a need to rationalize the existing system. Professor Berechman argues that “For the New Red Line, the bus transit system needs to be rationalized first, with respect to network layout, level of service, fares (distance and time of day), subsidy (formula), coordination with other systems, and monitoring of performance. Issues related to competition and tendering need also be addressed as well as private car policies (tolls, parking…) to ensure optimum output from the Red Line” (personal communication, January 19, 2007). At its current state, the bus system will not be efficient enough and the transit system as a whole will not reach its full potential.

Ben-Shaul (2003) presents the main issues needed to be addressed to improve the bus system. First, he states, for many the walking distance for bus stops is too long. Second, many commuters have to take two or three buses to reach their destination hence commuting time rises.  Third, bus frequency and distribution is not rational, and there are no accurate timetables (for instance, riders only know that a bus reaches the station every 30 to 40 minutes). Additional problems not mentioned by Ben-Shaul include the fact that there are very few reserved lanes for buses. Some bus routes are longer than they need to be. Finally, there are several private bus companies with overlapping routes.

As mentioned by Berechman, these issues need to be resolved before the light rail is operated. The different bus companies need to cooperate with the LRT and the suburban rail to create a coordinated metropolitan transit system that will be efficient for commuters in terms of time and cost, and that will be attractive enough so not only people from lower socio-economic status will use it. In addition, commuters currently need to pay for each bus ride and rail ride. If one needs to combine two bus rides, or bus and rail, to reach his destination, he needs to pay twice. In rational systems there is a destination ticket which is priced according to distance and travel time. A rational, well coordinated bus system will serve as a platform for TOD.

The Ministry of Transportation took a step in this direction.  It proposed a system of high capacity buses (figure 4.5) that will serve as an extension to the light rail. In total, the ministry hopes that the system will be able to serve 1.4 million passengers a day (Kadmi, 2007). However, to fully achieve this vision all the service providers need to cooperate.  The fact that there are several private bus companies, public rail and light rail companies, and dozens of local municipalities being served by all of which, makes the needed coordination that much difficult to achieve.

4.2.5 – Coordination:

The lack of coordination in transportation discussed above is one of the obstacles for creating TOD. Another major obstacle is the lack of coordination and cooperation between the different authorities involved in physical and transportation planning, and there are many authorities involved. Inter jurisdictional and inter ministerial cooperation is important for several reasons. First, the transportation system is operating at the metropolitan level, and serves several local authorities. Second, the growth of the metropolitan area should be managed, and the fact that each local jurisdiction presents its own plans and policies makes it harder to manage. The metropolitan area should be seen as one unit with basic understanding of population growth and movement. Third, the financial, commercial and residential developments should be balanced at the metropolitan level in order to manage movement within the metropolitan, and to create a continuous urban fabric. Fourth, Tel-Aviv metropolitan is dense, and local authorities are very close to each other. Hence, they should cooperate in order to create a balance of major institutions, attractions, regional infrastructures, etc. Finally, planning approaches should be considered for metropolitan Tel-Aviv which has so many local authorities, and which serves 50 percent of the nation’s population (Shahar & Brin, 2005).

The reason that there is little or no coordination is due to the fact that the notion of planning in the Metropolitan level is rather new (presented in Regional Master Plan 31), and planning regulations are directed to the local, regional and national levels. Therefore, planning authorities are either national or in local authorities and their influence at the Metropolitan level is minor. Furthermore, there are four government offices that are directly or indirectly involved in the physical planning, hence making the coordination even harder to achieve.

Figure 4.6 presents a diagram of all the authorities involve in physical and transportation planning in the areas surrounding the red line of the proposed light rail. At the top of the diagram there is the government, which takes the decisions when it comes to major projects such as the light rail. The Ministry of Transportation is responsible for planning and coordinating all the transportation plans. The light rail however, is managed by NTA, which is a government company that was created by the Ministry of Treasury, which decides on the budget for major transportation plans. NTA’s responsibilities are very narrow, and even though it can present recommendations for physical planning, it is not part of its duties.

The Ministry of Internal affairs writes and publishes national and regional master plans, which include physical and transportation planning. Finally, the Ministry of Environmental Protection publishes guidelines for physical and transportation planning from an environmental point of view. All of these government offices dictate policies and guidelines according to each office’s responsibility. Yet, policy making and planning intervention does not end at this level.  There are 40 local authorities in the metropolitan area, each with its own guidelines, procedures and planning agencies. The proposed Red Line of LRT will pass through five of these authorities. The fact that different municipalities, service providers and policy and decision makers are not well coordinated increases the difficulty to promote specific development and transportation policies. Professor Shiftan (personal communication, February 3, 2007) states that the lack of coordination makes it difficult to evaluate the quality of the transit system: “… the problem is that there is no coordinated plan, and there are many planning agencies responsible for transportation in the metropolitan area.  In this situation it is hard to evaluate if the suggested system is the best solution or not..”. In terms of TOD, Avigail Ferdman (personal communication, February 12, 2007) adds “that lack of coordination between municipalities prevents the introduction of comprehensive policies, which could oversee both the macro and the micro aspects of TOD”.

The different aspects influencing physical and transportation planning presented in this section can directly or indirectly impact the opportunities for Transit Oriented Development. Looking at the different policies, planning guidelines, decision making procedures, etc, helps one recognize the obstacles and opportunities for such a planning approach, and thus helps recognize the ways in which it can be promoted.

Section 5 – Conclusion and Discussion

Incorporation of Transit Oriented Developments to the urban fabric of TAMA will not necessarily reduce the number of cars in the area, but such developments will slow the overwhelming increase in the number of cars that occurs every few years. Additionally, such developments will provide and prefer accessibility over mobility. Planning these developments to be integrated with the  proposed transit system will promote higher transit usage, and provides more opportunities to those who are disadvantaged by lack of mobility.  Yet, one should note that presenting new planning approach to TAMA is not simple. The bureaucratic procedure that accompanies the planning processes from theory to practice is long, complex, and often discouraging. Not to mention the multifaceted and hierarchical structure of national and local governance, an issue which makes coordination and cooperation among those involved in planning almost impossible.

According to all of the interviewees who took part of this research, in order to incorporate TOD (or for that matter, any other planning approach) in TAMA,   there is a need to create a body or an agency that will coordinate between the different authorities in TAMA, and that will manage urban and transportation projects in the Metropolitan. As was put by Professor Shiftan there is a need to create a “Metropolitan Planning Organization including a Transportation Master Plan Team” (personal communication February 3rd 2007). Such organization will accelerate planning procedures, it will be responsible for regulating the existing transportation system, and it will coordinate it with the proposed system.  Furthermore, it will enforce the quality and nature of new developments, and will ensure that such developments will be balanced in a way that will better serve the public at present and for future generations. The Government did take initiatives to promote sustainable policies. However, such policies are often not enforced, and are regarded simply as recommendations. A metropolitan planning organization including a transportation master plan team could assist in enforcing  such policies and guidelines.

By presenting the opportunities and obstacles for implementing TOD, one can recognize  the  steps needed to be taken to overcome the obstacles, hence incorporating transit oriented developments policies in future master plans and planning guidelines. Additional issues that should be approached are the contradicting policies presented by different government documents, and the public’s misconceptions of LRT. Encouraging greater public participation in planning will help reduce these misconceptions.

‘Sustainability’ is a rather vague term; hence it is convenient for policy makers to use it due to the fact that it would be difficult to measure their success. Therefore, there is a need to take a more goal oriented approach in policy document. Meaning, to present goals that will be specific and measurable such as increase density by 20 percent by 2020, or improve transit/car use ration from 70/30 to 60/40 by 2014. In such way sustainability implementation and control will be possible, and policies will not be taken light headed as they are taken today.

5.1 – Limitations and future agenda:

The new LRT system constructed in Tel-Aviv presents an opportunity to evaluate planning processes in Israel. There are numerous issues and planning approaches that could have been taking into consideration is such analysis.  However, the fact that sustainability is generally a vague term leaves some room for subjective interpretation. This personal interpretation was seen in the expert’s opinion as well. Each interviewee had a unique view on TOD, on sustainability and on the planning procedures in Israel.

The analysis of the documents presented in this research, was also somewhat limited in the sense that it was quite specific, and only selective issues were extracted in the analysis. However, this method is appropriate in qualitative data analysis. Taking all the issues into consideration would have been time consuming, and rather ambiguous. Finally, some would say that an approach of “one size fits all” was taken in relation to TOD and Tel-Aviv. However, one needs to understand that with comparison to other planning approaches TOD received a lot of attention in North America, and through the years a specific guideline was developed to this approach. Ultimately, the objective was to evaluate policies and perspective in Israel to sustainability. Doing this analysis from TOD point of view was easier, more structured, and with less ambiguity.

Additional research is needed, particularly to examine public perceptions of TOD. At the moment it seems that the public is dissuaded from such developments, but this may be due to lack of basic understanding. Civic groups have already delayed construction of one rail line in the city of Rishon Le-Zion, and there are several oppositions to the LRT layout. There is a need to discover the roots of this opposition, and to find ways to promote sustainable developments such as TOD to the public.

TOD is not an approach that tries to put the new over the old, but an approach that tries to incorporate the advantages of the old with the modern. It will ensure efficient use of the transit system, and will promote a more sustainable way of life.

Section 6.1 – Works Cite

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