New York public transport construction chief Michael Horodniceanu says Israel needs local transport authorities.
A billion shekels. That is the investment required for Israel to close the gap with other Western countries in terms of public transport. This decades-large gap is acutely felt by all bus and train commuters, and even the Ministry of Transport is aware of it – in fact, it was a Ministry of Transport working paper that listed the billion shekel price tag. How do we bridge this gap? (New York) Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Construction Company (MTACC) President Dr. Michael Horodniceanu says the answer is obvious: Israel must take the responsibility for public transport development from the Ministry of Transport, and transfer it to municipal transport authorities. “Good public transport cannot take place without local transport authorities, and without dedicated tax collection towards public transport,” Horodniceanu told “Globes” in an exclusive interview, confirming what the Transport Ministry already knows: the concentration of authority within the ministry makes it difficult to execute projects.
Horodniceanu, an Israeli expat who holds a B. Sc. in Civil Engineering from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, was appointed president of MTACC in 2008. Since that time, he has been responsible for the planning of $18 billion worth of projects, under the largest transport construction plan in the US, including mega-projects, such as planning the East Side Access and Second Avenue Subway, and building the Fulton Center. Last week he was the guest of honor at the Israel Roads Planning Conference.
“How many roads can we build already?”
How did such a vast gap between Israel and other developed countries come about?
“While Europe built public transport infrastructures before building roads, in Israel, the process was reversed. Israel was a new country with limited financial abilities. Everything was very simple. There was no money to develop underground public transport, which was an expensive thing, so they began with buses, which in fact met the needs. Over the years, Israel decided to invest in roads, because it was much cheaper than building underground transport.”
Israel’s per-capita investment in roads is, in fact, one of the highest in the world – more than Berlin, Sydney, Rome, Toronto, and other major cities.
“But how many roads can you build already? Israel should have developed a public transport network in parallel. While use of public transport around the world only went up and up, in Israel, it fell further and further.”
The Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Finance predict that if vast sums are not invested in public transport in the coming years, each commuter should expect to waste an additional 60 minutes a day on the road.
“That is a best-case scenario. Today, anyone who lives outside of Tel Aviv and works in Tel Aviv needs a personal vehicle. An impossible situation has been created. In the US, if someone needs a car, he simply hires one. In Israel, it is impossible. It must be possible for people to reach the city on public transport, which operates on dedicated public transport channels.”
And when Horodniceanu speaks of dedicated channels, he means channels that are exclusively for public transport. “In Israel, they are only dedicated to public transport during certain hours, not on Friday, or on holidays, or if ‘Grandma doesn’t feel good.’ Oftentimes buses have to sit in traffic with the rest of the cars. This is true for the Jerusalem Light Rail as well. These ‘leniencies’ create a situation in which the importance of public transport is crushed, and is not a top priority.”
Read more at GLOBES ISRAEL.