Israel's carpool lanes proving a disaster
28 October 2019 - globes
The new carpool lane south of Netanya on the Coastal Highway is lengthening travel times and causing chaos in Netanya.
Netanya has become a bypass or 'rat run' for drivers seeking to avoid the jams on Road 2 (Coastal Highway) caused by the introduction of Israel's Netiv Plus trial, which has allocated lanes for carpooling - cars with more than one passenger. By 6.45am hundreds of cars are entering Netanya at the Einstein interchange and reentering the coastal highway further south at the Poleg Interchange. Three weeks after the beginning of the carpool trial, its chaotic effects are beginning to leave their mark.
Full disclosure: what I am writing about the carpool trial is not objective and contains no scientific measurements; it contains my personal impression of the yawning gap between the reports by the Ministry of Transport and what I actually experienced commuting on the roads.
It seems that the trial has shortened travel time mainly for people whose travel time was already short - people living in southern Netanya, provided that they travel in the early morning. This is because along the new section of the carpool lane between the central Netanya Interchange and the Poleg Interchange, a jam has been created blocking all traffic from the north and delaying it for a long time.
People in Netanya traveling in a car with two or more people are probably saving some time, but it depends a lot on what part of the city they live in. Various reports show that it still takes a very long time to leave the city, even after one carpool lane from the southern exit was eliminated.
Some coming from the outlying areas, however, regardless of how many people are in the car, will not have an easy time, especially on Sunday, when traffic is in any case congested. At 6am today, the traffic jam on the coastal highway began at the Caesarea-Or Akiva Interchange. This is something that previously happened only when there was a serious accident or other blockage. Neither was the case today; it was the result of the carpool trial. Exactly the same thing has been happening since the trial began.
At certain hours of the day, traffic jams begin over 20 kilometers north of Netanya. Today, for example, traveling from the Caesarea Interchange to northern Netanya, which used to take 20 minutes at 6am, took over 40 minutes for both carpool and non-carpool passengers.
A bottleneck formed from the Einstein Interchange in Netanya to the Poleg Interchange in South Netanya, with the only alternative for bypassing it being by entering the city. The situation was so bad that the Waze app recommended doing this today. It turned out that being stuck in Netanya was better than being stuck on the coastal road.
Similarly, it was better for someone arriving from Road 57 east of Netanya to enter the Kiryat Hasharon neighborhood in the hope of escaping the coastal road nightmare. The travel times of these drivers are not being measured, or at least are not being published.
A person alone in a car from north of Tel Aviv is liable to suffer a delay of an hour or more in comparison with previous travel time - far worse than the Ministry of Transport's official figures. Carpool passengers are losing a great deal of time in traffic jams north of Netanya, and saving time when they merge with the carpool lane to the south. How much time do they save? It depends on the time of day, but after subtracting the time that they lose before reaching the carpool lane, it is likely that they would forego the pleasure.
Throughout this trial, the only figure published by the Ministry of Transport, according to which carpool travelers save 20 minutes on a journey, is at best oversimplified, given the great variable between drivers, for example the day and time that they travel and the place from which they travel. It cannot be ruled out that a more complicated measurement will reveal that drivers traveling from Herzliya and Ramat Hasharon to Tel Aviv with one person in the car are saving time, while carpool drivers traveling from Zichron Yaakov and Hadera are losing time.
Netanya is becoming a destination for unexpected visits by drivers who never planned to enter it.