Transport Minister opposes Tel Aviv congestion charge
6 November 2019 - globes
Bezalel Smotrich is following in the footsteps of former Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz, who also opposed a congestion charge.
Minister of Transport Bezalel Smotrich stated yesterday at a meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee that he opposed imposing a congestion charge at the entrances to Tel Aviv.
Smotrich is following in the footsteps of former Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz, who opposed a congestion charge, claiming that drivers should not be punished if they have no alternative to entering Tel Aviv. Katz nevertheless gave to go-ahead to expand the trial with monetary incentives for drivers reducing their travel during peak hours, an initiative that won across-the-board support from the Ministry of Finance, the Bank of Israel, and former top-level Ministry of Transport staff.
At yesterday's meeting, MK Orit Farkash-Hacohen (Blue and White Party) told Smotrich, "I'm guessing that people in the Ministry of Transport are talking with you about a congestion charge, with encouragement from the Ministry of Finance budget department. There is an initiative to impose a penalty on us at the entrance to Tel Aviv that can amount to thousands of shekels per driver.
"There is no reason to impose a congestion fee at this time, because a congestion fee penalizes the public in order to persuade people to travel on public transportation - but people have no alternative. You don't levy fines when people have no alternative. The time is not ripe to impose a congestion feel on the public, despite the temptation to do it in order to reduce the budget deficit."
The police will begin full enforcement for travel in the new shared transportation lanes on the coastal highway and Ayalon Highway. According to the regulations, drivers traveling in these lanes against the rules will be fined NIS 500. Operation of the new lanes, called Netivim Plus, was delayed for many months because of problems in enforcement and making sure that the vehicles using the lanes are carrying the required minimum number of passengers (two on the coastal highway and three on Ayalon Highway).
The original plan to use smart cameras encountered many technical difficulties. An arrangement was eventually reached in which a pair of police motorcycles will be stationed in each lane during peak hours to verify that the drivers using the lanes are fulfilling the requirements. Up until the end of this week, the policemen gave only warning; starting next week, however, they will begin fining drivers.