By Prof. Erel Avineri, Head of the Engineering & Management Graduate Specialization in Infrastructure Systems

The beating heart of the State of Israel needs open transport arterials, says Prof. Avineri, who specializes in transportation planning, analysis of demand and change of user behavior – the full article is attached.

Additionally on the subject of transport, infrastructure and logistics, a symposium on the subject “Time and Transport” was held at Afeka College on Wednesday November 13, 2013. Details regarding the event are at the end of the article.

About three weeks ago, the OECD published a table that should bother us a great deal. The organization positioned Israel in the 26th place out of 34 member countries, regarding the average level of productivity per hour. While productivity in the western world increases, Israel experienced a decrease in the level of productivity last year. Each hour of work here produces 33.7 dollars, far behind the USA and West European countries where the productivity ranges from 50 to 60 dollars an hour. Low productivity means a poor economy, low wages, low tax collections, low investments in physical and human infrastructure and estrangement from the global leading edge.

Studies indicate that one of the basic conditions for increasing productivity is well developed infrastructure, with the emphasis on transportation. When many workers spend long periods of time on the roads, the effect exacerbates and accumulates. The case in point is not only time wasted in traffic jams, that raise the consumption of expensive fuel, contribute to environmental problems, and reduce the effective work hours at the factory or in the office. A worker who has to spend a long time driving to and from work, is a tired worker. In order to refrain from traffic jams, he needs to get up early and leave work later. A large part of the day is spent in finding solutions to managing day to day life. This is a troubled worker, who is less focused on work, is less effective, and is peevish also in other arenas of his life. Arduous transportation is also liable to cause people to give up on jobs – if the time, money and effort involved in traveling to work and back are not worth the recompense.

Studies also indicate that actually the time spent on public transport is likely to be perceived by the passenger not as wasted time per se – but rather as an opportunity to carry out activities for his own personal benefit or for the benefit of his employer. Thus, for example, business people all over the western world exploit the time on the road to make business calls or to write documents. And indeed, bus and train companies in North America and in Western Europe offer services that provide the passengers with a sort of mobile office, and employers encourage their works to take advantage of public transport services.

A great deal has been said about investments in transportation lines from the geographical periphery to the Gush Dan region, out of an understanding that the economic engine is located in the central region of the country. And indeed, the country has invested a great deal in multi-lane roads, on separated railway crossings and in train lines, that allow the dispersal of the population on the one hand and enables the maximum number of workers to reach the Gush Dan Region, on the other hand.

However, a necessary component for increasing the transportation efficiency and for driving the Israeli economy is the transportation system of the Gush Dan Region itself. The beating heart of the Israeli economy needs open and effective arterials. First of all, because the metropolitan area itself is home to 2 million people who must be able to move freely to schools and to work places. In addition, workers living outside of the Gush Dan Area must know that after a long trip into town, they are not faced with an additional, long and exhausting journey in town.

The key is an advanced public transport system, based on light rail trains and an agile and reliable system of buses that rely on dedicated lanes, integration between these modes of transportation and infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. After years of delays, it appears that some of the projects have begun moving forward with the publication of tenders and the commencement of work at a number of locations in the Gush Dan Area.

However, Israel has already paid an economic price due to the long delays over the years, in developing public transport infrastructure, the likes of which is found in every similar metropolitan area in the western world. We need to accelerate the development, because, in this case, time is money, national money. This is a national project of the first order, and all the relevant authorities in Israel need to come together as one: The Government Ministries, with emphasis on the Ministry of Transport, the Ministries of Finance, Interior and National Infrastructures; and the local authorities through which this infrastructure passes. The public transport companies and large employers in the market also constitute key actors in transportation-based solutions to convey workers about. Positioning public transport solutions at the top of the national list of priorities and true cooperation between all the entities will bring about the creation of a more productive and more efficient economy