Tel Aviv Needs a Subway, Done Right

After decades of false starts, Tel Aviv is finally building a subway-surface line. The political opinions of activists and urban planners in Israel are divided between supporters, who believe the line is long overdue, and opponents, who instead believe buses remain the solution and also oppose the Jerusalem light rail. I on the contrary think that on the one hand Tel Aviv needs a subway, but on the other hand the current plan has deep flaws, both political and technical, and is learning the wrong lessons from recent first-world greenfield subways.

In some ways, the Tel Aviv subway resembles New York’s Second Avenue Subway. It passes through neighborhoods that are very dense – the line under construction connects some of the densest cities in Israel, albeit poorly. Nobody believes it will be built because of all the false starts. Real incompetence in construction leading to cost overruns has led to speculation about much greater cost overruns.

For nearly a hundred years, the conurbation around Tel Aviv and Jaffa has been the largest metro area in what is now Israel; it is also the largest first-world metro area outside the US that has no urban rail. There were preliminary plans for a Tel Aviv subway in the 1930s, followed by repeated plans since independence, all of which were shelved. A proposal from just after independence for developing coastal Israel around rail and rapid transit trunks was rejected by Prime Minister David Ben Gurion because it conflicted with the political goal of Jewish population dispersal; to further its political goals, the state concentrated on building roads instead. In the late 1950s there was a new integrated national rail plan that was not implemented. Haifa got a six-station, one-line funicular, but Tel Aviv and Jerusalem remained bus-only. In the 1960s a skyscraper in Central Tel Aviv was built with a subway station, but there were no tunnels built; a subsequent 1971 plan was abandoned in 1973 due to the Yom Kippur War. The current subway plan dates to the 1990s, and has suffered from repeated delays, and construction only began recently, with opening expected for 2016.

Unlike in the North American debate, in Israel the left is pro-BRT and anti-rail, due to a long tradition of mistrust in mainstream (center-right to right-wing) politics. The same is true of urban planners who follow the Jacobsian tradition, such as Yoav Lerner Lerman (Heb.). The article I translated two years ago about Jerusalem’s light rail is in that tradition: it attacks genuine problems with cost overruns and a politicized route choice process, but then concludes that BRT is the solution because it’s been implemented in Curitiba and Bogota successfully. The result is that people whose ideas about trade, energy, health care, education, and housing are well to the left of what is considered acceptable in the US end up channeling the Reason Foundation on bus versus rail issues.

In reality, Tel Aviv’s urban form is quite dense. The city itself has 8,000 people per square kilometer, much lower than Paris and Barcelona, but higher than most other European central cities (say, every single German city). Like Los Angeles, its municipal borders do not conform to the informal borders of the inner-urban area, since it contains lower-density modernist neighborhoods north of the Yarkon, while dense Ramat Gan, Giv’atayim, Bnei Brak, and Bat Yam are separate municipalities. The inner ring of suburbs, including the above-named four, has 7,400 people per square kilometer; excluding the more affluent but emptier northern suburbs, this approaches 10,000/km^2.

However, the urban form is quite old, in the sense that the density is fairly constant, without the concentrations of density near nodes that typify modern transit cities. Tel Aviv’s residential high-rise construction is not very dense because it still follows the modernist paradigm of a tower in a park, leading to low lot coverage and a density that’s not much higher than that of the old four-story apartment blocks. The Old North achieves about 15,000 people per square kilometer with a floor area ratio of 2: the setbacks are such that only about half of each lot is buildable, and there are four floors per building. The Akirov Towers complex averages about 2.5.

Although this density pattern favors surface transit rather than rapid transit, Tel Aviv doesn’t have the street network for efficient surface transit. Paris, a poster child for efficient recent construction of light rail (see costs and ridership estimates on The Transport Politic), is a city of wide boulevards. Central Tel Aviv has about two such streets – Ibn Gabirol and Rothschild – and one auto-oriented arterial, Namir Road, which the subway line under construction will go under. The street network is too haphazard to leverage those two for surface BRT or light rail, and the major destinations of the central areas are often on narrower streets, for example Dizengoff. On top of that, light rail speeds in Paris are lower than 20 km/h, whereas newly built subways are much faster, approaching 40 km/h in Vancouver and Copenhagen. Outside Central Tel Aviv, the roads become wider, but not nearly as wide as those used for BRT in Bogota, and there is nothing for surface transit on those streets to connect to on the surface. A surface implementation of Route 66, following Jabotinsky Street (the eastern leg of the subway line under construction) in Ramat Gan, Bnei Brak, and Petah Tikva, wouldn’t be very fast on the surface to begin with, but would come to a crawl once crossing the freeway into Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv also has two more important reasons to imitate Vancouver and Copenhagen, besides speed: religious politics, and economic and demographic comparability. Public transportation in Israel operates six days a week, with few exceptions, to avoid running on the Sabbath. A driverless train, built to be quiet even on elevated sections, with no turnstiles and free fares on the Sabbath, could circumvent religious opposition to seven-days-a-week operation.

Even without the religious question, Copenhagen and especially Vancouver are good models for Tel Aviv to follow, more so than middle-income Curitiba or Bogota. Israel is a high-construction cost country, but Canada is not very cheap, and Vancouver has cut construction costs by making elevated trains more palatable and reducing station lengths. Greater Tel Aviv has 2.5-3.5 million people depending on who you ask, not much higher than the range for Copenhagen and Vancouver. Tel Aviv is about as dense as Copenhagen and Vancouver, though Vancouver’s density is spikier. Tel Aviv expects fast population growth, like Vancouver, though in Tel Aviv’s case it’s a matter of high birth rates whereas in Vancouver it’s only immigration.

One way in which Vancouver is not a good model is the role of regional rail. Israel has no equivalent of Transport Canada or FRA regulations. It even connected Tel Aviv’s northern and southern rail networks and through-routes nearly all commuter and intercity trains. However, the network has real limitations, coming from its poor urban station locations, often in highway medians; the through-running project was completed simultaneously with the construction of the freeway. For example, the Tel Aviv University station is located far downhill from the actual university. As a result, even when there is development near the train stations, it is usually not walkable. This compels new rail service with stations in more central locations as well as east-west service, complementing the north-south mainline.

However, for service to the less dense suburbs, the construction of new lines, and electrification of the entire national network (so far only the Haifa commuter network is scheduled for electrification), should provide the backbone. There is no integrated planning between regional rail and shorter-distance urban rail, the first failing of the current plan.

More broadly, the plan fails not just because of the wrong mode choice – subway-surface rather than driverless metro with a regional rail complement – but also because of how it treats urban geography. The proposed network – on which the red line is under construction and the green line is intended to be the second built – is too sparse in the center, and ignores the older urban centers. The phasing ignores preexisting transportation centers, and often the choice of who to serve and how to serve them is political.

The worst political decision concerns Jaffa, the old core of the metro area. (Tel Aviv was founded as a nominally independent city, but really as a Jewish suburb of Jaffa.) The most activity is in the Old City and the Flea Market, going down along Yefet Street to Ajami, since 1948 the only majority-Arabic speaking neighborhood in the municipality, and the only neighborhood that is completely unplanned. The streets are narrow, favoring a subway, and the residents are poor and have low car ownership rates. Instead, the route through Jaffa is on the surface and follows Jerusalem Boulevard, a less busy road built by the city’s then-mayor out of envy of then-separate Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard. This serves the more gentrified Jewish parts. Ajami is gentrifying – it’s close to Central Tel Aviv, is right next to the coast, and has stunning architecture – but is still majority-Arab.

The other neighborhood that due to ethnic differences is viewed separately from Tel Aviv, Hatikva, is also underserved. In this case, the residents are Jewish, but are predominantly Mizrahi and traditional-to-religious, with high poverty levels. The plan does serve Hatikva, but much later than it should given the neighborhood’s density, intensity of low-end commercial activity, and proximity to Central Tel Aviv. A northwest-southeast line, following Dizengoff and then serving Central Bus Station (a larger transportation center still than any mainline rail station) and Hatikva before continuing east into the inner suburbs, should be a high priority, but isn’t. The Central Bus Station area is also a concentration of refugees, another low-income, low-car ownership population, though since this concentration is more recent than the plans for the subway, the lack of priority service to the bus station is not a result of racism.

It’s not only about class reasons, or racial ones: Tel Aviv had to fight to get the Ministry of Transportation to agree to build the second line underground under Ibn Gabirol, and that’s to an upper middle-class Ashkenazi neighborhoods. The common thread within the city proper is a preference for new modernist luxury towers over serving existing walkable density, even when that density is hardly lower than what the towers are providing. (The towers can be built more densely, with less open space; by the same token, the low-rise buildings could be upzoned from one half the lot and four story to three-quarters and six stories.)

Another example of bad politics is the way military bases are served. The very center of Tel Aviv is home to the Ministry of Defense and the main military headquarters, the Kirya. The inner urban area is ringed with much larger military bases, including Tsrifin to the south, Glilot to the north, and the Bakum to the east. But the officer corps is concentrated in the Kirya, while Tsrifin is a more general base, Bakum is dedicated to new draftees so that they can be told what unit they’re to be sent to, and Glilot is somewhat higher-end than Tsrifin due to its role in military intelligence but still lacks the Kirya’s concentration of high-ranking officers. Since draftees almost never own cars and often ride buses for hours, the three outlying bases are all natural outer anchors for lines, and Glilot and Tsrifin both lie on easy spurs from the mainline rail network. Despite this, there are no plans for regular service, while the Kirya is part of the subway line under construction and is the intersection point with the second line to be built.

Even on pure geography, the plan makes critical mistakes. The eastern leg of the line under construction is much better than its southern leg: it goes straight from the train station through Ramat Gan and Bnei Brak to a secondary anchor in Petah Tikva. And yet, the station spacing in Bnei Brak, the densest city in Israel, is the widest, even though higher density allows shorter station spacing. In contrast, the surface segment in less dense Petah Tikva is intended to have denser stop spacing. Moreover, despite the advantages subway-surface operation has in terms of branching, the branching is meant to be really a short-turn, with half of all trains going straight to the depot still in the underground section and half continuing to Petah Tikva. Central Petah Tikva is well to the south of the line, which is intended to terminate at Petah Tikva’s peripherally located central bus station, but there is no branch serving that center, despite high intended frequencies (3 minutes on the surface, 1.5 minutes underground).

I believe that in addition to an electrified mainline rail trunk, Tel Aviv needs a driverless subway network that looks roughly like an E: one or two north-south lines (west of the freeway if one, one on each side if two), three east-west lines intersecting the mainline rail at the three main Tel Aviv stations. The east-west lines should be anchored at the eastern ends at Petah Tikva, Bar Ilan University, and the Bakum or Kiryat Ono; the north-south lines should go about as far north and south as required to serve the center, letting mainline rail take care of destinations roughly from Glilot or Herzliya north and from Tsrifin south. Such a network would not serve political goals of making Tel Aviv a luxury city; it would just serve the transportation goals of the urban area’s residents.


  1. Rico

    Great post, I am not familiar with Tel Aviv but your arguements make a lot of sense. That said flawed rapid trannsit is better than no rapid transit. It could be the line will be a success.

    • Alon Levy

      I’m seriously skeptical of the potential of a 6-days-a-week subway line. Otherwise it’s a semi-decent line, in the same way that the Evergreen Line in Vancouver is semi-decent (but not something that should’ve been built ahead of Broadway/UBC).

      • Rico

        I agree with your thoughts about the Evergreen line, but it is a rapid transit line and will be better than no rapid transit line. Hopefully the Tel Aviv line will be similar, maybe not ideal but a step towards better transportation options….as long as it does not prevent improvement in the future (ie by blocking better options).

  2. Oren

    1. The route choice for the first line does not seem optimal if you look at a map. But pretty much all the currently existing commercial skyscrapers in the TA area lie on its path (spread out over a considerable linear distance). I believe this density motivated the choice of right of way.

    2. The central bus station is a much hated and badly placed facility. According to some reports, it would already have been demolished were it not for hazardous particles (asbestos?) that would be released by a simple demolition. Its function has been partly taken over already by intercity rail, and this trend will continue. Eventually it will likely be demolished and replaced with a more modest facility elsewhere. So I don’t shed many tears over its being bypassed.

    3. “And yet, the station spacing in Bnei Brak, the densest city in Israel, is the widest” – Bnei Brak has an overwhelmingly fundamentalist religious population that generates few trips to the rest of the metropolitan area. The subway will not help them much, and the wide spacing makes everyone else’s trips faster.

    4. “In contrast, the surface segment in less dense Petah Tikva is intended to have denser stop spacing” – Surface stops are much cheaper than underground stations, so this is understandable too.

    5. “the three outlying [military] bases are all natural outer anchors for lines,” – I believe there are also plans to move them and free the land for development. Of course, the new development will likely be relatively dense and also serve as reasonable anchors.

    6. Your criticisms of the overall planned network are on target, and if anything, much too understated. It really looks like the planners simply aimed for a uniform distribution of colored lines on the map, rather than trying to connect places that people actually want to go to. An additional criticism would be the often unnecessary zigzags the lines take.

    7. You recently posted about large-diameter TBMs for subways. I believe this is especially relevant here. It was recently (last couple years) decided to put the second planned subway line underground. One of the major factors in this decision was security – subway stations can double as bomb shelters. And a large-diameter tunnel allows for many, many more people to be sheltered than could simply fit into the stations. I won’t discuss Middle Eastern politics here, but in almost any country the military has more available funding than do public transportation planners, and that could come in useful here.

    8. You don’t directly mention what I would think is the most important reason for automated subways here – capacity. Tel Aviv is already much larger than many cities with full subways. And unlike many of those, Israel is a small country with limited capacity for outward growth, so increased density is inevitable. Street-running trains must necessarily be quite short, cutting overall capacity by maybe a factor of 3. And the current subway is planned to operate automatically in the tunnel and manually outside it (is there a precedent for this?), which makes me think the headway in the tunnel will not be too reliable.

    • Alon Levy

      1. It’s true that the skyscrapers cluster along Namir Road, but Namir Road is still completely unwalkable. It looks like your standard transit-oriented CBD, but it’s actually more like an edge city CBD, with a low transit mode share. It’s very hard to cross, and the skyscrapers were built with the assumption that people would drive to them. When trying to get from Ibn Gabirol to Azrieli, I’d routinely get lost.

      2 and 5. There are plans, and have been for a while. There are also plans to get at least parts of the Kirya out of Central Tel Aviv. Honestly, if they just want land for development, there’s plenty of empty land between the newest parts of Ramat Aviv, Glilot, and Herzliya; Israel is pretty weird in that the cities in the same urban area have sharp boundaries with a few kilometers of empty land between them. Continuous development seems to work just fine in the Ramat Gan/Giv’atayim/Bnei Brak section of the metro area.

      3. Is that actually true that the ultra-Orthodox travel less? The employment rates are lower than among the secular population, but are still above 50%. There are also plenty of bus lines dedicated to the community, with gender segregation, connecting various ultra-Orthodox areas around the country. On Twitter, Stephen Smith and Ben Kabak tell me something similar happens in New York – few ride the regular buses through their neighborhoods, but many ride buses that specifically connect different ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods and suburbs.

      4. You’re right that it’s common to have shorter stop spacing on surface segments than on underground segments on subway-surface lines. But it’s also common to have short stop spacing in CBDs and in very dense neighborhoods, and Tel Aviv isn’t planning to do that. For example, the Boston Green Line’s Boston College and Cleveland Circle branches average 380 meters between stations on the surface segments; the underground CBD segment averages about 400-500 meters, the Back Bay segment about 700. It’s a slow line, but the ratios between station spacings don’t seem wrong to me.

      8. No, there’s no precedent I know of. There sort of is precedent for mixing automatic and manual operation – Line 1 in Paris ran some automated and some manual trains pending full automation – but only as an intermediate step. But then again, Tel Aviv is the first city to build a new subway-surface system in a while: German cities built some such systems in the 1960s and 70s, Boston and Philadelphia opened theirs over a hundred years ago, San Francisco buried the Market Street trams in the 1960s.

      • Joey

        The combination of the Third Street line and Central Subway in SF qualifies as a new subway-surface line (whatever else it may be), though it’s not complete yet.

          • Joey

            In a city like San Francisco, which once had a vast streetcar network which was torn up mid-century, there are few transit projects which wouldn’t parallel a once-existant streetcar line. Given that tracks didn’t exist there for several decades, I think it qualifies as a new line, whatever other problems it may have.

          • Ted K.

            Map of San Francisco (1925) :
            1925 San Francisco Street Map

            Let’s test various definitions of “new” :
            Is the corridor currently served by some sort of transit ? Yes, ETB’s are in regular service. Therefore, upgraded* service – not new transit.
            *(Upgraded ? Maybe – local rail fans have doubts due in part to T-Third Phase I glitches.)
            Was there rail service in the past for most of corridor ? Yes, separate lines covered Stockton to North Beach, Third St., and Fourth St. for decades. Therefore, this is not a new rail corridor.
            Is this a “new line” ? No, it’s an extension of a line that has been in service since 2007 and is an example of ‘rail’stitution.

            About the only thing that is new is the tunnel. But the service that will be using the tunnel is OLD ! An easily flooded, deep tunnel is not enough “new”ness to overcome the hoariness of a corridor that has seen more than a century of service. Part of what made the shipyard at Hunters Point so successful were the rail (freight and transit) links to the surrounding communities (S.F., Daly City, Brisbane, South S.F., etc.).

            If you want new :
            How about filling in the gaps in S.F.’s rail service (e.g. Judah – Taraval Beach Link) ?
            How about a SamTrans LRV from Caltrain’s Bayshore station (Tunnel Ave., near Beatty Rd.) to South S.F. BART via Brisbane, North Govt. Ctr., and Kaiser Hospital (back entrance) ?

          • Joey

            By that definition almost no urban transit projects qualify as “new”

            But it’s a trivial argument of semantics which has no bearing on whether transit upgrades should occur. San Francisco’s priorities really should be improving service on these “old” corridors which see heavy use but don’t have the capacity or speed to meet demand, i.e. Geary, Van Ness, etc. Sometimes “transit upgrades” only means BRT and sometimes it means a full subway (in Geary’s case). The corridor which the Central Subway follows is on that list too, but it’s not at the top and certainly isn’t worth eating several years of capital budget on.

      • Matthew

        Somehow I knew the Green Line would come up as I was reading along. So yes, the average stop spacing on the surface “B” is technically 376m but that’s including the extreme outlier — a long (800m) gap before the final station, Boston College. And even then it’s only that high because of a handful of station eliminations from about ten years ago.

        The portion of the “B” line that sees the heaviest ridership (and happens to be the busiest surface section in all of Boston transit) has an average stop spacing of about 325m with several intervals going as low as about 225m to 250m. There is a long interval over the Mass Pike, and a long interval before Harvard Ave because a station was eliminated there. Otherwise it’s in the 200s. It’s extremely slow, averaging about 8 mph and usually beaten by the parallel bus line.

        The Green Line station spacing is not a good model for anything but perhaps a senior citizens shuttle.

      • Andrew in Ezo

        Alon, regarding manual/automatic operation, if you use driverless trains, the above ground portion must be elevated or otherwise securely segregated to prevent line intrusions. If you use rolling stock that has a human driver, the situation can be like they use on the Fukutoshin Line in Tokyo, where in the underground portion the trains run in ATO mode, with the driver merely acting to check passenger boarding and to brake in emergency situations (train running is otherwise fully automated); above ground operation is conventional driver operation- either cab signaling or lineside signal operation depending on the railway being traversed.

  3. Alex

    Your explanation for the lack of rail transit in Israel is interesting . What are some other narratives? I’m assuming there are people who claim it was for freedom and democracy? Any less fairy-tale explanations?

    • Alon Levy

      The standard narrative is that Israel’s growth was unplanned. The transportation politics is different from that of the US, so people don’t say things like “roads are freedom, rail is collectivist.” The extreme right is anti-density because urban density conflicts with the goal of developing the settlements, but it doesn’t say so outright, unlike in the US, where the anti-urbanism is a matter of sticking it to the environmentalists.

      Update: I forgot to say, Israel is actually investing in rail a lot, but it’s mostly commuter and intercity rail, and because of the freeway medians, it’s not leading to much TOD. There’s also very little understanding of TOD – the ideas about density are still stuck where the US was in the 1950s, but at the same time there’s so much pent-up demand for central-city housing that like in New York and San Francisco, new construction is mostly luxury, leading people to associate density with unaffordable housing.

  4. Lerman

    Yoav Lerman and not Yoav Lerner.
    Also, just last month it was reported that the new date for the opening of the first subway line in Tel-Aviv (misrepresented as light-rail) is going to be rescheduled to 2023.
    Regarding Vancouver SkyTrain – when they were discussing the possibility of doing this kind of train in Tel-Aviv back in 1999 both mayors of Tel-Aviv and Ramat-Gan opposed the idea and preferred the underground option.
    I’m not entirely against undergound rails, but it seems that buiding an underground train today with the modern labor laws land rights is a much tougher task than it used to be a hundred years ago when New York built its subway. Those who were injured or killed during the construction then were not eligible for any severence pay.
    And last thing – the Israeli mininstry of transportation is still promoting building rails that go to nowhere (such as the Dimona, where the station is completely outside of the city and is operating only twice a day) under very large budgets for the Jewish dispersal ethos. This policty also postpones Tel-Aviv rails plans usually because of financial cuts.

    • Alon Levy

      The Vancouver SkyTrain system is underground in Downtown Vancouver, and the Canada Line is underground in most of Vancouver and elevated in the suburbs. It’s harder to build above ground in Tel Aviv (except ironically for the streets that the Red Line is meant to go under) because the streets are much narrower than in Vancouver, so an elevated viaduct is going to block sunlight more. Same way that in New York, the 7 el is much nicer when it’s over 60-meter wide Queens Boulevard than when it’s over 25-meter wide Roosevelt Avenue. I brought up Vancouver and Copenhagen for a reason: they both built their systems recently, with modern labor laws, modern first-world wages, and modern tunneling equipment, and they actually have lower costs relative to wages (but higher relative to inflation) than New York did in the 1910s. The construction in the 1910s was if I remember correctly about $120 million per underground kilometer in inflation-adjusted dollars, but US GDP per capita then was $7,000 whereas Canada and Denmark are in the $35,000-40,000 area. But Danish and Canadian costs aren’t $600 million per km – they’re closer to $150-200 million for fully underground lines.

      • Lerman

        That also has to do with the financing. NYC financed its subway through real estate development and I think Vancouver also ties its SkyTrain to urban development schemes. In Israel, as you mentioned, the concept of TOD is unfamiliar to 99% of the urban planning community. There is no connection between public transport planning and urban and real estate devlopment in Israel and that also works against the underground scheme.
        Lastly, I must agree with your observation that the Israeli urban planning aspirations are somewhat similar to those of 1950s US (give us more highways, now) with almost no public debate on the qualities of dense urban living and the way car-dominated planning erodes whatever urban quality there is.

        • Alon Levy

          Vancouver has TOD, but the financing is through taxes, bonds, and in the case of the Canada Line, botched private-sector concessions. The city extracts a large majority of the growth in property values from upzoning in impact fees and taxes (I think 82%, but Stephen Smith knows this better than I do) and puts it in the general fund.

          As one note, the TOD in Vancouver is not that great urbanism. It’s a lot of density, but it’s very modernistic. The Vancouver style is to build tall and narrow, with a lot of open space between buildings. See for example this, near Edmonds station in Burnaby. But they intend to redevelop the Canada Line stations in a a more traditional style, with higher lot coverage, and they’ll probably have to do it if they build the Broadway subway, since the neighborhood near West Broadway already has medium to high lot coverage.

          • Rico

            As to development fees in Vancouver…I don’t think there is a set number, I think it is negociated with each upzoning (and upzonings can be anywhere in the city, not just along major transit lines), so one year it may equate to 70% of the upzoned value and the next 82% (and they often are not actual dollar transations, they may be space for a daycare, a park, non-market housing, whatever else people try and negociate).

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  6. nahoumcohen

    As the new date indicates – 2023 – tel aviv does not need anything now. All buses run half empty in town. Not so in suburbs, where the problem lies. Too many, too dispersed to solve, and only during rush hour. Go and solve it.

  7. Jude

    I imagine that an elevated system along the Vancouver model may also have security implications – the pillars supporting the elevated line would either be vulnerable to bombing, or have to be strengthened to a much higher degree than the comparators in Vancouver or KL, thus potentially eliminating the cost savings of elevated vs tunneled construction.

    • Rico

      While the elevated structures in Vancouver were largely built before security became as important as today I doubt elevated structures pose as much security risk as you think. The elevated structures are located outside so they will not contain the blast and most of the force of any explosion would go outwards into nothing. Even if the blast was successful and the pillar fell a blast would have to go off just when a train was passing to have any chance of significant casualties because when the power rail looses its power all the trains would stop. I would think an enclosed subway station that would contain the power of a bomb would be a much greater security threat.

    • Alon Levy

      Wait, what? Israel has bridges already. They’ve never been a bombing target, even the ones that were so shoddily built they collapsed under the weight of the people using them. Mass transit vehicles themselves are a more likely target, and for that it’s safer to be above ground than below ground; it’s also safer to be fully grade-separated than subway-surface, since that allows for longer vehicles with tighter headways, which means less crowded vehicles at equal ridership.

  8. Rico

    The Atlantic Cities has an article stating Tel Aviv is going to build a demo line of something that looks like a ‘personal public transportation’ system….maybe they should focus on completing the line they are building first though.

  9. Alan

    I share your sentiment that an automated system on the Copenhagen model would be better than the pre-metro + LRT planned for the Tel Aviv region.

    However, the assertion that the priority is based on the socio-economic status and/or ethnicity of the inhabitants is baseless. The plans were put together solely based on ridership goals:

    The Red line tracks the busiest corridor in the entire metro-region and possibly the country. Jerusalem blvd hosts routes 18, 25, 40, 42, 142, 125 and 240, all high-frequency routes (a combined frequency of a bus running every 2-3 minutes throughout the day), and is bounded by relatively dense construction whereas Ajami is a low-medium density neighbourhood with a relatively standard bus service. A Similarly, the Jabotinsky corridor leading to Petah Tikva hosts multiple routes at high frequency.

    Stop spacing of less than 800 metres in Bne Brak (and more affluent Ramat Gan!) is not conducive to a rapid service that is going to need to get people from Petah Tikva to the CBD as quickly as possible. Again, politics or prejudice doesn’t come into it.

    Based on the political assertions in your article, the Red line should have gone down Abba Hillel in Ramat Gan to serve the more affluent citizens. Likewise, the planned Purple line (through the Hatikva neighbourhood) will also serve some of the middle-class areas on Ramat Gan. The reason for its lower priority is simply that it’s a slightly lower density route than the Red line.

    It’s a pity that the post promotes various conspiracy theories on the routing rather than focusing on the very valid point about the nature of the Red Line project.

    PS: Your post has been cross-posted on the Tapuz public transport forum (Hebrew):

    • Alon Levy

      Jerusalem is a wider street than Yefet, so it’s more conducive to bus service. Ajami has very narrow streets, which slow down surface transit, but are not a problem for a subway. I don’t have detailed population density data for Jaffa, but Ajami seems denser than Tsahalon and Dakar, where a much larger percentage of the land is parks or parking lots, and Old Jaffa and the Flea Market are next to Yefet.

      The service to Petah Tikva is kind of meh. The line doesn’t go into Petah Tikva’s center – it goes to the hospital and the bus station. Those are lower-density areas than Ramat Gan and Bnei Brak. In general, there’s a tradeoff between speed and station coverage, but in most cases (though not all!) the denser areas get more stops rather than fewer stops.

      I don’t think there was a deliberate conspiracy in the sense that anyone said, “let’s not serve Arabs, this is a Jewish state.” Rather, a set of assumptions about service led to this plan: Central Bus Station is awful and dirty and should be bypassed, Haredim don’t ride secular public transit and never will, low-rise neighborhoods are low-density, Tel Aviv’s CBD is on Namir around Azrieli, Jaffa is an outlying area that can be served on the surface. For all I know the reasons not to serve Ajami could be more explicitly racial – “we need to make the system look safe” or something like that – but it’s likely the reason was a much subtler denigration of Ajami as too unmodern or too unfamiliar to the planners to deserve service.

      • Alan

        Obviously I cannot vouch for sure on what was going through the minds of the planners, but neither do I see any basis for many of the assumptions that you made in the post and in your reply.

        I should state for the record that I had lengthly discussions with the NTA chief planning engineer back in 2002 (four years into the process) and all the planning documents that I was shown focused almost exclusively on ridership – PPH figures and the ability to get as much segregated on-street and cut-and-cover running as possible. The alignment chosen for the Red line was based only on minimising cost and maximising PPH.

        One should remember that the project has always been in doubt and cost was paramount. Initially, the tunnel section was supposed to be limited to Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv ending at Derech Ben Gurion on the Ramat Gan/Bene Brak boundary. It was the Bene Brak municipality who bore pressure on the Transport and Finance Ministries and managed to obtain a longer tunnel section under Bene Brak through to Geha. At the time, I was amazed that they had pulled this off.

        To minimise cost, the planners looked at what works today (the existing high-demand bus routes) and decided that connecting Petah Tikva and Bat Yam to Tel Aviv was the highest demand corridor. They also looked at what was wide (boulevards and arterials), as their aim was to maximise segregated on-street running. This is also the reason that the plan makes use of the ‘Turkish line’ alignment connecting Jaffa and Allenby rather than the more direct, but narrow, Derech Yafo and Eilat Street.

        Central Bus Station would have been a huge diversion for the route and is not a particularly in-demand destination. However, the planned Green line will serve that location.

        I forgot to mention before that Ajami is on the coast – so minimising ridership as you remove 50% of the walkable destinations from each station. Central-commercial Jaffa is Jerusalem Blvd, for Jew and Arab alike, there’s no escaping that fact.

        There was an option to go straight on into the heart of Petah Tikva, rather than turning left onto Orlov. Not sure what governed the reason for this, but it could be to do with the relative width of Orlov compared with the cramped centre. If the pre-metro is ever turned into metro (not in our lifetimes!), there will need to be full segregation in Petah Tikva and this end-section will need to go underground. It will be possible to rectify this.

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