Fewer Vehicles Per Capita; Much Greater Road Congestion
Author: Taub Center Staff Bulletin Articles

Israel has fewer vehicles per capita than the Western average, but levels of congestion on its roads are much higher as a result of decades-long underinvestment in roads and rail.

Road transportation is by far the most prevalent means of transportation for both people and goods in the State of Israel. But the capacity of Israel’s roads is failing to keep pace with the increase in their use. A recent Taub Center study by Yoram Ida and Gal Talit, Transportation Mobility and Its Influence on Accessibility in Israel, shows just how far Israel’s highway infrastructure lags behind.

The Ministry of Transportation website reports that “the number of vehicles in Israel has doubled from about one million in 1990 to about two million today, while the increase in population was only about 51 percent. As a result, the level of motorization has risen about 40 percent, to about 300 vehicles to 1000 residents.”  This elevated level is only one-third to half the level found in Europe and the United States – suggesting that the level of motorization per capita will continue to rise.  The Ministry acknowledges “a widening gap” between use and capacity.

Ida and Gal illustrate the full extent of this gap. The figure below shows the cumulative growth since 1990 of kilometers traveled, number of vehicles, and highway area. The number of vehicles has far more than doubled, growing by more than 110 percent by 2006, while the number of kilometers traveled increased even more – by over 130 percent. Surface area of roads, by contrast, increased during this period by only about 60 percent, meaning that the amount of congestion increased considerably.

Fig 7B Eng

Ida and Talit demonstrate further that the increase in road travel is in itself partially a consequence of insufficient infrastructure investment in  public transportation, which ideally should have been absorbing much of the increase in travel that has so far been borne by private vehicles.

A massive increase in Israel’s transportation capacity is necessary merely to catch-up with the increasing road travel of recent years, and even greater investments are necessary if the country is to keep pace with the expected future level of travel on Israel’s roads. In addition, a parallel increase in public transport supply and improvement in service level of the existing public transport system should help mitigate the rapid upward trend in private vehicle use.

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