Author Topic: Tel Aviv Paves Paradise, Builds Huge Downtown Parking Lots  (Read 1606 times)

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Tel Aviv Paves Paradise, Builds Huge Downtown Parking Lots
By Yigal Hai

Menachem Begin Road is a major Tel Aviv artery well-served by public transport. Hundreds of buses use it daily, serving thousands of passengers in the Tel Aviv area. In addition, two Israel Rail stations are located nearby and in a few years the light railway's planned Red Line will pass through. But a few days ago, a competitor to public transport suddenly appeared: A parking lot with room for hundreds of cars was set up on the ruins of the former Tnuva dairy company buildings on Begin Road. To make things worse, signs announced parking there was free. "Don't be a sucker!" say the signs, detailing availability of parking nearby at Azrieli Center, the Tel Aviv District Courts and Tel Aviv Art Museum.

Environmental groups' angry response was not long in coming. They believe the number of private vehicles entering Tel Aviv should be reduced significantly and have been waging an ardent campaign against the Tel Aviv municipality's plans to build more and more parking garages like the one being built underneath the Habima theater and the one planned underneath Rabin Square. Parking garages, greens claim, encourage usage of private transportation and exacerbate the city's already serious air pollution problem.

The Tnuva compound is slated to have towers between 45-50 stories built on them, mostly providing office space. The plan is still a long way from final approval, which means the temporary parking lot will operate for a number of years.

Omer Cohen, from the Tel Aviv branch of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, wrote a protest letter to city engineer, architect Hezi Berkowitz. "A visit to the area revealed most of the buildings have been razed and a huge parking lot has been set up allowing free parking. Considering that massive parking lots, such as this one, cater to employees and visitors and offer free or almost free parking, which creates traffic and noise, we would like to know whether the municipality has considered the option of turning the area into a temporary park that would cater to employees and visitors, as well as improve the city's aesthetics."

The municipality said in response that "the area is private, not public, and because no money is charged for parking, it does not require a license, which is why no application for a license has been submitted."

Motorists using the parking lot reckon it will remain free only for a trial run. Tnuva said the area has been rented out to a private company in the parking lot business. Meanwhile, similar temporary parking lots set up on land awaiting massive development have sprung up around the city. The former wholesale market located between Hashmonaim and Carlebach streets is partly owned by the city and is slated to have 1,700 housing units as well as public institutions constructed on its vacated premises. The city prided itself that the closing of the market diverted thousands of trucks from the area but in the meantime has set up a mega parking space with room for 2,500 cars instead.

"Hundreds of thousands of cars enter Tel Aviv, which suffers from congestion and air pollution, on a daily basis," says SPNI Tel Aviv branch head Anat Barkai-Nevo. "New mega parking lots only make things worse and encourage entry of private transportation at the expense of public transport.

Another place where the city wants to set-up a temporary parking space until permits for construction of high-rise buildings have been issued is the former Dan bus company garage in the city center. The real estate company involved in its development has asked to level the existing buildings. Though the municipality okayed the request, it stipulated that the parking lot must have some areas set aside for greenery.

"The shortage in parking stems from the Patrick Geddes plan from the turn of the last century, which did not take into consideration today's traffic needs," Hillel Partok, the municipal spokesman, said in response. "Therefore, even when these parking lots are built, it won't be enough. Coincidentally, the municipality is trying to park cars underground to make room for pedestrians. Also, alternative methods of transportation like bike trails and railways are being created."