In a bustling post-COVID lockdown era, efficient and intelligent vehicle travel is crucial now more than ever.
As cities like Tel Aviv reestablish full capacity occupancy in office buildings, restaurants, and other businesses, it raises an age-old question about sustainable transportation and mobility.
Without it, transportation will continue to represent about 23% of the global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and emit harmful vehicular emissions such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and fine particulate matter––air pollution that is presently responsible for nearly 3.7 million premature deaths each year.
The share of commuters using public transportation is low in metropolitan areas, hovering around 20%. As a result of poor quality service and rising incomes, the amount of people using public transport is declining.
More people are choosing to travel in private vehicles, which have over inundated highways and side streets with traffic backups and continuously running tailpipes. One particularly busy strip is the Ayalon Highway, with about 800,000 to 1,000,000 million vehicles hitting its tarmac every day.
And because of the recent and ongoing global pandemic, most Israeli citizens opt for driving their own private vehicles as opposed to using public options like buses or trains. In fact, during the pandemic, the use of public transport dropped by tens of percentage points.
Plus, the current pace at which mass transit and infrastructure are being constructed falters when compared to the increasing number of private vehicles entering circulation.
“Today, traffic and road congestion are catastrophic,” says Intelligent Traffic Control’s (ITC) Chief Technical Officer, Dvir Kenig. “After the COVID-19 pandemic, people have lost trust in public transportation. They are afraid of it, and with the new virus variants, we have noticed an increase in private cars on the road,” he says referring to Israel’s arduous transportation status.
Traffic buildup continues to plague roadways and frustrate commuters across the globe, but Israel especially lags behind in terms of transportation solutions, and thus suffers the worst traffic congestion out of any country within the OECD.
As a result, Israel’s transportation sector was found to be its second largest source of GHG emissions after electricity production, where local sources contributed 26% of the country’s CO2 emissions in 2009. However, given the country’s recent shift to natural gas for generating electricity, experts predict transportation’s GHG emissions could very well surpass that of the energy sector and become Israel’s greatest source of carbon emissions.
In 2015, there were a little more than 3 million motor vehicles in Israel and 83.5% of them were privately owned. For a country that is only a little more than 20,000 km² in size, it seems mystifying that 300,000 new cars are still sold on average each year, which would put Israel’s current vehicle fleet at nearly 5 million.
Due to Israel’s vastly overcrowded streets, reports show that for every kilometer of road there are roughly 2,700 cars. By comparison, there are only 773 cars per kilometer on average among other OECD countries.
And with this congestion comes much slower traveling speeds, something that drivers in Israel today are more than aware of. Even as far back as 2010, the average speed of morning rush hour traffic heading into Tel Aviv was already clocking in below 10 km/h. Since then, the frequency and duration of stand-still traffic has grown, which has exacerbated urban air pollution within Israel’s city centers and immediate outskirts.
This is because cars, excluding electric vehicles, release far more GHG emissions when they are stuck in traffic than they do driving at normal speeds (~90 km/h). Car-congested cities are where fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and NOx (nitrogen oxides) from engine exhaust are most concentrated, prompting higher respiratory complications and health hazards among children and adults. In fact, an estimated 2,000 Israelis die prematurely each year as a result of air pollution.