On the “Fast Lane” to Tel Aviv

The traffic toll is nothing new to motorists all over the world, but in Israel a new way to calculate the toll is reshaping traffic patterns in this small and often congested country. The new toll system first implemented in January 2011, calculates the price every minute based on actual road conditions, demand, and optimal driving speeds. The scheme aims to minimize congestion between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as well as carbon emissions.

An up-to-the-minute calculation

Shafir Civil and Marine Engineering Ltd. won the Build-Operate-Transfer funds from the Israeli government to build and operate a “Fast Lane” along Israel’s highway number 1 from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. This special lane is unique in the world; it is different from specialised bus, taxi, and HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes as well as toll lanes that have different set prices depending on the time of day. Israel’s “Fast Lane” is reserved for those willing to pay the optimal price for the optimal drive. The new toll lane manages to maintain an optimal driving speed as well as optimal usage through basic economics: as demand for the lane goes up, so too does the price. Video cameras and sensors set up all along the route measure the traffic volume on the pay lane as well as the other costless lanes. This information is automatically inserted into an algorithm along with other driving condition factors to calculate a real time toll that can vary between 7 and 75 shekels (1.40 € to 16 €). License plate recognition software then charges every driver the real-time toll when a driver decides on using the toll lane.[1] The project also includes a parking garage near Tel Aviv where motorists can park and get shuttle rides into the city. It costs 12 shekels (2.50 €) per day to park. Shafir, as per their agreement with the government’s Cross Israel Highway company, will operate the lane and receive all revenue from the tolls and parking garage until 2036.[2]

Judging the “Fast Lane’s” impact

The “Fast Lane’s” most obvious advantage is its ability to always offer a way around the traffic on Israel’s most congested highway. But it also aims to limit car traffic and air pollution. The lane encourages carpooling by waving the toll for vehicles with three or more passengers, and part of the revenue from the collected toll finances a completely free commuter bus. An estimated 6,000 vehicles pay the toll daily for use of the lane, and 1,700 vehicles park in the project’s parking garage. Because of the greater-than-expected success of the project, the Israeli government has decided to build another “Fast Lane” into Tel Aviv from Rishon LeZion and other similar lanes along Road 2 and Road 5 are under consideration. As part of this next phase, a second level will be built onto the parking lot making it the country’s largest parking structure. The augmented lot will then enable more shuttle busses to be operated and will attract a new train station. What we see here is an innovative approach with a new toll system that has smartly been paired with several other mobility solutions to reduce traffic drastically.

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