If you are one of those regular visitors to Israel who look forward to walking or driving around to see what has changed since your last visit — even if your last visit was only months ago — there is always plenty to catch up on.
I personally have a preference for driving around and seeing what new construction is underway and trying to guess who the construction will be geared to when it is done. Although I try to drive through many different cities of Israel to do this exploration each time I am in Israel, my first stop is always Jerusalem to see the new buildings going up in the different neighborhoods and to try to gauge what will be targeted toward Israelis and what will be marketed for foreign investment.
The last few years, though, driving through Jerusalem has been particularly difficult, and unless you are familiar with small and back roads, you can find yourself sitting in gridlock that rivals the FDR Drive during rush hour.
Although you would hear all the time that the reason for the gridlock was the building of the train route through Jerusalem — and most of us bought this excuse for heavy traffic for years—the train has been completed for a long time now, and the traffic has actually become worse, not better, than it was during those construction years.
As I drive around looking at all the new construction going up — some of the apartment buildings are going as high as 20 floors or more — my thoughts go to what will happen when these buildings are completed and the apartments sold. Figuring anywhere from 4–8 apartments per floor, depending on the size of the buildings, each building will probably generate an additional 80 to 160 new cars driving on the same roads that presently exist today within Jerusalem — roads that haven’t changed much in the last 40 years other than added traffic lights, bumps in the street to slow traffic down, etc. And with the constant construction generating several dozen new buildings at a minimum each year, the anticipated numbers of added cars to the existing road infrastructure in an already overburdened system is just mind-boggling!
For some reason, one I cannot fathom, many of these buildings are going up with little if any accommodation for new parking facilities. There does not seem to be any plan to accommodate all these new cars by enlarging the main road arteries to give better traffic flow to avoid gridlock.
For those of you who drive in the vicinity of the Machane Yehuda shuk, since the train closed down all but public transportation on Jaffa Road and moved the buses to Agrippas (this was a transportation department plan to create a better flow), Agrippas, which is a street with only one lane going in each direction alongside the shuk, has 24-hour gridlock. All traffic that used to be on Jaffa now must use Agrippas and then wait patiently in traffic every time a bus stops for passengers. In other words, it has become a traffic nightmare!
If you want to go into the small parking lot behind the shuk, you can take a ticket and go in, but taking a ticket (which obligates you to pay a parking charge) does not guarantee you will get a parking spot. You basically play Russian Roulette; have a lot of patience and hope you will find a spot before you run out of time and need to forget it and go home.
Not to be outdone, in the Davidka Square, the traffic circle was removed so someone could build a plaza with some new monuments; now traffic must go straight with no turns until you are past Geula, Meah Shearim, and almost in Sanhedria. Only then can you turn around and come back the other way. Who thinks up this way of torturing drivers? It makes one wonder if decisions in traffic planning are being made by the spin of the wheel by blindfolded transportation officials. The people of Chelm could not do it any worse than this!
I could go on with examples of other areas of the city, but the question is what is going to happen as all these new construction projects are sold and the new owners move in, bringing with them their new cars to an already choked traffic situation. It will be even more impossible to get around the city by car. How much longer will it take until the Jerusalem municipality finally wakes up and gets professional traffic specialists to take the entire city in hand and find a way for a more efficient system of traffic flow?
Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and a licensed N.Y.S. loan officer (FM Home Loans) with over 20 years of experience offering full-service residential, commercial, and management real-estate services as well as mortgage services. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa@AVCrealty.com.