Monday, November 2, 2009
Winter is really here with four days of rain. Sometimes it comes down hard and Tel Avivians hide in cafes and offices. At night streets are deserted, left for the teenagers and "acharei tzava" (twenty something after their military duty.) Tel Aviv does not take well to the rain, the sewers were not made for this much water, streets flood and puddles stay for hours. Sometimes we forget how 100 years ago central Israel from Tel Aviv south to Rehovot, east to Kfar Saba and north to Natanya was one dusty sand patch. In the deserts and semi-desert climates rain does not seep into the ground. It seals the sand with top layer of wet sand then flows to make small floods down hills into low points. In south Tel Aviv, where sewers are old and narrow streets fill with water covering car tires and sidewalks. So Tel Avivians, take out their boots. Women who wear open shoes all year around get these few days to make a change. To some it's an opportunity to make a fashion statement. Boots that were made to European snow pop out everywhere. What an amazing transformation in an instant.
Last Thursday the 55 bus from Tel Ha'shomer skipped twice. It usually runs every 20 minutes in the evenings. It did not come from 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM. Riders all along the route gave up and took taxis or waited when there was no alternative or did not want to spend the extra money. Once on the bus a minor demonstration started. First people scream at the driver. So he tells them that it's not his fault, actually they should be nice to him. It's the previous two drivers that should be taking the heat. That does not help, it makes things worst. Than a few start talking loud and threaten to "write a petition and have everyone sign it". To me they all seem to be the Russians, they are used to bureaucracy and official government departments which debate people's opinions in local government meetings. A debate started on which government department the petition should be sent and what to say to get them to do something. The department of transportation was the most agreed upon candidate while the bus company seem to be losing out. To Tel Avivians the bus company is just a winner of a government bid to move people economically. But most riders were just glad to get going to where they needed to be. On Thursday evenings, the end of the working week, soldiers from the base in Tel Ha'shomer, one of the bigger recruitment base, go home for the weekend. These are the army's bureaucrats, they will be receiving the complaint petitions from bus riders in ten year when they work for a government department. They are tired and don't care about a bus route missing two appointed rounds, they just want to get home.Read More...
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
From the stories here you may think that Tel Aviv is just fun and games. Shopping, dining out, lying on the beach, hanging out in cafes... well, that's just the leisure and lifestyle part of this city. Just as important, Tel Aviv is the true center of commerce, business, technology, investment... and basically the place people come to meet and make the "deals". Not that there are no other places to meet in Israel, there are lots of wonderful places, both quiet and comfortable. Green areas like old kibbutzim, quiet areas like hotels on the Dead Sea and the Red Sea (at Eilat). Green areas like small bed and breakfasts (called Tzimmerim - in the German tradition) up in Gallil, from the sea (Mediterranean) to the sea (of Gallily). But to see people, go to conferences, get business services, people come to Tel Aviv. Like all business centers the one thing people complain about most is the travel. Roads are clogged beyond belief on rush hours, buses run late and are filled with sweaty riders and cell phone screaming teeny-boppers, taxis are too expensive if you come from anywhere but a close suburb, trains don't run often enough and can also be full. Oh, the thought of getting on the highway or a train one more time. Once you get to Tel Aviv there is never enough parking, there is a ticket writer on every corner, and the bus stop is never where you want it.
Nicely flowing traffic into Tel Aviv on the coast road (Hertzel facing McDonald's)
OK, you get the point. But it's really not that bad, compare to LA traffic, NY bus and subway, Rome or Paris drivers, and London parking. In some of these cities you actually pay just for the privilege of driving your own car into the city. Not here! Actually if you know where you are going and have a little time, there are parking lots in most big buildings and public areas (Dizengoff Center, Azrielli, T"A University and fairgrounds, large hotels, etc.) Traffic is only really bad if you come the absolute peak hours. From 7:00AM to 9:00AM anywhere coming into Tel Aviv you are going to find a traffic jam. In the evening from 4:00PM to 6:00PM it's just as bad as the morning. But if you avoid these hours, you are going to be OK. But for a big city, Tel Aviv is not that bad. Traffic is bad but not everywhere and not every day, but you will have to sit in the car and listen to that radio talk or your favorite iPod collection. Once you figure out where you are going, there are plenty of ways to avoid the big intersections with the most amount of traffic.
Buses are comfortable, run all the time, and go everywhere, but you are still stuck in traffic!
Buses and trains are a whole other story. Trains are great if you are coming and going to where the stations are. The trains from Modiin and from Petach Tiqva are a new addition and you will not be traveling alone during rush hours. They will also save you a great deal of time if you don't have to trek from the stations too much. Buses have the same issues as cars on the highway, there are no high speed lanes in and out of Tel Aviv. So if traffic is at a stand still, so is your bus. But once you get used to a certain bus line you may get to like it. If you catch the bus early in the route you will get a seat. Than, put on these fancy headphones and ride with your favorite tunes. If the ride is longer than 20 or 30 minutes that means the line is not going to run very often, so make sure you don't miss the 7:30 bus because the next one could be 20 to 25 minutes away. Anyway, if you need to get into and out of Tel Aviv, no big deal -- but you better get used to it and figure out what you need.
Tel Aviv is working very hard to make travel easy. Roads are in good shape and there are construction projects to bypass heavy intersections, it's just that construction always take years longer than needed. The train system is moving along, but it is very expensive to construct rail lines and stations are very slowly being built. Actually the train system is already suffering from under capacity, but you don't have this rush of trains like in Calcutta (we are going to eventually learn how the Indians do it). Travel is one aspect of Tel Aviv that is actually working, the city is a usable business center - YOU CAN GET H E R E ! Which is one thing that we learned from the bigger cities, which you can't get in and out of as easily!
Next time - alternative transport-ation: bikes, tus-tus, and a board or tiny-wheels. Read More...