45 minutes: that’s how long it takes to get from Ra’anana to Hertzeliya by public transportation, as opposed to fifteen minutes by car, without traffic. Sharon residents who have dreamed for years about improved transportation in their area delight in fantasies of a subway or cable car. In practice it appears they will have to make do with more modest improvements. What will that do to real estate prices?
Broken dreams. In the last two months any number of revolutionary, surreal ideas have been floated regarding public transportation to link the cities of the Sharon region.
The Hertzeliya Municipality announced: the future is here. In a press release the city informed us that it is working in partnership with the worldwide Skytran company to build a cable car. The technology is based on trams that reach up to 240 km/h using magnetic hovering, with which 12,000 people per hour can be transported. The municipality has begun a marketing campaign to get residents behind the initiative, and to portray Hertzeliya as blazing new tails in urban transit technology.
But talk is cheap. Such a project would require a massive budget and immense planning and approval bureaucracy, which, if the past serves as any indication – specifically the Tel Aviv light railway – it is doubtful that the plan will ever be implemented.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Finance is also allowing itself to indulge in delusions. While the light rail construction in Tel Aviv is in full swing, the Steering Committee of the Ministries of Finance and Transport decided to advance an ambitious plan for three subway lines between Ra’anana and Rehovot, via Tel Aviv. To that end, Neta – the urban transportation company authority – published a tender inviting international planning corporations to submit bids for what it claims “will foment a significant transportation revolution.” The ambitious plan calls for subway lines that will serve multiple cities, including the south Sharon: Ra’anana, Hertzeliya, and Kfar Sava, reaching as far south as Rehovot, Rishon LeTzion, Lod, Ramle, and Rosh Ha’ayin.
A transportation revolution or just another pipe dream? Before we foresee ourselves as a European country benefiting from integrated transportation, with buses, light rail, subways, and maybe even a cable car, we will have to suffice with more modest aspirations. Perhaps the proposal put forth recently by the Ramat HaSharon Municipality: Ramat HaSharon is working to renovate bus stops throughout the city to include digital schedule readouts and advanced interactive features. The readout will provide real-time information to commuters – not a real revolution, but at least they have (our) feet on the ground.
In the near future we will have to make do with Route 531, public transportation lanes, and train stations.
Recently he Ministry of Transport, the Netivei Yisrael Company, and Netivei Ayalon inaugurated the segment of highway linking the Ayalon Freeway with Route 4, as part of the project to pave Route 531.
Route 531 runs 17 km, and is slated to connect the Sharon cities of Ra’anana, Hertzeliya, Kfar Sava, and Hod HaSharon to the Tel Aviv metro area, and link up to Israel’s longest roads: Route 2 (along the coast), Route 4 (the Geha Road), Route 6, and Route 20 (the Ayalon).
The project includes an extension of the Ayalon northward to meet Route 2 at Shfayim. The new segment features 3-6 lanes on each side, 11 interchanges, and dozens of overpasses and tunnels. The goal is to operate a train line alongside the road, the new Sharon Line. This commuter line will link up with the national network along the coastal track and connect it to the Sharon, with Hertzeliya and Kfar Sava receiving stations first, and Ra’anana eventually receiving one in its south and one in the center of town. Thus Sharon residents will enjoy direct access to Tel Aviv, and to the country’s North and South.
At the same time, the Ministry is also advancing a program to add public transportation lanes to area highways. The program will give preferential access to public transportation via an integrated network of such lanes covering the Sharon and Tel Aviv metro highways. The new lanes are expected to enter into operation in 2018-19.
What will all this do to real estate prices?
Data collected by the Ministry of Transport on hubs of employment in 2008 indicated in the Ra’anana Industrial Zone, for example, more than 15,000 people work, with most of them arriving between 6 and 9 AM. Of those, 77% arrive by private car. As of 2014, this resulted in a daily morning volume of 8,500 cars on the road to the zone during that time.
Not far away, in the Hertzeliya Pituach Industrial Zone, the situation is even worse. Already by 2008, 11,400 cars would crowd the area each workday morning, compared with a mere 4,500 workers who arrived by public transportation. The area has since developed further, with even more offices, and the traffic has only gotten worse.
An investigation revealed that the main difference in prices between the South Sharon area and the Gush Dan (Tel Aviv) area is a function of hours wasted in commuting. A resident of Ra’anana who works in Tel Aviv spends approximately two hours in the car each day, including looking for parking and in traffic jams. The massive change planned for area transit is likely to cut commute times by 30-40%, which will increase demand in the Sharon and close the gap between Tel Aviv prices and those of Hertzeliya and Ra’anana, by about 10-15%. Whereas in western Hertzeliya prices are in the NIS 26-28,000/m² range, as a result of the changes they are expected to rise by 12-15%. Ra’anana is a similar story, with its proximity to the new Route 531. In Kfar Sava and Hod HaSharon the phenomenon is expected to be more moderate, in the 8-12% range, as these cities will enjoy access via 531 to the Ayalon only in another year. Ramat HaSharon, which is already closer to Tel Aviv, will see its prices remain more or less stable in relation to Tel Aviv.
“Route 531 can be compared to Route 6,” asserted attorney Yaniv Cohen, legal consultant and business development manager at Ewave Nadlan. “Studies done in recent years found that towns near Route 6 interchanges have seen housing prices increase by 2-25%, depending on the quality of the community and the actual distance from the interchanges. They also found that economically stronger towns enjoyed larger price increases than weaker ones. The various cities of the Sharon are in the stronger category, so in the next decade we can expect them to undergo positive planning and demographic shifts. I think there’s no doubt that development of Route 531 and the other transportation changes in the pipe will result in a significant demand increase in the Sharon, leading to rising housing prices.”