Sunday, March 6, 2011

Jaffa Street: Pedestrian Zone

No real time for blogging today, so here's a bit of information about Jerusalem which is actually almost two months old, but still nice: Jaffa Road isn't anymore. I mean, it's still there, but it's not a road, if by that you mean an artery through a city used to move traffic, with pedestrians crammed like sardines on the edge. As of early 2011, the traffic is gone, and the entire length of the street is given over to sleek modern streetcars which don't carry passengers yet (this summer, they promise us), and pedestrians. The first time I walked the length of the street (and took the pictures below) I was astonished: it was possible to hear people talking. The streetcars sort of swish, but they aren't anything like the din of incessant buses, trucks, cabs, blaring traffic horns and overall din. Moreover, the 15-year process of  tearing up the street and generally causing chaos, now that it's almost over, has changed the proportions of the space between the buildings on either side. It used to be that one had to weave among people in order to get anywhere; now there are broad sidewalks on each side of the narrow part given over to the streetcar tracks.

If indeed the streetcars start serving the public sometime soon, I expect capitalism to kick in again. Over the past 20 years or so the opening of large malls on the edge of town, and the perpetual tearing up of the center of town have meant the only businesses still viable sell cheap trinkets or bolts of cloth. Not what the largest city in the country is supposed to look like. Already, however, some of them are shutting down, and new To Rent signs are appearing on their windowpanes; here and there a smart-looking establishment is hesitantly appearing. If the gamble works, by 2013 the center of Jerusalem could be a delightful area of open-air cafes and fashionable stores. It could happen, you know.


RK said...

Whoa! I remember seeing the tracks last time I was there, but I didn't expect the streetcars to look so spiffy. I'll miss the little Ethiopian takeouts and newspaper shops if they do end up closing, though.

Anonymous said...

Jaffa aka Yaffo (and do you think I could remember the alternate pronounciation when asking directions late one eening?). I hope they run the streetcars often enough to reduce some of the overcrowding that was prevalent on the buses. I also hope they remembered us bewildered tourists and that the streetcars aren't set up just for the locals.(?בבקשה)

Avi said...

However, there is no good without bad. All the traffic is now concentrated on Rechov Agripas. Superb traffic jams stretching back to the Bridge of Dreams

Yaacov said...

This is true, Avi. Likewise on Nevi'im, if you're going in the opposite direction. It's beyond bad. The moral of the story is that you need to walk. I've timed it: walking is always faster these days than driving thru the center of town. Healthier, too.

Silke said...


is Jerusalem so climatically endowed that all those exhaust fumes get suck up into heaven immediately?

no kettle phenomena there where the air gets caught and becomes thick stinking and hard to breathe?

Barry Meislin said...

Actually, they say that due to the prevailing west winds, Jerusalem gets the pollution from the coast and so is even more polluted than Tel Aviv.

Silke said...

and walking is good for deep-breathing isn't it?

and deep-breathing transports the stuff into the furthest corners of the lung.

Only kidding or am I ???

In certain weather the muck gets pushed down into the streets of my town and the air positively stinks.

After the war the Zeitgeist is said to have demanded cities which are car-friendly - let's hope there'll be more changes to sanity like that Jaffa-street - but street cars?

- in my lifetime lots and lots and lots of cities did away with them because buses were so much better - now I think they are into electric buses - why then did Jerusalem opt for those cyclist trapping street cars again?

Eurosabra said...

It's interesting because a lot of people wanted to hit Veolia (the transit multinational building the trains) with a secondary boycott in the UK, Australia, and Ireland. So the fact that the French company is proceeding is noteworthy, because they have been boycotted by the Edinburgh, Dublin, and Swansea city governments.

Eurosabra said...

I also want an armed security guard on every car and metal-and-semtex detectors in the fare barriers or even the doorways of the cars so that the only thing that happens when a mehabel mitabed tries to board is a bullet in his head. A rider of Line 16 and a habitué of Café Moment, the Frank Sinatra University Cafeteria, and Café HIllel (and I was there when it happened for all 4 bombings) can dream, no?