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Wednesday
Jun092010

Tourism and Palestine

With Gaza back at the top of the news, “Tourism” and “Palestine” seem like an incompatible pair: in areas of conflict, tourism is usually one of the first casualties (along with the wellbeing of families whose livelihood depends on it). Yet the New York Times Sunday "Travel" section just published a major “Next Stop” story on Ramallah, the defacto Palestinian capital  (article and slideshow)

Perhaps it shouldn’t be such a surprise. Because of its climate and culture, the Mediterranean is one of the world’s greatest tourist magnets - think Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, and pretty much everything in between. There’s no reason that, if the conflict could be resolved, the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank shouldn’t put their beaches, ancient cities, archeological sites, and stunning landscapes at the disposal of visitors from around the world. In fact, they already do. The Times reports that the West Bank had more than 1 million visitors in 2009. A new hotel by the Swiss chain Mövenpick is due to open in Ramallah this year, and the Palestine Investment Fund is trying to develop a resort along the Palestinian edge of the Dead Sea.

RAND’s  Arc project recognized tourism as an important sector of the economy in a prospective Palestinian state, and the Arc itself was in part designed to accommodate visitors arriving at an international airport in Gaza and linking them to the cities and sites of the West Bank. While conflict makes it harder to imagine, it should be remembered that places once synonymous with conflict – Berlin, Beirut, Cyprus, Croatia – are now magnets for international travelers. Planning now for Palestinian tourism – especially by providing a modern public transport system rather than relying on rental cars – makes environmental and economic sense, and is a key part of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s Two-Year Statehood Plan. See additional images in our
Green Cities section.

Thursday
May272010

Revitalizing Historic City Centers

One of the key goals of the Arc is using new infrastructure to accelerate the revitalization of the historic centers of Palestinian towns and cities. The media rarely provides images of these commercial and civic centers. A visitor sees people going about their daily lives on busy streets with a mix of historic and modern buildings. See images in our "Green Cities" section: Green Cities - Friends of the Arc

Monday
May242010

What Do We Hope to Accomplish?

The Arc isn't about substituting infrastructure and economic development for hard political negotiations. It’s just that currently none of the relevant political powers has the wiggle room from its constituents to negotiate seriously, and the Arc could give them that. It creates 160,000 productive jobs for five years (at a cost of what the international community is currently spending on aid to Palestine), but, more importantly, it gives people a tangible vision of a functioning state (watch the thirty minute video here, and check out the 100, 300 and 900 day plans here). This vision could catalyze an upward spiral of hope and confidence so politicians could make the necessary concessions.

Without some confidence-inspiring, paradigm-changing event (like President Obama embracing the Arc as the American plan for achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace), there will only be continuing violence and a grinding down of Israel and Palestine, until they both are very dangerous and unpleasant places to raise children.

Saturday
May222010

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Istanbul and Haifa

The Arc project proposes the extensive use of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for the east-west lateral branches of the Arc railway and infrastructure corridor. This evolving transport mode began in Curitiba, Brazil almost 25 years ago, and was upgraded in Bogota’s advanced Transmilenio system, seen here:

Bus rapid transit systems are now being developed all over the world, but until recently, there were none in the Middle East. That is changing.

First, Istanbul developed its first two BRT lines, called Metrobus, which opened in 2009:

Now, Haifa is planning and building its first lines. According to Wikipedia: “The Metronit (Hebrew: מטרונית‎, pronounced Metro-neet), will be a new bus rapid transit system in Haifa, Israel, using the Phileas concept. This bus line is unique to Israel in that it will use bi-articulated buses on specific routes. The choice of this mode of transport was due to the advantage of limiting damage to environment, increased capacity on existing roads and lower operating costs than a standard bus line or light rail line. The buses, operating with hybrid engines, will follow set routes along a magnetic or optical strip embedded in the road. The project is being developed by Yefe Nof, owned by Haifa city hall, involved in planning public transportation, infrastructure, and other building projects in the Haifa metropolitan area. The Metronit is set to be completed in 2011, and a tender for its operation was published in September 2009. The system will employ about 100 high-capacity buses on three lines.”

These nearby examples should provide helpful precedents for the development of BRT in the West Bank and Gaza.

 
Thursday
May062010

Improving Mobility, Quality Of Life, And Economic Growth In The West Bank

The RAND Corporation has been working with the Palestinian Authority to develop a suite of proposals for immediate practical projects - first steps of the Arc - that would promote economic development in the region while also advancing the U.S. policy agenda in the Middle East. The initiatives, which draw on findings from RAND's comprehensive assessment of requirements for a successful Palestinian state, reflect five years of close consultation between RAND and the PA at the highest ministerial levels and the Office of President Abbas. Stay tuned. You can read about the proposals here:

http://friendsofthearc.org/storage/arcdemoproj.pdf

 

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