Transportation and education funding will be the 2013 budget’s two main
priorities, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Thursday at the fourth annual
Israeli Transportation Conference in Ramat Gan.
He spoke at length about
the government’s economic achievements, reiterating that it would continue to
focus on maintaining strong economic growth and low unemployment.
investing in transportation infrastructure, Steinitz said, the government not
only serves the public but also attracts foreign investment.
transportation is not just there for social justice,” he said. “It is not just
there to provide Karmiel, Beit She’ an, Yeroham and Dimona residents with a
better connection to the center of the country. It is part of a comprehensive
macroeconomic policy that deals not only with the present but also with
strengthening the economy.”
Steinitz and Transportation Minister Israel
Katz signed an agreement with the Dan bus company on the conference sidelines,
committing the public transportation operator to the transferal of 11 percent
of its activities to other operators. Following previous similar agreements, Dan
has now distributed 25% of its total activity to other operators.
the agreement, Dan must increase the number of buses it operates in correlation
with increases in passenger demand.
The company will be prohibited from
public transportation tenders, although its subsidiaries will be permitted to
apply for tenders published anywhere apart from central Israel before the year
Dan’s bus lines, which operate in the greater Tel Aviv area, will
be divided into a number of clusters to make it easier for the Transportation
Ministry to monitor performance.
Should Dan fail to comply with service
standards outlined under the agreement, the ministry will have the power to
allocate bus lines to other operators.
The agreement would ensure fair
competition for new bus operators, Katz said in a press statement. This was the
first time the government and an operator have agreed on exact service
standards, he said, adding that it improved his ministry’s ability to monitor
public transportation activity.
Katz gave the opening speech at the
conference and was interrupted by a young environmental activist who challenged
him to answer when he last traveled on a bus.
“I traveled far more on the
bus in my youth than you have in your entire life,” Katz told her. “I was born
in a place [Ashkelon] where buses were a luxury. Where were all of you the last
10 years when the Gush Dan area needed public transportation reforms? Today, I
have a more important job than traveling on the bus, and that is to make sure
that those who use public transportation do so in comfort.”