The Transportation Ministry published a tender Sunday for the operation of Haifa's planned Bus Rapid Transit system, the Metronit. The winner will receive the right to operate a fleet of 100 18-meter buses that will move people in and around the city and the surrounding area for 12 years.
The competing companies are scheduled to begin operations in 2011 after all the infrastructure work is complete. The system will utilize a total of 40 kilometers of designated roadways, of which 10 have been completed so far.
Four groups have passed the pre-qualifying stage and are now eligible to apply for the tender. The finalists include groups owned by the country's two main public bus operators, Egged and Dan, as well as the newer local transport providers Metropoline and Nativ Express.
The Metronit system is made up of three main trunk lines in Haifa and the surrounding Krayot. The first line will run from Kiryat Bialik through Kiryat Motzkin to the Haifa Bay and will end at the Bat Galim train station. The second line will start at Kiryat Ata, pass through the Haifa Bay and the lower city and also end in Bat Galim. The third line will run from Kiryat Yam and Kiryat Chaim to Haifa's Hadar neighborhood.
The buses, each carrying up to 150 people, will enjoy right of way at intersections and separate traffic lanes.
According to the tender requirements, the operator will be required to run two types of buses: one that runs on diesel fuel and another that operates on a hybrid system. According to the Transportation Ministry, if the hybrid buses prove efficient, they will be adopted in other cities around the country.
The municipality-owned Yaffe Nof Company, is in charge of construction of the project and has so far completed roughly 10 kilometers in different parts of the city. Until the buses begin operation in 2011, the routes are being used for regular buses and as public transport-only lanes.
The ministry announced that the results of the tender will be released in several months and the contract will begin by the end of 2011.
Unlike Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, which opted for a light rail solution for the cities' transportation problems, Haifa decided to go with BRT, an option which requires far less infrastructure clearing and construction because there are no tracks to lay down.
BRT systems generally cost less and are easier to maintain and alter if the needs arise. However, they tend to be more polluting than electricity-run trains.
The Metronit will augment the city's existing Carmelit subway and a series of existing and planned cable cars that connect the different parts of the city resting on the Carmel Mountains and the lower city by the port.