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Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem
TA calls for increased Shabbat minibus lines
By BEN HARTMAN
04/24/2012
City Hall calls on Transportation Ministry to increase "sherut" services during Shabbat.
 
Seeking a compromise that would improve public transportation on Shabbat without breaking the status quo on buses, Tel Aviv City Hall has called on the Transportation Ministry to approve the operation of several additional “sherut” communal taxi lines to operate on Saturday.

In a letter sent to the ministry last Wednesday, Moshe Toimkin, head of the municipality’s transportation department, said that increasing the number of such lines “will allow people who don’t have their own vehicles to reach places on their leisure day such as: the beach, hospitals, family visits and various other destinations.”

He added that the current situation where the only available transport on Shabbat is in private cars or expensive taxis is “good for the rich and bad for the poor.”

Toimkin’s letter included a map of the seven proposed routes, which if approved, would service neighborhoods across the furthest northern, southern and eastern reaches of the city. The routes would also connect some of Tel Aviv’s poorest neighborhoods to public transport on Shabbat, including one route that goes from Beit Barbur next to the impoverished Kfar Shalem neighborhood to the Wolfson Depot in far southeast Tel Aviv. Another line would connect the troubled south Tel Aviv neighborhood of Neveh Ofer (“Tel Kabir”) to the hi-tech park at Atidim Depot in far north Tel Aviv, and another would go all the way from the Neveh Sharett neighborhood in northeast Tel Aviv to the southern reaches of Jaffa.

Toimkin told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that the proposal is in many ways just an extension of the current status quo, which bans the operation of buses on Shabbat but allows for a limited number of privately-operated sherut lines.

Toimkin said the current situation already works for people who live in central Tel Aviv, and the new routes the city is proposing would merely extend that convenience to the poorer peripheral neighborhoods that currently are not serviced by sheruts.

“It’s a win-win situation,” he added.

The situation is a bit less rosy in the eyes of Binyamin Babayof, a representative of the ultra- Orthodox Shas party on the Tel Aviv City Council.

Babayof said Monday that he will call of the other religious city council men together and they will “do everything legally possible to make sure this plan does not go into effect.”

Babayof added that he believes the argument that the plan will provide cheaper transportation for residents of the impoverished south is merely a fig leaf meant to cover up left-wing council members’ intentions to capitalize on a politically-loaded issue.

The initiative comes almost exactly two months after the Tel Aviv City Council voted 13-7 to ask the Transportation Ministry for permission to operate public transport systems on Shabbat.

As of Monday afternoon the ministry said they had not yet formulated a response to the proposal.
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