A long-awaited overhaul in the Haifa metropolitan area’s public transportation system will begin to take shape this Friday, as a portion of the extensive Metronit bus rapid transit (BRT) project begins to hit the roads throughout the region.

Making use of approximately 40 kilometers of exclusive BRT lanes, the low-to-the-ground and high capacity Metronit aims for efficiency and convenience with its 84 efficient diesel and six hybrid vehicles, according to the Transportation Ministry.

The first Metronit buses will appear on Haifa’s transportation routes on July 26, traveling only during non-peak hours to avoid interference with normal bus activity.

By August 2, however, all 90 Metronit vehicles will begin operating, as will the 143 new platforms as well as electronic ticketing systems, the municipality said.

At this time, changes to the overall Haifa regional public transportation system will also begin to occur, with improvements in regular bus routes throughout Haifa, Tirat Carmel, Nesher and other suburbs gradually happening by August 16.

“The Haifa metropolitan region is continuously evolving and the launch of the Metronit is an important part of the city’s development,” said Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav on behalf of all the region’s mayors. “The municipalities were full partners in the Metronit project and in improving the entire public transportation system in the region. We will continue to work toward improving resident services and public transportation, which is an important component of such service.”

At the beginning of the public Metronit service on August 2, riders will be able to take the BRT system free of charge, for an as of yet unspecified period of time, Yahav and Transportation Minister Israel Katz have agreed.

The goal of the Metronit system is to make public transportation in the Haifa metropolitan region more efficient and convenient for residents and visitors, with greater frequency of buses, longer hours of operation and a more pleasant overall travel experience, the municipality explained.

Developing the new system has involved a collaboration among the Transportation Ministry, the relevant municipalities, resident representatives, public transportation operators and the Yefe Nof company.

Katz praised the Haifa metropolitan area for becoming the first region in Israel to take on such an advanced, quality-service public transportation system.

The Metronit, he explained, will enjoy an exclusive “right of way” on the region’s roads, and boarding and alighting from the vehicles will be an efficient process with automated ticket validation at the doors.

“This is a real revolution,” Katz said. “I hope that the Metronit’s operation will change the reality of transportation in the Haifa metropolitan area, which will be a model to other cities in Israel and will encourage the use of public transportation.”

Dror Gannon, deputy director of the Transportation Ministry’s public transportation division, reminded the public that it is important to be patient with the implementation of the new transportation system, as adjustments may be necessary along the way to achieve maximum stability. The Jerusalem Light Rail, for example, took six to eight months to reach optimized function, he added.

In addition to including 40 kilometers of exclusive Metronit lanes, the system contains 143 brand-new platforms, as well as upgraded above-ground and underground infrastructure, explained Jacky Vakim, CEO of the Yefe Nof.

“The major stage has been completed and now we are preparing for the next stage, which is expected to include an expansion of the system and the addition of a new Metronit line,” Vakim said.

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