The Knesset should create a committee to immediately investigate the fines passengers receive on the Jerusalem light rail - which totaled some 13,000 fines in the past four months - MK Yisrael Eichler (UTJ), who heads the Finance Committee’s subcommittee on Public Transportation said Monday.

The subcommittee met on Monday as part an ongoing series of Knesset meetings to measure the effectiveness of the light rail and address problems arising from the service. Hundreds of people have filed complaints with CityPass over the NIS 168 fines, which were given to all passengers who did not have correct tickets when inspectors stopped them.

This included passengers who asked the inspectors for help and received fines instead, and thousands of passengers who were issued tickets due to an electronic snafu in the Egged ticketing system. A class-action lawsuit is currently in the works, led by 15 people who said they received fines through no fault of their own.

According to CityPass figures released last week, the company has issued approximately 13,000 fines in the past four months, at the rate of 100 a day. A CityPass representative defended the practice, countering that compared with the 70,000 rides per day, 100 fines means that 0.14% of passengers receive fines on a given day. CityPass’s Chief Financial Officer, Raviv Soval, told the MKs that the company has received hundreds of appeals to the fines and is in the process of examining them. He added that the state has already invested NIS 4 billion in the light rail and it will only take a small additional increase of funds to vastly improve the service and increase frequency of the trains.

The committee also discussed future changes to Jerusalem’s public transportation system, which will favor short, intra-neighborhood lines that lead to the light rail rather than the current system of long, winding routes through multiple neighborhoods. Dror Ganon, the Transportation Ministry’s senior deputy director-general for public transportation, said that a map delineating all of the changes will only be ready in July.

A Givat Mordechai neighborhood representative, Yehiel Amitai, said that the changes to bus routes in his neighborhood will lengthen his daily commute to the government quarter from 7 or 8 minutes on one bus line to 40 minutes or more on two separate buses and the light rail. He added that most residents of his neighborhood were dependent on buses to commute to work and move around the city. 

City Councilor Yael Entebbe, who held the transportation portfolio until six months ago, urged the Transportation Ministry not to change the bus lines. Entebbe, who represents residents of Pisgat Zev, one of the end points of the rail line, said she surrendered her portfolio due to frustrations with the light rail’s operation. “Don’t make people into prisoners of the light rail,” she urged.

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