(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz announced Thursday that he plans to move ahead on implementing the second phase of the public transportation reform for the Tel Aviv region, and have all the changes in place by June 2011, instead of by December, as originally planned.
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The second phase of the reform, the largest of the three planned, includes the reorganization of roughly 50 percent of the metropolitan bus lines and affects routes that operate in six cities: Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Givatayim, Bnei Brak, Holon and Bat Yam.
The plan calls for replacing 70 currently operating bus lines with 51 new ones, upgrading old bus stops, installing electronic signs in new stations and developing a new integrated pricing system for all bus operators in the region.
The reform plan as a whole calls for creating a “public transportation hierarchy,” separating local feeder lines from major, high-traffic routes. The major routes link between the cities of the region and, for the most part, serve longer trips, using high-volume vehicles, traveling on main roads at high-frequency intervals. The feeder lines, which serve the local neighborhoods, linking them to the main network, will rely on a new fleet on mini and medium-sized buses.
Katz, speaking at a conference of metropolitan mayors, said the second phase of the reform would be accompanied by a reform of the pricing system.
“As part of the reorganization, there will be a reform in the region’s public transport rate system, which aims to create an integrated, simple and user-friendly system as is common in metropolises around the world,” said Katz.
The new system will allow the users to choose their route according to their needs and pay a single fare, even if they transfer from one line to another, or even one commercial operator to another.
According to Katz, the Tel Aviv metropolis experiences a million bus rides every day, making up half of all bus rides nationwide. Currently there are 10 different companies operating in the region, each with its own fares and payment systems. The new reform will see the introduction of a regional “smart card,” which will be accepted by all the operators and a simple, two-tier payment plan.All fares will be split into two categories, one for rides within Tel Aviv and from Tel Aviv to the nearby cities, costing NIS 6.20, and one for longer rides to the more distant cities costing NIS 9.50.
The first phase of the reform, which began being implemented in August, included upgrades and changes to six central lines in the region as well as the designation of two major roads as public-transportation- only roads.
Katz said that the second phase would improve service by increasing the frequency of buses throughout the day and shortening travel and waiting times by giving buses priority lanes. He said the new network is easy to navigate and that it will reduce exposure to noise and air pollution.
According to the minister, the second phase of the project will be accompanied by a widespread and detailed publicity campaign for the benefit of public transportation users and residents. The campaign will include meetings with neighborhood committees, the launching of a new website, ads in newspapers and the handing out of flyers at bus stops and aboard buses.
Katz’s announcement was welcomed by environmental and public transportation advocacy groups.
Tamar Keinan, director of Transport Today and Tomorrow, an organization that promotes sustainable transport, said the organization congratulates Katz on his actions to implement the public transportation reform and appreciates his commitment to the cause, stating that such a commitment was not trivial when compared to the actions of former transportation ministers.
“We only hope that in the preparations, the minister took into account
that without effective enforcement on designated public transportation
lanes, the buses will remain unattractive for users and that he will
place emphasis on the matter, enabling buses to compete with private
vehicles,” said Keinan. Student environmentalist group The Green Course
also congratulated the minister, claiming that it was a move long
anticipated by stranded bus riders.
“We call on Minister Katz to ensure the swift implementation of the
announcement as over the years we have heard many declarations on the
issue and are now waiting to see results in the field.”