Light rail starts today

August 19, 2011 05:33

For more than a decade, the light rail, whose first start date was in 2006, seemed like an ever-receding dream.

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Jerusalem light rail

Jerusalem light rail 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

At 5:30 a.m. on Friday morning, a light rail train is going to glide to a stop at the Hayal Ha’avir station in the capital’s northern Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood, the doors will whoosh open, and one lucky person will make history when he or she is the first passenger to ride the light rail in Israel.

For more than a decade, the light rail, whose first start date was in 2006, seemed like an ever-receding dream. Digging, bickering, legal wrangling, archeological digs, political infighting, more digging, technological mishaps, and even more digging has characterized the light rail since former prime minister Ehud Olmert first proposed the idea in the mid-1990s.

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It might be more than six years late, but the light rail is finally set to roll on Friday.

Rides will be provided free-of-charge for the first few weeks, due to problems with the ticketing system. Additionally, the train will take much longer in the first few months of operation as CityPass scrambles to update the traffic lights along the light rail, which give the train preference at intersections. Currently, the train will take up to 70 minutes to travel the 13.8 kilometers, as opposed to the roughly 40 minutes once the traffic lights are updated.

Dozens of policemen from the Jerusalem police traffic division will fan out along the tracks to enforce traffic laws, said Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby.

The police will ticket drivers who fail to observe red lights and pedestrians who cross the train tracks in places other than crosswalks. The traffic cops will be stationed along the light rail path for the first few days of operation.

Additionally, CityPass will have hundreds of ushers along the route, answering questions and directing passengers.

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