Jerusalem light rail 311.
(photo credit: iTravelJerusalem)
The Jerusalem Light Rail signed a “non-competition” contract with the government
to divert all Jerusalem bus lines so as not to compete with the train, according
to a secret addendum released to the public on Tuesday.
addendum states that bus lines must not overlap with the light rail track for
more than two stops or one kilometer.
“The underline is that they made a
monopoly for the light rail,” said Gil Yaacov, director of 15 Minutes, a public
transportation advocacy group.
“They’re changing the buses so that we
have to travel on the light rail even if it doesn’t make it faster – just so it
will make it profitable.”
According to the contract, parallel bus lines
can only be used if the trip will be 30 percent shorter on the bus than on the
light rail, a measurement the activists dismissed as irrelevant. “We think the
point of public transportation is to make the trip as short as possible,
period,” said Yaacov.
“Public transportation is made to depend solely on
light rail, and this means that any issue, a breakdown, an accident or a terror
attack can freeze Jerusalem,” he said. “It’s like the main artery to the heart,
if that artery doesn’t work, the whole city feels it.”
On Tuesday, MK Uri
Ariel (National Union), the head of the State Control Committee, urged
Transportation Minister Israel Katz not to renew the contract with CityPass,
which expires at the end of the month. While this step is considered unlikely,
Yaacov and the activists from 15 Minutes want the city to stop honoring the
non-compete clause because CityPass has not achieved the level of service
required by the agreement.
According to the contract, the light rail
should not be more crowded than four people per square meter of space, though
the situation during rush hour is far from that ideal.
Nadav Meroz, CEO
of the Jerusalem Transportation Master Plan, the partnership between the city
and the Transportation Ministry that is managing the a major overhaul of
Jerusalem’s transportation system, insisted that the non-compete clause is
standard practice. “The government gives us a certain amount of money and we
have to do what’s optimal,” he said. “If we put a number of lines in the same
spot, it wouldn’t be optimal… We want to make a well-built transportation
system, and that means it needs to complement each other.”
a fixed number of residents who will take public transportation even if the
service is superior, so a company that invests in running the light rail wants
assurances, explained Meroz. “If it’s an international company, we need to make
it attractive, so they know that nothing will take away their customers,” he
According to the original contract signed 10 years ago, the
Transportation Ministry promised CityPass revenues of NIS 15 million per
A CityPass spokeswoman said that the non-compete clause was
determined by the state and presented to all of the companies that originally
vied for the tender to operate the light rail.
Over the past year, the
Jerusalem bus system has undergone major changes and 52 bus lines have been
changed or cancelled. The goal of the new bus system is to replace long,
winding, multineighborhood routes with shorter, direct routes that lead to the
main transportation channels of the light rail and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
lane on Hebron Road. The changes are divided into four quarters, and the bus
lines in the southwest and northwest quadrants have already been changed.