Jerusalem Light Rail in snow.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Public transportation has been going through a real revolution over the past few years. The projects in this field should and might impact the routine kept by each and every one of us, as well as that of society and the economy as a whole.
There is no doubt that an advanced and efficient public transportation system is essential to the country’s social and economic development, and to the improvement of quality of living. Israel is taking significant steps to reduce the gap developed over decades in which mass transit systems were not developed at all. These projects include the fast train to Jerusalem, establishment of the light train array in Tel Aviv, public transportation fare reductions and more.
Although anyone with any sense understands that the solution must eventually derive from growing utilization of public transportation, the public still finds it difficult to fully trust the public transportation array. In practice, there is a constant rise in the acquisition of private vehicles and traffic jams in the main cities are not a rare sight. The situation in Jerusalem was similar, until the appearance of the light rail about five years ago. Thanks to this network, traffic has been reduced on the city streets and bus and private vehicle movement has significantly declined.
I do not think that anyone predicted such great success for the light rail in Jerusalem. Even our most optimistic forecasts did not predict ~145,000 passengers per day – of all sectors and all ages. The light rail very quickly became the only urban mass transportation system in Israel with traffic light prioritization, to become an integral part of life in the capital city.
The light rail has improved the environment in Jerusalem. Train motors are silent, as is its ride, thus it does not cause a noise nuisance. Thus, for example, light rail operation led to a reduction of ~70 percent in air pollution on Jaffa Street. The noise levels along the route declined significantly and where Jaffa Street used to be crowded with cars and polluted by exhaust fumes, ever since the light rail appeared the street has transformed into a modern, quiet, successful and vibrant center. The light rail has also led to an increase in the demand for real estate in Jerusalem – residential prices increased and store rental fees in central Jerusalem are similar to and even higher than those collected in Israel’s most expensive shopping malls, including the Ramat Aviv, HaYam and Ayalon Mall.
Furthermore, for the first time in Israel, the light rail enables full access to people with handicaps.
The platforms are accurately suited to the car floors, thus entrance to and exit from them is easy, comfortable and quick, even for people suffering from physical disability. The light rail cars and stations were planned to be accessible for the physically disabled population and they are also equipped with accessories for the sight and hearing impaired.
Over a year ago, we embarked on a new plan to improve train frequency, a plan that was born of passenger demand. Thus, during most hours of activity, a train arrives to the station every six minutes and the average waiting time is just three minutes.
The plan maximizes the fleet of cars and the available resources according to passenger demand, and the results are already evident in the field.
All of the above are reflected and backed by surveys that CityPass conducts from time to time, as well as surveys conducted on behalf of the government.
All such surveys demonstrate a high level of passenger satisfaction with the light train in Jerusalem, with a rating of over 80%.
Negotiations are currently underway with the government for the extension of the current line to Kiryat Hayovel and Hadassah Ein Kerem in the south and to Neveh Ya’acov in the north, as well as for the establishment of campus extension on Mount Scopus and Givat Ram. I truly hope that we will be able to introduce the light rail to residents of these neighborhoods in the near future. But even more, I hope that the government wisely duplicates the success of the light rail in Jerusalem in other places, so that the public will be able to put its faith in public transportation. In doing so, we will eventually succeed in reducing the number of private vehicles in the big cities, traffic will subside and we will all stand to gain.The author is CEO of the CityPass Jerusalem Light Rail.