The cabinet on Sunday decided to lower bus and rail fares and increase subsidies, in an effort to encourage the use of public transportation as an alternative to private vehicles.

The decision will reduce monthly bus fares by 10 percent, and the price of a monthly rail pass will be dropped from the equivalent of 26 regular rides to 23 rides. Fares to the periphery will also be cut by an average of 10%.

Bus passengers will also be allowed to get transfer tickets on routes between city centers and suburbs, allowing them to change routes within an hour and a half at no additional fee.

The cabinet decision raised transportation subsidies by NIS 300 million. To pay for the outlays while remaining within the state budget framework, the budgetary bases of all government ministries except Education, Social Welfare and Defense will be cut 1% in the 2011 and 2011 fiscal years.

“This will greatly benefit society,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said after Sunday’s decision. “Who uses public transportation? Not the people in the top decile, but rather those without means and those who want to, and can, use buses and trains, as well as whole groups of people who want to avoid traffic jams while entering cities. We want to encourage this.

“We also want to maintain air quality and reduce pollution,” Netanyahu said. “This will benefit both society and the environment, and is good for the State of Israel.”

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