As residents of Judea and Samaria express concern over the frequency of public transportation and the resultant need to hitchhike, the Egged bus cooperative on Tuesday launched six new routes and announced improvements to several others.
Two of the new lines are operating from Neveh Daniel to the Beit Shemesh train station and Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, respectively, while a third is running from Jerusalem via Elad to Nokdim in Gush Etzion.
In addition, Egged has launched two night lines, which are running from the settlements of Ofra and Kfar Etzion to and from Jerusalem.
A final new line is running from Tel Aviv to and from Modi’in and passes through several Samaria settlements en route. The No. 409 bus leaves Neveh Daniel from Sunday through Thursday at 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and departs from Beit Shemesh at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., stopping at Kfar Etzion, the Alon Shvut junction, the Gush Etzion junction, the southern entrance to Efrat, and the Elazar junction at Route 60.
The No. 44 departs from Neveh Daniel from Sunday through Thursday hourly from 3:30 through 7:30 p.m., and from Kfar Etzion hourly from 5 p.m. through 8:10 p.m. The bus will make stops at Gush Etzion Regional Council, the Alon Shvut junction, the Gush Etzion junction, Efrat and Elazar.
The No. 266 from Nokdim to Jerusalem runs five times daily in each direction, from Sunday through Thursday, passing through Nokdim, Elad, Sde Bar, Tekoa and various points in Jerusalem, until it reaches the government quarter in the capital. On Fridays, the No. 266 bus operates once in each direction.
The No. 270 night bus from Ofra to Jerusalem departs the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council settlement Sunday through Thursday at midnight, 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., passing through Givat Asaf, Beit El, Adam, Pisgat Ze’ev and central Jerusalem, before reaching the Jerusalem International Convention Center (Binyanei Ha’uma). In the opposite direction, the No. 270 leaves Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station at 1 a.m., 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.
The No. 264 night bus from Kfar Etzion to Jerusalem also departs at midnight, 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., passing through Rosh Tsurim, the Batar Etzion army base, Alon Shvut, the Gush Etzion junction, the Efrata Junction South, Kibbutz Migdal Oz, Elazar, Neveh Daniel and central Jerusalem before arriving at the Jerusalem International Convention Center. In the opposite direction, the No. 264 leaves from Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station at 1 a.m., 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.
From Sunday through Thursday, the No. 268 line from Tel Aviv to Modi’in runs five times daily in each direction, stopping at various points within the Green Line such as Shoham, and continuing into the Wes Bank to Rantis, Beit Arye, Ofarim and Nili, before reaching Modi’in, and vice versa. On Friday, two buses will run in each direction.
Transportation Ministry spokesman Avner Ovadiah stressed that buses operate “in all of the urban and rural communities in Judea and Samaria, according to the demand and needs of each community.”
Since 2009, public transportation in the area has seen a 30 percent increase in frequency, Ovadiah said. In addition, the ministry provides 50% discounts on all bus lines traveling in Binyamin, Gush Etzion and the Hebron Hills, he added. All buses in the region are protected against fire and stones, as required by security rules, he said.
The size of the individual settlement does affect the frequency and quality of bus service, Ovadiah acknowledged. For example, Ma’aleh Adumim – a city with about 37,00 residents – has about 550 bus journeys each weekday, while a settlement such as Yitzhar – with about 1,200 residents – has only about 14 bus journeys daily, he explained.
Regarding the hitchhiking phenomenon, Ovadiah emphasized that the trend is a commonly recognized problem not only in Judea and Samaria, but also in Israel proper.
Nonetheless, Transportation Minister Israel Katz has instructed the Public Transportation Authority to examine the possibility of further reinforcing the region’s transportation, Ovadiah said.
In recent months, the ministry has launched extensive public transportation improvements in Gush Etzion, Mateh Binyamin and the South Hebron Hills, as part of a plan to transfer lines from Egged to Egged Taavura, he added. Egged Taavura is a public transportation unit owned 50% by Egged and 50% by the IDB group.