By any standard, Jerusalem’s first direct bus route to Ben– Gurion Airport represents a public transportation victory, if not a revolution, for the capital’s 850,000 inhabitants.
For decades, millions of residents and tourists were forced to rely on expensive taxis, indirect bus and train routes, or communal van rides known as sheruts, to get to and from the ever-elusive international hub, located outside of Tel Aviv.
On a rainy Tuesday, the Afikim Bus Company, aided by the Transportation Ministry, launched its first fleet of buses, which will run hourly in each direction, 24-hours a day, except for Shabbat, at a cost of NIS 16.
On Fridays, the line will run until 2 p.m., and resume service Saturday at 7 p.m.
The white and green No. 485 buses will travel from Ruppin Boulevard, down Jaffa Road towards the Central Bus Station, before taking Route 1 and making stops at the Hemed and Shoresh Interchanges, then driving directly to the airport’s Terminals 1 and 3.
According to Itamar Bernstein, 25, who waited with his wife, Liron, 24, for her first ride at a Jaffa Road stop, the service is long overdue.
“It’s the first time that a bus is going directly to Terminal 3 from the capital, and it should have been here for years already,” said Itamar, who works as a security guard. “I used to take Nesher [a sherut service] for nearly NIS 70, or had to go to the bus station and then catch a different bus to Terminal 1, but [it didn’t go to] Terminal 3.”
While Itamar lauded the service for improving the quality of life for residents and tourists hoping to get to Ben Gurion Airport in a timely and cost-effective manner, he nonetheless said he remains incredulous that the initiative took so many years to go into effect.
“This [service] is a basic necessity,” he said. “This is not some random place – it’s the capital of Israel, and should have happened long ago.”
Liron, who is a political science and communications major at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, when she is not working as a security guard at the airport, said she is excited to finally get to work directly.
“This is great, because I used to have to take two buses to get there, so this will cut down my travel time by close to 45 minutes,” Liron said, adding that she heard about the new route from colleagues.
Ayana Yurovskaya, a 30-something dental assistant who was accompanying a friend to the airport, said she is delighted by the new service.
“This is excellent, and I’m really glad because there was never a straight route to the airport,” she said, noting she previously relied on Nesher.
“Nesher would pick me up at home, which was good because I don’t live in the center of town, but it would pick up several more people, so it took a long time. Today’s my first time using the bus, but hopefully it will be good.”
As he waited for the shuttle, resident Yoel Wallerstein, 29, described it as “the best thing to happen to Jerusalem.”
“It’s very important because Ben-Gurion Airport is the gateway from Jerusalem to the rest of the world,” he said. “Before, I paid NIS 70 for the sherut, and now I can get there faster for NIS 16. I travel a lot, and this operates 24 hours a day, so I’m happy. This is cheaper and more comfortable than Nesher.”
Meanwhile, residents excited about the direct bus route will likely be over the moon next year when a high-speed train will take passengers from Jerusalem’s International Convention Center to Tel Aviv in 28 minutes, with an intermediate stop at Ben-Gurion Airport.
The train will traverse eight bridges and six tunnels, cutting travel time by 45 minutes compared to the current train service to Tel Aviv.