30 passengers sue J’lem Light Rail

Lawsuit claims CityPass fined commuters despite being aware of flaws in the train’s ticketing system.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
March 6, 2012 02:35
3 minute read.
Jerusalem light rail

Jerusalem light rail 521. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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Thirty irate passengers who were fined on the light rail in Jerusalem decided to sue CityPass for fining passengers even though the operator knew there were serious problems with the ticketing system.

Although CityPass announced last month that it will cancel all fines issued to passengers who were issued faulty tickets by Egged bus drivers, the passengers decided to join in a small claims suit to protest the “humiliating way” they were treated and their lost time, said City Councilor Merav Cohen (Hitorerut B’yerushalayim), who helped organize the small claims case. Many of the passengers’ claims were filed with the court last week, and the last six were filed on Monday morning.

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Cohen said she decided to turn to the courts as a last resort after CityPass failed to respond to her letters and phone calls or to reexamine its policies for fining passengers.

Passengers on the new light rail, which began charging on December 1, are still trying to get the hang of the system, which is based on Rav-Kav electronic ticketing cards.

Some of the fines result from passengers who do not understand where or how to swipe their cards, or assume that they can just show the driver their monthly passes as they do on buses. In addition, a technological snafu between the Egged and CityPass ticketing systems meant that thousands of passengers paid for tickets on buses that were supposed to work on the trains as well but did not. Although passengers had receipts showing they had paid, inspectors gave those who were issued faulty tickets fines of NIS 186.

CityPass declined to say exactly how many passengers were fined for faulty tickets but the number is estimated to be in the hundreds.

“It doesn’t make sense that there is such a big mass of people getting these fines,” said Cohen. “They’re not criminals, you can see that they already paid. It’s not about money. They’re not thieves, they just don’t understand where to swipe [their card]. If there are so many fines, doesn’t that bring up a red light? You think that everyone in the State of Israel is a thief? Obviously the problem is with you guys.

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“I have never sued anyone in my life, but here they were out of line,” she said. Cohen added that dozens of people, especially the elderly, called her office each week with horror stories of being humiliated in front of a train full of people and forcibly removed. She said people had shared stories of being forced off trains in east Jerusalem neighborhoods where they felt unsafe, or of a girl with special needs being removed from the train.

A source at CityPass defended his company’s practice of fining all passengers who had not paid with Rav-Kav cards, without regard to extenuating circumstances, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post two weeks ago. “The inspectors, you can’t give them flexibility,” the source explained.

“There will be one inspector who will hate Arabs or one inspector who will come down hard on haredim, or one inspector who won’t issue a fine because he thinks that girl is pretty,” the source said.

“Light rail inspectors do their job properly in maintaining the law,” CityPass spokesman Ozel Vatik said, in response to the lawsuit.

Vatik stressed that the public had already traveled for free for two months on the light rail before the ticket machines were working.

“Today, it is clear that those who are traveling on the light rail must validate their tickets,” he said.

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