Jerusalem light rail to force major bus changes

Heart of the changes is a switch from long bus routes that wind through multiple neighborhoods as they cross the city, to shorter bus routes.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
October 5, 2011 03:53
2 minute read.
Jerusalem light rail with Egged bus

Jerusalem light rail with Egged bus 311. (photo credit: Abir Sultan)

 
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Jerusalem’s bus system will undergo major changes in two months as the light rail reaches full operation, transportation officials announced Wednesday.

The heart of the changes is a switch from long bus routes that wind through multiple neighborhoods as they cross the city, to shorter bus routes that bring residents from each neighborhood to the major transportation arteries of the light rail or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes.

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The light rail and the BRT lanes will make an X through the city, dividing the city into four quadrants. The changes will first be rolled out in 17 neighborhoods in the southwest part of the city, including Rehavia, Kiryat Yovel, Beit Hakerem, and Ein Kerem. It could take up to a year for the full changes to come into effect across the city.

Twenty-two bus lines will be affected in the first stage of changes, roughly 40 percent of the bus lines in the city. Agripas Street, near the Mahaneh Yehuda market, which has long suffered from a gridlock of buses, will decrease from 16 bus lines to 8 bus lines.

The shorter bus routes mean travelers may have to take a bus, the light rail, and another bus to arrive at their destination.

Transportation officials claim that despite the multiple switches, the complete overhaul of the public transportation system will actually make it quicker and more efficient for people to move about the city.

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Shorter, locally-concentrated routes mean buses can reach previously under-served areas such as local commercial centers or community centers, said Dror Ganon, the deputy director-general for public transport at the Transportation Ministry.

Long-needed technological upgrades are a major part of the “transportation revolution,” as officials have termed it, in an attempt to capitalize on the summer social protests. Starting Thursday, travelers will be able to plan their trips via a website, www.jet.org.il, complete with maps, which reflects the most recent bus changes along with bus schedules and walking routes. The service will eventually be translated into English, Arabic, and Russian, as well as created into downloadable applications for smart phones. Initially it will only be available in Hebrew.

More than 30 “smart stops,” which announce when the next bus will arrive, have already been installed, and there will eventually be 250 smart stops, including the light rail, over the next 18 months.

“We take full responsibility that public transportation will be a better alternative than private cars,” said Zohar Zoller, the advisor to the mayor for transportation issues. “The roads can’t physically be enlarged, therefore the only option is to improve public transportation. This is simple mathematics,” he said.

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