Jerusalem Traffic 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
On Saturday night, Jerusalem entered what transportation engineers have called
“the hardest stage” of the entire light rail process: the months when Jaffa Road
is closed to vehicles and but the train is not yet running.
As the city
attempted to come to grips with the new transportation patterns downtown over
the past few days, passengers complained of bus rides that were triple or even
quadruple their normal time.
“I knew there would be changes, but I didn’t
know it would be this bad,” said Danielle Franco, a Ma’aleh Adumim resident
whose 10- minute bus ride to the central bus station took more than 40 minutes
on Monday morning.
“I knew changes were coming but they didn’t say where
every bus is going, I just guessed when I got on today and hoped it would go
where I needed it to.”
In an effort to avoid widespread confusion, around
100 traffic assistants were on hand starting last Thursday to hand out brochures
with new route information and explain the changes to passengers, as well as
help customers from the Mahaneh Yehuda shuk put their heavy bags on the buses to
speed up boarding time.
Egged drivers taking a cigarette break on
Agrippas Street were pleasantly surprised with the flow of traffic on Sunday and
Monday, saying it was “much better than expected, giving the
“The riders need patience,” said Ya’acov, an Egged
“It’s not our company that made the decision, but we’re doing the
best that we can.”
Surprisingly, the time with the worst traffic has not
been the morning rush hour, but between 1 and 3 p.m., when children are getting
off from school and people are doing afternoon errands, said Alon, another bus
“All changes are hard, there’s nothing you can do about it,” he
said. “And people are always angry at us [drivers], this just gives them another
An Egged spokesperson said the biggest problems on Sunday and
Monday were the sheer volume of vehicles, and tie-ups in areas where buses had
trouble passing each other. Around 2,000 buses that pass through the downtown
area daily have been rerouted to the narrow Nevi’im Street and Agrippas
Jaffa Road will remain totally closed from the Mahaneh Yehuda
market to Kikar Tzahal for tests of the light rail.
In April, the light
rail is supposed to begin limited operations on this section of Jaffa Road for a
nominal fee, to help people get used to using the train.
between Ki’ach and Agrippas streets is a good example of the challenges riders
will face in the next few months: there is simply not enough room for buses to
turn onto Agrippas if a bus is coming in the opposite direction. If two buses
arrive at the intersection simultaneously, they come within centimeters of each
other or one must stop to let the second bus pass.
Ilan, who owns
Bourekas Ramle at the intersection of Ki’ach and Agrippas, says he has witnessed
two minor head-on collisions between buses at the intersection since the change
was implemented on Saturday night. Next door, at a fruit stand, workers
recounted another instance of a bus hitting and breaking the steel fence that
separates pedestrians from the cars – and coming within a meter of their glass
The market area, with its narrow sidewalks, is notorious for
people darting into traffic with heavy bags and wheeled carts. Shopkeepers warn
that a serious accident in the area is just a matter of time.
intersection being] two-directional is really dangerous, plus there’s lots of
pedestrians so it makes it even more so,” said Ilan.