Give passengers some respect

Jerusalem residents are suffering due to the CityPass.

Give passengers some respect  (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Give passengers some respect
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
I made a grave mistake in giving up my car, after some 70 years of almost blameless driving. It wasn’t all pleasure – driving in Jerusalem is quite difficult and there were often problems with parking.
But I thought that enough was enough and that the time was ripe to depend on Jerusalem’s public transportation system. I was wrong.
It wasn’t difficult, at first. Jerusalem buses were very good, inexpensive and I had no complaints. Living in Rehavia and working in Romema I soon found out that even if the bus timetables are Egged’s tightly held secret, they travel on a regular schedule. I learned that my first bus to Romema passes King George Avenue at 6:15 in the morning and that there is a bus on almost each line every 20 minutes.
But alas, for the past six months my journey home has taken more than an hour, instead of 10 to 15 minutes like before. There are usually 20 to 25 buses waiting one after another to enter Agrippas Street, in order to pass the Mahaneh Yehuda market. They are all on their way from the International Convention Center or the central bus station to the center of town and Rehavia.
There is only one bus stop at Mahaneh Yehuda proper. This creates a bottleneck that takes about half an hour to get through on Sundays, Mondays or Tuesdays, and almost an hour on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays when Jerusalemites come en masse to the market to make their weekend purchases.
It takes less than an hour by bus to reach Tel Aviv from Jerusalem, and sometimes it takes more than an hour to pass the Mahaneh Yehuda market, because Agrippas Street was made the town’s major traffic artery after Jaffa Road was closed to all traffic.
I AM a patient man, and Jerusalemites are patient people. I am sure no Frenchman or American would tolerate such a waste of time, gas and expensive machinery (the buses are running in neutral most of the time). But Israelis are good people, and they are used to suffering. They sit and wait. And wait.
Sometimes they complain to the innocent driver, who tells them politely that this is not his fault. He takes out his newspaper, eats a sandwich and moves the bus ahead another four or five meters.
The buses could take different routes to stop wasting precious time. They could go through Ben-Zvi Boulevard or Bezalel Street, but Egged gets most of its customers at Mahaneh Yehuda market. So we are all stuck for an hour.
Sometimes I think I could get home faster on foot, but alas, the bus drivers are not allowed to let passengers off any old place, but only at bus stops – they will be fined NIS 500 if they do.
So before taking a bus I take this into consideration, and I advise others to do the same: take care of your needs before you board the bus, or you will get in trouble.
I UNDERSTAND that this ordeal, which has already lasted several months, is only temporary. There are, however, signs that the next traffic “improvement” will make my situation even more complicated.
I remember those good old times when there was no light rail in Jerusalem. I also remember how back in my native Warsaw there were good tramways, serving over 30 destinations, crossing the town on main streets and tight side streets, everywhere they were needed. They had no special privileges. They just mixed with the ordinary heavy traffic.
I drove a bicycle to school, a one-mile journey, passing over tram lines just as other vehicles did.
Sometimes I took a tram just to enjoy the ride, apprehensive at how fast the tram went through much more crowded traffic than one finds in Jerusalem today. There were cars, taxis, trucks, horse-drawn wagons, motorcycles and bicycles, and the trams went alongside them at high speed.
Nothing has changed in Warsaw, and the tramways are just as popular today as they were in my time.
Everybody regards them as a most convenient and cheap mode of public transportation. But what was good enough for Warsaw, Melbourne and many other cities in the world much larger than Jerusalem, wasn’t good enough for us. We had to have a light rail on the main street of Jerusalem and relegate all other traffic to side streets.
Well, I am and always was ready to suffer for the sake of a better future. However, this seems not to be in the cards that I and so many other Jerusalemites have been dealt by CityPass.
As I understand, according to the new, ambitious plan cooked up by the Jerusalem Municipality, the experts at CityPass and our own blessed Transportation Ministry, I will, in the near future, suffer even more.
Until now I could take bus No. 7 or 8 to get directly from Rehavia to Romema, usually a 10- to 15- minute drive. But soon I will have to take one bus from Rehavia to the “light rail,” jump on the train, and then get off and take another bus to Romema.
This means I need to change vehicles three times.
This will be a most tiring and inconvenient experience – a get on, get off, get on again and get off again gymnastics exercise quite difficult to me, for I am not a youngster, and possibly also for a more dignified segment of Jerusalem’s traveling public.
And taking into consideration that neither all the connecting buses, nor the train, will arrive every few minutes, such a journey will take at least an hour.
Thus getting to work and back, which previously took half an hour at most, will now take two hours.
MY ONLY hope is that there is a limit past which even Jerusalemites are not prepared to suffer, and that we will not become totally dependent on CityPass, which is not known for its kind and understanding attitude to the needs of its own clients. Some bus lines must be preserved.
Of course, the best solution would be for the present light rail to be changed into ordinary trams and Jaffa Road opened to buses only. Let us leave the train to those who need this mode of transportation, take away all its privileges and give some more respect to those who cannot afford the more expensive mode of transportation.
I would also strongly advise our mayor, Mr. Nir Barkat, to visit Warsaw or Melbourne before extending the CityPass lines. He could learn a thing or two.
I would advise the authorities: Don’t make us slaves of the light rail. And to the public I would say: Keep your cars, motorcycles, bicycles, anything that moves. Don’t rely on Jerusalem’s public transportation until proper changes make it easy, convenient and attractive.