Ending the paper trail

Discounted tickets are now limited to Rav-Kav smartcards, but it is still unclear when the much-publicized changes to bus routes will be implemented.

Eilat bus front view 521 (photo credit: REUTERS/Stringer Israel)
Eilat bus front view 521
(photo credit: REUTERS/Stringer Israel)
The Egged bus company has abolished cardboard monthly unlimited (hofshi hodshi) and multi-ride punch tickets (kartisiyot), and all these tickets are now available only to holders of Rav-Kav smartcards. Punch tickets can still be used until the end of December.
Single journeys can still be paid for in cash, for those who don’t have a card – tourists, for example – but no discounts, with the exception of half-price rides for seniors, are possible without a Rav-Kav.
The public has been urged for several months to register for the cards, but inevitably many people left it until the last minute, leading to massive lines this week at the card distribution centers.
Cards are “loaded” with cash by bus drivers, and the holder can choose various options or “plans.” It is possible to have up to eight different plans simultaneously on one card – for example a hofshi hodshi for Jerusalem and a hofshi yomi one-day unlimited ticket for the Tel Aviv area. (There is not and never has been a hofshi yomi for Jerusalem, unfortunately.)
Ninety-minute transfer tickets are available, and when the light rail is fully functioning and starts charging fares, transfer tickets will be valid on both buses and trams.
When that eventually happens – no date has been set yet, but Jerusalemites are no strangers to date postponement when it comes to the light rail – there will be several changes to bus routes. Some routes will be withdrawn and others shortened. The general principle is that local bus routes will act as “feeders” to the light rail, meaning that many journeys that can now be made on one bus will necessitate a change.
For example, to go from the central bus station to Hadassah- University Medical Center at Ein Kerem, instead of taking a No. 27 bus all the way, passengers will have to take the light rail to Mount Herzl and change there for the 27, which will run only between Mount Herzl and Hadassah.
Another example is the 13, which currently runs from Katamon to Givat Hamasua, via the central bus station. After the route reform, passengers wanting to go from Katamon to the central bus station will have to change to the light rail in the city center.
It is hard to see how this is an improvement. Everyone, including the elderly and those carrying shopping bags, will be forced to change to the light rail instead of making their entire journey on one bus.
Shmuel Elgrabli, the spokesman for the Jerusalem Transportation Master Plan, insists that “this is no different from London or Paris, and will avoid two-hour traffic jams. Most journeys will be possible with only one change from bus to rail or vice versa,” although London and Paris are much larger cities and their transportation systems are more intricate. He said the route reform would put an end to “spaghetti routes,” winding all around the city.
He also said that once the light rail starts charging fares, there will be ticket inspectors to check that passengers actually have tickets, since it is possible to board trams at any of the 12 doors without seeing the driver.