For the past seven years, city councilman and lawyer Yossi Havilio has been enmeshed in judicial claims against CityPass, the concessionaire of the Jerusalem Light Rail’s Red Line. Havilio maintains that the company mistreats passengers with unfair methods, aimed at making a profit by harming the rights of passengers.
In Jerusalem sat down with Havilio to get the inside track.
When did you first realize that CityPass was acting unfairly?
In January 2012, a few weeks after Light Rail trips stopped being free of charge, I received lot of complaints from passengers, all telling almost the same story – supervisors detaining them with allegations that they didn’t pay for the journey, giving them tickets of NIS 180 each. Something was wrong with this and decided to look into it.
What did you find?
First of all, that there are two issues: One is paying for the journey. The other is about validation of your [Rav Kav] card. They merged the two in one – without having the right to do so by law.
Isn’t it CityPass’s right to see that every passenger pays?
Of course. But after years of inquiring into it, I can tell you that merely 5% of passengers try to cheat. In all other cases, we’re talking about technical failures or innocent mistakes of passengers. There is a difference between paying and validating. If a passenger doesn’t pay, that is an infraction. But if you have a Rav Kav and for some reasons didn’t validate it, this is not a felony. In such a case, the passenger should be simply required to validate and not be sanctioned by a fine.
Why does CityPass insist so emphatically on validation?
Because the validation counts toward the budget they receive from the Transportation Ministry. They have a point, but that can be easily solved by a supervisor requesting such a passenger to validate. Giving a penalty of 180 shekels for that is simply making profit at the expense of residents.
So you took CityPass to the Jerusalem District Court. Did it help?
I took them to court twice. It was a class-action suit. It was rejected by the court on the grounds that such a suit has to focus on the exactly same claims – and we had a few different cases, like a defective validating machine, passengers who simply didn’t have the time to validate before a supervisor checked on them, supervisors who behaved inappropriately and more.
But you didn’t revoke the suit, and there’s another class action moving forward these days.
Yes. We found out that CityPass was not acting in good faith all along. For example, if supervisors find out that a passenger hasn’t validated, they ask him to get off the train, examine his ID and write a report [for a fine]. These supervisors are not entitled to do so; by law only policemen have the right to do so. We asked CityPass to tell us the number of supervisors they employ and their names; they refused.
We discovered that CityPass is not the employer of these supervisors. CityPass sent us to the operators of the Light Rail, Connect [Jerusalem Light Train Ltd]. Well, even Connect is not their employer. Finally we found out that the supervisors are employed by a contract-worker company that has nothing to do with the regulation regarding Light Rail services. So no transparency, no adherence to the rules, but a growing number of fines levied on innocent people whose money goes directly into the pockets of CityPass. If these were policemen, the money from the tickets would go to the state.
And this is against the law? How should CityPass defend itself against those cheating the system?
For now, CityPass is acting as if all of the passengers are criminals. This is unacceptable. Not validating is not a felony. They should only sanction passengers who cheat and do not pay, and these are a very small minority. At the moment, CityPass gives more than 100,000 tickets each year. This is insane. There are not that many transgressors in Jerusalem.