A fine muddle

Riders who purchased their tickets before December 1 could be fined when transferring from bus to light rail.

Jerusalem light rail 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Jerusalem light rail 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Jerusalem resident Natan Schmulewitz had a nasty surprise when he boarded a light-rail train earlier this week. Shortly before, he used one of the 10 “rides” on his Rav-Kav card to buy a ticket from a bus driver, with the intention of continuing his journey by light rail. As is well publicized throughout the city and in printed material, a “ride” is valid for 90 minutes, using any combination of buses and trains.
After 15 minutes Schmulewitz got off the bus and changed to the light rail. He attempted to swipe his card on the computerized machine inside the train, but it flashed “not valid.” He thought there was something wrong with his card, and asked for help from one of several CityPass employees on the train. The CityPass man told him to get off the train and buy a ticket, asking him, “Do you want a NIS 180 fine?” Schmulewitz asked why he should be fined when he was clearly within 90 minutes, and showed the CityPass employee his ticket with the date and time stamp. The CityPass man said to Schmulewitz that he didn’t need to explain the reason, and slapped him with a NIS 186.60 fine.
On the back of the fine notice was a phone number for clarifications, so Schmulewitz called the number and was told that since his first vehicle in the 90 minutes was a bus rather than a train, he should have asked for a “code 62” ticket.
This “code 62,” whatever that may be, came as news to everyone, including this reporter, as nowhere is there any publicity about it and it seems totally illogical since the 90-minute ticket is trumpeted everywhere as being valid for all buses and trains.
In response to my query, the Transportation Ministry spokesman said that the buses and light rail are indeed all included within 90 minutes, and that if a valid card is not honored by any public transportation vehicle in the city the holder should call one of these numbers: 666-3105, 666-3113 or 666-3110.
Schmulewitz called and told his story. The woman on the other end of the phone was very pleasant and explained that because his ticket had been purchased before December 1, when fares were introduced on the light rail, it was an “old-style” ticket. She asked for the story in writing, and Schmulewitz was happy to fax it to her.
Obviously Schmulewitz isn’t the only person in this position, at the mercy of overzealous and probably temporary CityPass employees, taken on in this initial period of fare charging on the light rail. Inspectors do not distinguish between honest people who bought a ticket before December 1 and fare-dodgers who are hoping to get away without paying at all.
Shmuel Elgrabli, the spokesman for the Jerusalem Transportation Master Plan, responded that there has been plenty of publicity advising people who bought tickets before December 1 to return them to the central bus station, where they will receive replacement tickets.