Rav-Kav chips in

Transportation Minister Israel Katz said that it is the job of bus drivers to drive, not to deal with cash.

A street card-loading point offers instructions in English (as well as Hebrew and Arabic) (photo credit: SYBIL EHRLICH)
A street card-loading point offers instructions in English (as well as Hebrew and Arabic)
(photo credit: SYBIL EHRLICH)
As part of the continuing public transportation reform, from March 8 bus drivers in Jerusalem will no longer sell single-ride tickets or load erech tzavur (stored value) or period tickets on Rav- Kav smartcards.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz said that it is the job of bus drivers to drive, not to deal with cash. He said the reform, which mirrors the policy in cities around the world, will improve safety, since drivers will concentrate only on driving, making journeys safer and faster.
Until that date, it will still be possible to load a Rav- Kav with an all-day (hofshi yomi) or single-ride ticket only and to purchase an anonymous Rav-Kav on buses.
From March 8, passengers will need a pre-loaded Rav-Kav smartcard to be able to travel by bus inside Jerusalem. The ministry has put at the disposal of the public several ways to load a Rav-Kav before boarding a bus, using either cash or credit card. Automatic loading machines have been installed throughout the city, including at light-rail stations, Al-Hakav centers and “Casponet” machines.
Starting on the same day, Rav-Kav cards will need a smartcard microchip in order to work. Old cards without the chip (which is shown as small gold square on the card) can be exchanged for new cards at any Al- Hakav center free of charge. The Al-Hakav centers are at the Hadar Mall, floor -1, next to Optica Halperin; Pisgat Ze’ev Mall, entrance floor on the left-hand side; the Ramot Mall, entrance floor, next to Cafe Ne’eman, opposite Bank Leumi; Rav Shefa Mall, second floor; 3 King George Avenue (Bell Mall); the central bus station, opposite platform 22; and the CityPass service center at 97 Jaffa Road.
In addition, it will be possible to load cards at all branches of Cofix coffee shops and Ma’ayan 2000 supermarkets in Jerusalem.
Owners of Rav-Kav cards with the microchip will also be able to load their cards using their smartphones, via the “Rav-Kav Online” app, and also on their home computers by using the special “card reader” device, available at Al-Hakav centers.
The reform is being introduced in Jerusalem as a pilot project and will be expanded over the next few months to include Tel Aviv, some of the cities in Gush Dan, and in the Haifa metropolitan area.
Katz said, “Abolishing cash payment on buses will improve service to passengers and make public transportation more efficient, safer and faster.” Journey times should be reduced, as there will be no long lines of passengers paying in cash and needing change from the driver.
For the first few months, during the running-in period, senior citizens will still be able to buy single paper tickets at a 50% discount using cash on the bus, provided they show their official senior citizen card, until they get a personal Rav-Kav. Katz said, “We have an obligation to senior citizens and we will do everything we can to make travel easier for them. No senior citizen will be thrown off a bus for not having a Rav-Kav.”
The minister said that Rav-Kav distribution points will be opened for senior citizens in old-age homes, hospitals and community centers. The ministry is also considering opening additional distribution points if the need arises, as well as providing explanations of the use of the Rav-Kav and its advantages.
There are several card-loading machines with an Egged logo in the Jerusalem central bus station, but as far as I can see they are only in Hebrew. Machines of a different style are scattered around the city, and these do have an English option, as well as Hebrew and Arabic. A credit card is needed to operate them.
A colleague reported on his experience trying to buy a hofshi hodshi for March at the ticket window in the central bus station, as he has been doing for months. He said he was sent away and told that he would have to buy a ticket in a machine, in a vague direction down a hall. There was no notice saying that hofshi hodshi tickets were no longer sold at the ticket window.
Eventually he found the machines that he assumed the ticket clerk was referring to. It was not at all obvious what he needed to do to buy his chosen option – a monthly unlimited ticket from Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem – especially as no prices were indicated. He guessed incorrectly twice, but on the third option he appeared to be successful, although there didn’t seem to be any confirmation of purchase. Eventually he noticed the window at the bottom of the machine and found a receipt there.
With no proper explanations, and no option at all for any language other than Hebrew, it seems that these machines are poorly designed and there is definitely room for improvement.
London switched over to smartcard-only payment for bus fares in July 2014, and other cities around the world are changing to load-before-you-ride cashless bus travel.