Transportation: Ride the bus – if it arrives

Comprehensive passenger information services are available online and through smartphone applications but this excludes the many people who do not have access to these means, like seniors.

An Egged bus driving through Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
An Egged bus driving through Jerusalem
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The old man at the bus stop at the junction of Strauss Street and Jaffa Road seemed completely lost.
Despite his difficulty standing, he ran between the two bus stops on the right side of the street, trying to read the electronic signboards. This was because the information with the list of bus arrival times at these stops couldn’t be readily seen from the side one had to stand to catch the bus.
A middle-aged passerby noticed his distress and offered her help; it turned out he had missed his bus while figuring out where to stand.
Such a scene is hardly unusual, despite the considerable improvements recently made to the entire city public transportation network.
During the two and a half days last week during which functioning of most of the electronic signboards was interrupted for technical reasons that nobody, neither at Egged nor those heading up the transportation master plan, cared to explain, passengers loudly expressed the need for them – proving how much better the system is, against all odds.
Comprehensive passenger information services are available online and through smartphone applications; while positive, this excludes the many people who do not have access to these means, especially seniors.
Many bus lines are designed so that passengers have to transfer to the light rail. What may seem normal to residents of Paris, London or New York – moving through one, two or even three corresponding lines – is still considered a burden here, or even a way to make life more miserable.
Moreover, the waiting time is still, in too many cases, influenced by city traffic conditions. Long bus routes are evidently hostages to traffic, rush hour and other conditions. This can often render their official timetables and online information irrelevant.
A solution was to add short lines that do not enter heavy traffic circuits, and therefore should not be affected. These are commonly (but not officially) called “community lines” – meaning they serve a small, closed-circuit path, mostly inside a neighborhood, and only connect to a longer line at one of their ends. Examples include the 13, 14 and 21 lines, and there are others, particularly inside haredi neighborhoods where a majority of residents use public transportations.
Yet it turns out that the predicted advantage of these lines not being affected in any way by traffic considerations is apparently in principle only. Line 21, for example, runs from Ramat Sharett to Herzl Boulevard (at the Yad Sarah Center), bringing residents of Ramat Sharett and Bayit Vegan to the light rail. It is their sole means of transportation out of these neighborhoods. The circuit is short, without heavy traffic, designed so the arrival of the bus coincides with the arrival of the light rail at the Yad Sarah stop. In reality, the synchronization hardly ever works out.
The same goes for Line 13, which connects the Talpiot industrial zone to the city center (and to the Jaffa Center light rail stop), riding through Old Katamon. This is not a location known for its heavy traffic, yet passengers claimed that the bus is often late and waiting time can reach 20 minutes and more, despite the fact that, according to the official timetable, the longest frequency between buses should not exceed 20 minutes, and then, only in the evenings.
Line 13, by the way, reduces its frequency to 30 minutes after 11 p.m. and the same goes for the 21 bus. Why is this the case, if these lines are the only way to reach the city center or a corresponding line? Even on Fridays, when one may be hurrying home before Shabbat, the frequency is only every 20 minutes! Attempts to obtain clear and simple answers have not been very successful.
Yossi Saidov, who created and still runs the “15 Minutes” group promoting the rights of public transportation passengers, says that these findings are unacceptable. He urges residents who are affected to write to the local transportation administration (through the municipality’s website) or to Egged, and to protest.
“Residents’ claims are now heard, and those responsible in the system cannot disregard them – even if they do not always guarantee to implement a solution,” says Saidov. “In principle, Egged would not change a circuit, but the frequency of some lines may be adjusted to better adapt to residents’ needs if enough feedback is received.”
Another address to get transportation information is TrafficUploads/Lines – where all the lines routes and frequencies are on display, and where one can find the exact itinerary needed to reach a destination by bus and/or light rail (with a smartphone app).