Transportation Minister Miri Regev announced on Tuesday that the government will not interfere with the operation of the Shabbat lines operated by the local authorities, in a statement presenting a new reform regarding public transportation.During Regev's presentation, she attacked her predecessor MK Merav Michaeli and opened a front against Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, as sources close to him said that she did not coordinate the reform with him.
"The ministry will continue to maintain the status quo regarding public transportation on Shabbat. There are other solutions for this, such as the municipalities' Shabbat lines. The ministry has not interfered with them until today, and will not start now," said Regev.
The reform presented by Regev includes fare reductions for residents of the periphery, young travelers and senior citizens. The discounts have not yet been budgeted, and will not begin before the approval of the state budget. According to her, the program advanced by Michaeli hurt the periphery.
New transportation program to cost over NIS 740 million
According to Regev, the cost of the new program is NIS 740 million, but it covers most public transportation passengers, and it seems that the final cost will be higher. In addition, Regev is demanding another NIS 1.25 billion to improve driver wages and add trips and routes and operate a maritime shuttle.
"It's no secret that I was against the reform of my predecessor in office from day one," said Regev. "I will make sure that public transportation is available to all citizens of the State of Israel and the periphery, and will not subsidize the center of the country. Michael Biton, who was part of the previous coalition, also opposed the reform, which substantially increases the cost of citizens' travel."
"Traffic jams cost the economy NIS 35 billion. Air pollution costs NIS 7 billion. We will make sure that citizens can travel by available and cheap public transportation, that there will be no case where a full bus passes and does not stop for a citizen, or that no bus passes at all. I say to the finance officials - those who want to incentivize public transportation have to put money on it."
Regev called the reform "transportation justice" and said that "young people will not drive in their parents' car or in their own car. Once we get them used to it, we will make sure that they continue to use public transportation."
The reform includes other innovations: Free travel for senior citizens from the age of 62 for women and 67 for men (instead of 75 today). Those with disabilities and those entitled to social insurance will also receive a 50% discount on a monthly pass, not just on accumulated value.
In addition, settlements rated 1 to 5 by the Central Bureau of Statistics will receive a 50% discount. The list includes Jerusalem, Beersheba, Ashdod, Lod, Ramla, Bnei Brak, Bat Yam, Modi'in Illit and Beitar Illit.
Regev announced reform without consulting Finance Ministry
After the presentation of the reform by Regev, sources close to the finance minister said that it was not coordinated with the Finance Ministry and that as of now it has no budgetary source.
According to them, "During this period of preparation for the submission of the state budget for government approval, budget discussions are underway between the Finance Ministry and all government ministries, with the aim of responding as much as possible to the wishes of the government ministers and allowing them to implement their policies, all while maintaining the budget frameworks and the fiscal responsibility that we are always required to have, and in particular in this challenging economic period, and while setting national priorities."
The bus drivers' union from Histadrut Haleumit congratulated Regev on "the reform she is promoting. This is the first step on the way to creating cheap, reliable and efficient public transportation. This step, along with improving the status of the driver, will increase the use of public transportation and help reduce traffic jams. We will continue to work to enable free trips for drivers as well."