Tel Aviv Municipality examining free public transport system for Shabbat

A spokeswoman for the Tel Aviv Municipal Authority said that “the issue is in its first stages.”

A bus travels along Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv (photo credit: BORIS BELENKIN)
A bus travels along Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv
(photo credit: BORIS BELENKIN)
The Tel Aviv Municipal Authority is examining the feasibility of introducing a free public transport system on Shabbat for its residents.
A report in The Marker on Thursday laid out in-depth details regarding a city-wide public transportation scheme currently being planned, and said city hall would soon issue a tender to find an operator. 
A spokeswoman for the Tel Aviv Municipal Authority said, however, that “the issue is in its first stages,” and that the publication of a tender was not imminent.
Public transport on Shabbat is generally prohibited by law, although a few cities including Haifa have public transport on Shabbat since it existed before the establishment of the state and the formulation of the status quo on religion and state affairs.
Recently, some cities including Jerusalem and Ramat Gan have circumvented the law either by making the rides free or setting up the system whereby passengers pay an annual or quarterly fee instead of paying on the bus itself. 
Such an operation is therefore not defined as public transport and can operate freely.
According to the report in The Marker, the system under discussion for Tel Aviv would be free for passengers and be paid for by the municipal authority.
It would comprise five separate bus lines and utilize 40 buses, which would come every 15 to 30 minutes from 8 p.m. Friday night until two hours before sunrise, and from 9 a.m. until the end of Shabbat on Saturday night.
The system would be free for everyone initially, but if there is excessive demand it could be limited to Tel Aviv residents only.
Uri Keidar, the director of the Israel Be Free religious freedom organization, noted that there is widespread public support for public transport on Shabbat.
“This is the result of one of the most just social struggles that we have been conducting in recent years,” said Keidar.
“Tel Aviv, together with Ramat Gan, Herzliya, Modi’in and others are the spearhead on the way to true freedom of movement for all Israeli citizens who want to go the sea, to visit their grandparents outside of the city, or even to the hospital,” he said.
According to the religion and state index of the Hiddush religious pluralism organization in 2018, 72% of those polled said they backed some or full public transport on Shabbat.
Hiddush Director Rabbi Uri Regev praised the TA municipal authority for doing “what the politicians don’t dare to do.”