Come the New Year, Israelis will pay more for buses and trains

Come the New Year Israel

The Transportation Ministry announced on Wednesday a 4.4 percent price hike in public transportation fees starting January 1. Public transportation operators say consumers can expect to spend an average 4-5% more on their tickets, depending on the service and their eligibility for various discounts. Starting on New Year's Day a single ride in Tel Aviv on Dan buses will increase from NIS 5.50 to NIS 5.80. Bus rides in Jerusalem and Haifa will rise from NIS 5.90 to NIS 6.20 and in Beersheba the cost will rise from NIS 3.80 to NIS 4.00 The price of monthly passes will also increase. In Tel Aviv, the price will go up from NIS 165 to NIS 174, in Jerusalem and Haifa the price will rise from NIS 232 to NIS 244 and in the other cities form NIS 148 to NIS 154. Ticket prices for trains will also increase by an average of 4.77%. Public transportation prices are updated twice a year by a special committee made up of representatives of the Transportation Ministry and the Finance Ministry, which examines the prices relative to the general consumer index and other economic indicators. While both ministers generally sign off on the increase automatically, it is in their power to refuse a hike. In July, the time of the previous price hike, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz refused to approve the increase, resulting in prices remaining constant since last January. In a press release, the Transportation Ministry spokesman noted that during the last six years the rate of bus subsidies rose by 40%, while public transportation prices rose by 11% alone. "The government was forced to substantially increase subsidy levels granted to public transportation operators as a result," read the release. According to Transportation Ministry figures, nearly 80% of the people who use public transportation are eligible for substantial discounts of up to 50% and only 21.5% of riders pay the full fare. The figures show that 33.5% of public transportation users are senior citizens and students who receive a 50% discount, 12.4% of riders purchase special passes that offer them a 20% discount and 2% are welfare recipients who receive a 33% discount. Dr. Roby Nathanson from the Macro Center for Political Economics said the price hike was harmful for lower income Israelis. "The majority of users of public transportation are the poor, people who cannot afford to own a car and this action hurts their pockets first and foremost," said Nathanson. "Strategically the government is going in the wrong direction. Israel, and especially the Tel Aviv region is jam packed with traffic caused by private vehicles. Instead of raising prices the state should be taking steps to increase the use of public transportation at the expense of private vehicles. The state should be increasing the subsidies on public transportation, at least until proper infrastructures are in place. Public transportation should not only be used by the elderly and the poor, it should be a viable alternative for people to use instead of their cars," said Nathanson. Or Yarok CEO Shmuel Aboav said that the rise in prices could also influence the number of accidents on Israel's roads. "The more people use their private vehicles, the more friction there is and the more accidents there are. The state should encourage the use of public transportation not discourage it by raising prices," said Aboav. "Driving is one of the most dangerous actions a person can take and it is something most people do on a regular basis, simply because they don't have an alternative. Survey's we conducted tell us that 60% of drivers would be willing to switch to public transport if was readily available, dependable and comfortable. Raising public transportation prices will only keep people in their cars."