Public works

For years, green groups have been pushing public transportation as the solution to Jerusalem's traffic problems as well as reducing the city's air pollution and accidents. "One of our aims is for people to choose public transportation because it is the positive thing to do and not because they cannot afford a car," says Naomi Tsur, director of the Jerusalem branch of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI). To make public transportation more user-friendly, in 1999 the SPNI established a consumer group for bus riders. Today, expanded to include all forms of public transportation, Lanooa, the Public Transportation Union, works on promoting public transportation and serving as an advocate for public transportation users. The organization also tries to foster cooperation among the various bodies involved in Jerusalem public transportation in order to benefit users. With some 150 members, Lanooa looks at public transportation planning and reliability in the city. "Anyone who uses public transportation is a consumer, and the product, to succeed, has to be user-friendly," says Tsur. "For this to happen, those planning transportation have to check with users as to what their real needs are. Unfortunately, no one is doing this. You can't improve a public transportation system using a team of Volvo owners." This is where Lanooa comes in. "One of the major factors in using public transportation is being able to know how to get to a destination and how long that journey will take," says Lanooa's activities coordinator, Nimrod Golan. Bus riders today have a difficult time planning journeys. For a number of years now, Egged has not printed bus maps for Jerusalem in anticipation of sweeping changes when the light rail begins. Also, schedules for city buses are available only at the Central Bus Station. Lanooa is working to get printed route maps and time schedules for the public. Complaints concerning public transportation are another area where the public feels deeply frustrated. Lanooa suggests writing to the Transportation Ministry's Public Transportation Department, and to send copies of these letters to the SPNI and to Lanooa. "We can keep track of complaints and work to see that they are taken care of," Golan says. The SPNI and Lanooa are planning a Public Transportation Day for October 17 that will include a meeting with light rail officials. Lanooa can be contacted at: 625-2357 or 625-7682 or by e-mail at [email protected]