Activists protest changes to bus system

Jerusalem mayor inaugurates interchange in Malha neighborhood, activists demonstrate major changes to altered and cancelled lines.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (370) (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (370)
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Transportation Minister Israel Katz inaugurated a billion shekel interchange in the Malha neighborhood on Wednesday afternoon amid vocal protests from those furious about changes to the bus system.
The new addition to the interchange at the Golumb intersection is part of the South Begin extension, which will eventually have a new sports quarter, basketball arena and light rail.
The new interchange opened about 10 days ago and was paid for by the Jerusalem Municipality and the Transportation Ministry.
Two activists from the “Broken Train” (Rakevet Ta’kala) activist group demonstrated with megaphones at the dedication to express their anger at changes to the bus system.
Over the past year, the Jerusalem bus system has undergone major changes and 52 bus lines have been altered or canceled. The goal of the new system is to replace long, winding, multi-neighborhood bus routes with shorter, direct routes that lead to the main transportation channels of the light rail and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lane on Hebron Road. The changes are divided into four quarters, and the bus lines in the southwest and northwest quadrants have already been changed.
Activists are angry because the changes mean that many people have to take a bus, a train then a bus to reach their destination.
On Tuesday, a contract addendum between CityPass and the Transportation Ministry revealed that the ministry included a “non-compete” clause that prohibits bus routes from traveling parallel to the light rail for more than two stops.
MK Uri Ariel (National Union), head of the State Control Committee, sent a letter to Katz urging him not to renew the contract with CityPass, which ends at the end of August. Katz said on Wednesday that he had not seen the letter.
“The amount of buses hasn’t changed, but now you have all the buses as well as the light rail,” he said. “We will build a final network, it has to be better.”
Activist Ido Naveh refused to talk to Katz “until he returns the buses,” he yelled, despite a gesture by Katz to speak with the activists. “Mount Herzl is the most problematic area because there is no choice but the bus, and 99 percent of the people want the buses,” he said.
Barkat called Ariel’s letter “impractical.”
“The bus system is collapsing, there is no chance to bring that amount of buses,” said Barkat.
“The correct solution is the addition of more light rails so there is a network. We need to do this in stages.”