HU shuttles on Shabbat ordered to be stopped

Transportation Ministry says shuttle service on Friday evenings constitutes operating public transportation without license.

Hebrew University, Jerusalem_311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Hebrew University, Jerusalem_311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
The Transportation Ministry ordered a halt to Friday evening shuttles from the Hebrew University to the center of the city last week on the basis that they were operating public transportation without a license.
Two weeks ago, the Hebrew University Student Union initiated a shuttle service on Friday nights, operated by a private company from east Jerusalem, to ferry students from the Mount Scopus campus to downtown Jerusalem, following heavy student demand for affordable transportation on Shabbat. Cabs cost at least NIS 30 in each direction, and many students said they felt isolated on campus during the weekend.
But the Transportation Ministry said the shuttles were illegal.
“We’re talking about illegal activity of private vehicles acting as public transportation without approval and against the regulations that require approvals for all transportation lines,” said Avner Ovadia, the spokesman for the Transportation Ministry.
The student union vowed to finance the shuttles until the end of the semester. According to student union spokesman Amir Koren, any private organization or individual can rent a bus, including during Shabbat, but the driver cannot charge on a per passenger basis. Students were previously paying 5-6 shekels for each trip, but now the student union will pay the entire cost of the rental in order to continue the shuttles.
Koren said student requests for transportation on Shabbat had been heavier than in recent years, though a similar program had failed two years ago due to lack of interest. If the shuttle program proves successful this semester, the student union will consider expanding it to the Givat Ram campus and other popular locations in the city.
While the shuttle program has gotten off to a slow start – only 10 students used the service on the first Friday of operation – Koren said the shuttles are important to serving the needs of a diverse population of students.
“We respect what the Transportation Ministry says,” he said, “and we hope that going forward we’ll be able to come to an understanding and we believe that they’ll approve it.”