Light rail seeks to reassure jittery Jerusalemites

Transportation officials hope to assuage security fears among residents about the light rail; will be fully operational by mid-August.

light rail 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
light rail 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Just a few weeks before the light rail in Jerusalem is set to begin partial operation along Jaffa Road, transportation officials tried to assuage the fears of Jerusalem residents shaken by last week’s bus bombing.
Transportation Master Plan spokesperson Shmuel Elgrabli said that like all public transportation in Israel, the light rail’s security would be overseen by the Israel Police, with additional support from the municipality and the Transportation Ministry.
He added that cameras were installed inside the trains and at all stops. The cameras will be used for both traffic monitoring and security.
Additionally, each bus stop will have an emergency call button where passengers can be connected to the train’s command center in French Hill to report suspicious packages, or call for help. CityPass, the company in charge of running the trains, will oversee both the cameras and the call center.
Transportation officials declined to share other specific details of security arrangements.
Jack Dadon, the former chief of Border Police, who now serves as the security advisor to the light rail, said he was confident the public should not be concerned about security on the light rail. Dadon emphasized that he was working in cooperation with all of the emergency services to continually monitor and improve the security situation.
“We don’t want to be satisfied [with security arrangements] – we want to always be worried to see where it’s possible to improve,” he said on Monday. “I think when trains start to carry [passengers] and becomes part of the routine, we’ll learn things and be able to add things and change things.”
In addition to security, transportation officials are also finetuning final safety arrangements before the train begins carrying passengers.
Over the past week, the temporary orange fence used to keep pedestrians off the train tracks was removed. However, the traffic safety organization, Metuna, unsuccessfully advocated for keeping the fences to protect pedestrians.
“Taking down the temporary guardrails at this point in time is a major mistake and will cost lives in no uncertain terms,” said Metuna head Mordechai Feder.
The organization requested that the light rail take alternative steps – such as adding flashing lights to the trains, or adding markings on the sidewalk – before the temporary fence was removed.
“The light rail runs in dozens of cities around the world without fences,” Elgrabli said.
“[It] is very friendly to running in a city, even on sidewalks.”
The light rail will travel at approximately 10-15 kph, roughly the speed of a person running.
Elgrabli warned that pedestrians should avoid getting distracted by their phones in the area around the light rail.
The light rail is scheduled begin partial operation on April 17, carrying passengers for a symbolic fee from Damascus Gate to the Central Bus Station.
It is expected to be fully operational in mid-August if all testing goes according to schedule.