Light rail will require payment this week.

City councilor says fee collecting should wait until trains are operating at full capacity.

The Jerusalem Triangle’light rail train 521 (photo credit: Photos: ‘The Jerusalem Triangle’)
The Jerusalem Triangle’light rail train 521
(photo credit: Photos: ‘The Jerusalem Triangle’)
After nearly four months of operation, Jerusalem’s light rail will begin charging passengers on Thursday, December 1. The cost of a ride on the light rail will be the same as a bus ticket, NIS 6.40, and will allow for unlimited transfers between the train and buses in a 90-minute window.
Passengers were initially allowed to ride for free on the light rail after it began operation in mid-August due to problems with the ticket machine and disagreements with Egged over how the ticket profits would be divided between buses and the light rail.
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Additionally, the light rail is not running at full capacity, with only 14 of the 21 trains being used due to disagreements over the traffic lights.
The regular traffic lights, which are only now being updated to give trains preference at intersections, nearly double the time it takes for the train to travel from Pisgat Zeev to Mount Herzl.
Currently, only 40 of the 100 traffic lights have been updated, despite promises from Citypass, the consortium of companies that runs the train, to update all the traffic lights by mid-October.
Dozens of CityPass workers fanned out across the light rail to explain to customers how to use the kiosks to purchase tickets. There will also be a number of inspectors on the trains, who will fine riders with no tickets NIS 180.
The electronic tickets can be swiped at any door to the train, rather than with the driver, raising some fears of passengers riding without paying.
Monthly passes, which cost NIS 227, were available starting Sunday. Egged monthly passes are good on the light rail as well. In November, the city switched over to electronic cards call RavKav, which are good on all buses and trains. The switch, which coincided with the beginning of classes for university students, created massive lines where passengers who had not signed up for the card in the six months prior were forced to wait for hours to get their card.
City Councilor Merav Cohen (Jerusalem Awakening), condemned CityPass for starting to charge passengers before the system is operating at full capacity.
“What they are doing is actually locking in Jerusalem residents from every direction.
On the one hand, they’re forcing them to pay for a subpar service from the train, and on the other hand, they’re stopping bus services from some of the city lines,” said Cohen. “What do they expect them to do, walk?!” Cohen threatened court action or organizing a possible boycott if the train charged passengers before it was fully operational.
“Everywhere in the world, they require payment from the first day, only in Jerusalem for three months already thousands of passengers every day are traveling for free at CityPass’s expense,” said CityPass spokesman Ozel Vatik in response. “It is incredibly clear that someone who chooses to travel by light rail needs to pay for this service.”
But councilor Cohen also slammed the train for subpar safety. On Sunday, an elderly man was rushed to the hospital in grave condition after being struck by a train near the Old City. It was the first light rail incident that resulted in a pedestrian being hospitalized.
There have been more than a dozen small accidents involving cars and pedestrians who crossed the tracks at illegal crossings and were struck by trains, though there were no serious injuries.
The major bus changes that Cohen mentioned are set to take affect only after at least 18 trains are running, up from the current 14. The Independent Safety Assessment, an international certification for light rails around the world, will not give City- Pass the OK to increase the number of trains until the consortium solves communication problems between the various companies running the light rail and fixes some technical problems.
Currently, there are approximately 40,000 trips made on the light rail each day, though at full capacity it will be able to handle 100,000 per day.