'Shabbat buses would help poorer residents'

Deputy Mayor Asaf Zamir says Saturday transportation would provide welcome relief to city's poorer residents.

Tel Aviv bus 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Tel Aviv bus 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Public transportation on Shabbat would be a welcome relief for the residents of Tel Aviv who don’t own cars, and would help efforts to cut down on the use of private vehicles in the city, Deputy Mayor Asaf Zamir said on Wednesday.
“Driving is permitted on Shabbat so the only people who are affected by the lack of buses are those who don’t own cars and find themselves confined to their homes,” Zamir said, two days after the Tel Aviv City Council voted 13-7 to ask the Transportation Ministry for permission to operate public transport systems on Shabbat.
Though the motion has little chance of gaining approval from the Transportation Ministry, Zamir said it highlights an issue that speaks to Israel’s place in the Western world.
“The state of Israel is the only country in the Western world that doesn’t have public transportation seven days a week. The fact that 70 percent of the population lives in cities means that there should be decisions made to limit the use of private cars. Because there are no cars on Shabbat, people like myself have no choice but to buy a car for that one day a week. If I lived in Paris or in New York then I would have no need for a car at all,” Zamir said.
A few minibus lines and private sherut communal taxi vans currently run in central Tel Aviv during the weekend. The sheruts are a convenient way to get around central Tel Aviv but they do not provide service to the city’s peripheral neighborhoods and suburbs.
Zamir also said that he believed that the majority vote in the city council illustrates that the majority of the residents of the city support having buses on Shabbat.
“I’m sure there are cities where the results would be the complete opposite. I’m not saying you should have it [public transportation on Shabbat] in all of Israel, but there should be in Tel Aviv.”
Monday night’s motion was proposed by Tamar Zandberg, a city councilwoman from the Meretz faction.
The day after the motion passed, she wrote on her blog that while the measure may not have much chance of gaining approval, it is a common sense decision that must be made for the sake of the city’s residents.
“In Tel Aviv, 40% of the residents don’t own cars, there are 24 hours each week in which they are stuck and grounded without the ability to go distances further than a long walk or a bike ride. The sea, the parks, the museums, friends and family, everything becomes too far away on the one free day of the week.”
Zandberg said it could also have an effect on the car-owning public, who would be free to take public transportation, thus cutting down on air pollution, car accidents and incidents of drunk driving on the weekend.
Israel needs to break away from the “status quo” on separation of church and state, a result of agreements made during the time of the founding of the state more than sixty years ago, she said.
“You – the religious public – have held onto this [public transportation on Shabbat] for so long that people have stopped asking why. The time has come to start doing the most logical thing possible.”