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The inaugural test ride of the Jerusalem light rail in February. Photo by Emil Salman
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Municipal officials slammed the company that won the Jerusalem light rail tender for publishing a survey asking city residents whether it would bother them if Palestinians were to use the system under various conditions.

Officials from the municipality and the Transportation Ministry called the questions "racist," and said they should not have been asked, especially not by a private company.

Last week, Haaretz reported that the CityPass consortium had asked Jerusalem residents, "There are three stops in Shuafat; does this bother you?" and "All passengers, Jews and Arabs, can enter the train freely, without undergoing a security check. Does this bother you?"

Municipal director general Yair Maayan sent a strongly worded letter to Avraham Shohat, CityPass' chairman, on Friday. The letter was titled, "Request for an examination and for drawing conclusions."

"We were flabbergasted to see how a private commercial consortium dared to address these subjects, which are none of its business whatsoever; to ask such racist questions and to arouse strife and contention in the city," said the letter, citing the Haaretz article.

Maayan demanded Shohat insure that the company investigate and find out who was responsible for the survey questions.

This is just another case highlighting the troubled relations between the authorities and the consortium. The sides have been engaged in extended finger-pointing over the project's delays and the suffering this has caused city residents.

Transportation Ministry officials also said the company had no right to ask such questions.

"Instead of dealing with the real thing, they are busy with surveys," one ministry official fumed. "What do they need that for?"

A spokesman for CityPass responded, "The light rail in Jerusalem is supposed to serve all the city's residents and to be an important growth lever for all parts of the city. The survey's goal was to help prepare for various facets of the train's extremely complex operation, including the particular security situation in Jerusalem.

"It is a shame that the municipal director general attributed totally unfounded significance to the survey, whose only aim was to improve the service to all the residents," said the spokesman. "This merely adds unnecessary fuel to the fire and certainly does not serve the interests of the city's residents. The survey was not meant to offend any residents, and we shall change it accordingly."