Driven to Driveby Bus Reform

After a long time during which the plans were being drawn up, far from view of users of public transportation in Tel Aviv, the most unnecessary transportation revolution this city has ever known has been launched.

Dear minister of transportation,

I don't know when you last took the bus to work; when you chased after it in 35 degree heat and 75 percent humidity, or when you crowded into a bus surrounded by people coughing on a winter's day. I do know that I have been doing this for the past 17 years I have been living in Tel Aviv. For the past 17 years I have chosen to use public transportation and save myself the daily exhausting struggle to find parking in the city. I also saw this, believe it or not, as my humble contribution to reducing air pollution, noise and congestion in my smiling city. Now, with the transportation revolution you have forced on us, I am considering buying a car and joining the polluters and seekers of parking.

Until now I have been able to do without a car because the service the Dan bus company has offered me, even if it was not ideal, made owning a car unnecessary. The buses took me, in reasonable time and from stops close to my house, to any destination: work in the southern part of town, to the theater or the museum in the east and to shopping, the bank or the clinic in the center.

But then a group of planners, who in their daily lives obviously don't need public transportation, decided to disrupt my life and the lives of tens of thousands of other people, and move the lines without asking us.

After a long time during which the plans were being drawn up, far from the view of the users of public transportation in Tel Aviv, the most unnecessary transportation revolution this city has ever known was launched.

Why let a well-functioning system go on when it can be ruined?

From an extensive perusal of the confusing booklets handed out at the bus stops I learn that my life will be harder from now on. Instead of an average wait of about five minutes for the three lines that took me straight to work (1, 2, 129 ) I will now have to wait between 15 and 20 minutes for the one remaining bus line at my stop (129 ). The two others have been moved hundreds of meters west. (You may not know, honorable minister, but in the Tel Aviv humidity, even a walk of 10 meters is like a forced march. ) What is more, those two other lines no longer stop in the heart of town (Dizengoff Center ), an area whose services I frequently need after work and so from now on, I have to change buses if I want to go there. Lines 26 and 9, which also served me faithfully, have been moved and no longer serve me as they once did.

But I am afraid these bothersome details will fall on blind eyes, eyes that see buses only from the outside or on a computer. "You can't please everyone," planners will apparently claim, once again noting proudly that the purpose of the plan was to upgrade Tel Aviv to the level of the "great metropolises of the world." But what is true for those cities is not necessarily true for a city like Tel Aviv, which has no municipal train, neither above ground or below it.

No doubt about it, there is room for reform in the bus system of metropolitan Tel Aviv. But a different reform, one that is implemented with transparency, together with passengers, as they do in those great metropolises of the world. Not an arbitrary, sweeping reform, kept secret until the last minute, fragments of whose details leaked to passengers only through drivers, who are themselves confused.

The way the reform was carried out shows that the hearts of the public's elected officials are hardened against it; that they move bus lines with the same insensitivity that they replaced wooden benches with metal ones - hot in the summer, freezing in the winter and sticky all year round. After all, people whose stomachs are full can't feel the hunger pangs of others.