Despite Chaos, Transit Experts Express Support for Israel Bus Reform

Experts claim transition to new bus lines went smoother than anticipated.

Daniel Schmil
Daniel Schmil
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Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Daniel Schmil
Daniel Schmil

The real test of the new bus line routes in the Dan region began yesterday. Warned about the possibility of problems, people who use buses to get to work were told to leave home earlier. Indeed, during the morning there were numerous hitches, confused passengers and inadequate information, but the people manning the situation room of the Ayalon Highways Company argued that there were fewer problems than expected.

"The adjustment is difficult, but I assume that starting on Tuesday or Wednesday people will get used to the new bus routes," said Ronen Cohen, who manages the situation room.

Cohen noted that every complaint was examined by a worker traveling on a scooter, who often served as a public relations official vis-a-vis the passengers, while at some bus stops, attendants were on hand to help people.

"There are some problems that were unrelated to us, which we succeeded in resolving, like a malfunctioning traffic light in Holon, which delayed bus traffic," Cohen added.

The situation room also responded quickly when its staff noticed that some buses were filling up quicker than expected, such as the No. 99 line, connecting Bat Yam and Holon. In response, the frequency of the buses was increased.

At the Arlozorov train station, which is also a major bus stop, there was a long wait for those seeking multi-line tickets, and many people who came to the information booths complained that the employees were not well-informed about the changes.

In the buses themselves, many passengers were perusing the booklets containing information about the transportation reforms, which became the talk of the day.

Even though many complained about the changes, traffic management experts argued that they are a move in the right direction.

Prof. Shlomo Bekhor, of the Transportation and Geo-Information Engineering at the Technion - Israel Institute of Haifa, said that "we should remember that the reform was meant to add new passengers. In order for it to increase ridership, it is important to maintain the high frequency of the direct lines. Cutting down on the number of lines will make it possible to demand more from public transport companies in the future."

As to the suggestion of many travelers that there be lines that run the length and breadth of the entire region, Bekhor responded that "the topography and planning of the roads of the Dan region does not allow for such a system. Moreover, a bus system needs to complement the light rail and rapid transit systems that will be used in the future. Unfortunately, the reform of the bus lines has also included changes in the cost of tickets. It is good that they made the pricing simpler, but the residents of Tel Aviv pay more. while those in the suburbs pay less."

Dr. Tomer Toledo, also from the Technion, said that "simplifying the bus lines is necessary in view of the way the trends are around the world. It is hard to know if pinpoint changes are good, but overall, it is a step in the right direction. I believe that in three months, when the dust will have settled, most people will be pleased with the change. The problem is that they blame the reform plan even before the changes have even taken place. Apparently the public relations work was simply not good enough."

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