Bus Stopped / You Can't Get There From Here

The architects of the mass transit overhaul are right, people have a hard time with sudden changes, the older they get, the less willing they are to make way for something new.

Just a few days ago, construction of the new bus stops in our neighborhood was completed, but by yesterday morning they were already superfluous. As part of the Tel Aviv area mass transit overhaul, bus lines 26 and 29 were relocated, leaving the No. 6 to to come every 20 minutes for a trip to the Reading power station - in other words, to nowhere.

As a disciplined resident and a sworn advocate of public transit, I made sure to follow all the instructions. I got up early, just as the transportation minister asked me to do. As a retiree, what do I have in my life aside from visits to the health clinic, the grandchildren and the barber? I ate breakfast (sans cottage cheese ) and headed for the unknown, accompanied by a feeling of adventure.

Tel Aviv traffic.
Ofer Vaknin

The architects of the mass transit overhaul are right: People have a hard time with sudden changes. And the older they get, the less willing they are to make way for something new. But even being a cabinet member for a long time can become a habit that is hard to break. And so, just as the education minister is told to try teaching in an overcrowded classroom every once in a while, let the transportation minister ditch his government car every once in a while and board a bus.

I was pleased to encounter new and old faces at the bus stop across the street, but saddened to see them confused, having lost their way and run out of ideas. But I kept my cool despite the heat and went to the nearby convenience store to find out if its owner knew anything about where the buses would be coming from and where they would go. He, too, spread his hands in the familiar gesture of helplessness, as one who stands at a crossroads.

No longer does it cost NIS 3 for a ticket, no longer can we rely on a single bus to take us to our destination; and for that, we get to wait twice as long. But the people of my neighborhood, to our shame, didn't break out in riots, like the supporters of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, a son of Shas' Rabbi Ovadia Yosef who was detained by police over his endorsement of incitement to violence. We're not going to get very far this way, whether by bus or by foot.

As I have said before, it would be a lot easier to run a country without citizens or a school system without students, and the same holds true for a transportation system without passengers, who just make things difficult.

These last few days have shown us once again that reforms are meant less for the public and more for the planners, who appear to have forgotten that the greater Tel Aviv area is the only metropolis of its kind in the developed world whose mass transit relies solely on buses. But instead of adding more buses, making them more accessible and having them come more frequently, the planners have just shuffled their already weak cards.

The transportation minister has asked us to give the bus overhaul a chance. And when a minister asks, we should listen. In the meantime, and until the minister issues a new announcement from his car, I came home with my haircut and shave - in a taxi.