Inter-city Public Transportation Fares Fall, but Not All Israelis Will Benefit

Israel's Transport Ministry touts cuts up to 60%; TheMarker survey finds more modest savings

An ultra-Orthodox man standing on the street as a bus drives by.
Olivier Fitoussi

New lower public transportation fares between cities take effect on Wednesday. The Transportation Ministry said the fare cuts are as much as 60%, but TheMarker has found that for most passengers, the savings will be much lower, and in some cases they won’t save at all.

The price of individual ride tickets remains unchanged but new multi-ride plans are now available between metropolitan areas giving riders who use a Rav Kav fare card new options when it comes to unlimited travel for a day or for a month. The new plan will allow unlimited travel on all means of public transportation, including buses and trains within two metropolitan areas and for travel within the two cities.

So, for example, riders will be able to purchase an all-day fare (“hofshi yomi” in Hebrew) for 32.50 shekels ($9.30) for travel between the Tel Aviv metropolitan area (including the Sharon region) and the Jerusalem region. The Transportation Ministry said the fare represents a savings of more than 40% compared to the 55.60 shekel fare prevailing up to now.

The new fare does indeed represent a savings, but the 40% calculation compares the new fare and the former price for individual paper tickets, ignoring the 20% discount that riders with a Rav-Kav fare card, a multi-use debit card, have been enjoying for years. With the 20% discount the new fare is indeed still cheaper for some riders, but by 27%.

The ministry’s mathematical manipulation goes further, however, in that making the fare comparison because it presents savings that assume six rides in the course of the day, two between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and four within one or the other of the cities.

The day pass is the same price as two rides between the two cities and two within one or the other city, so riders who are not riding more than that in a single day would pay the same by buying regular tickets. Riders should also note that the daily pass is only valid on the day on which it was purchased.

In its press release, the ministry did not publish the prices of monthly passes (“hofshi hodshi” in Hebrew) but they are due to be comparable to the daily pass, meaning that a monthly pass between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem would cost 540 shekels. A monthly pass from Tel Aviv to Haifa will cost 684 shekels and from Tel Aviv to Be’er Sheva, the price will be 624 shekels.

The transportation and finance ministries agreed on a plan in 2015 to revamp bus and rail fares between cities as a plan was adopted to reform fares within metropolitan areas. The latter plan, which substantially reduced fares at an estimated cost to the government of 400 million shekels a year, took effect at the beginning of 2016, but the fare revamp between cities was deferred in the face of a proposal by Negev and Galilee Development Minister Arye Dery to exempt public transportation fares from the 17% value added tax.

The inter-city fare plan takes effect following an agreement between the finance and transportation ministries, but the state is funding it at a lower rate of 60 to 100 million shekels a year, meaning lower discounts. The Transportation Ministry noted that the regions where unlimited travel is available have been expanded and a new daily pass covering Kiryat Shmona in the north to Mitzpeh Ramon in the south is also now available for 60 shekels. It also includes travel on the Jerusalem light rail and the Haifa Metronit bus system.