Nearly All Complaints About Israeli Buses Justified, Transportation Ministry Says

The poor performance could be the reason detailed data on the problem has never been published before

An Egged bus at the Arlozorov bus terminal, Tel Aviv, March 11, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

The Transportation Ministry received more than 41,000 complaints against the companies operating Israel’s trains and buses last year, and around 90% were found to be justified.

The 41,000 represents an all-time record number of complaints and a significant increase over the 35,000 for 2017 and the 20,000 for 2016. In 2012, there were only 2,562 complaints.

>> Scathing report highlights decade-long failure of public transportation in Israel

In 2018, people took 740 million trips via Israel’s public transport on 10,000 buses. The industry’s turnover reached an estimated 7.5 billion shekels ($2.1 billion).

According to the state comptroller, between 2013 and 2017, the number of bus passengers rose 43%. There were 859 million rides on buses in 2017, compared with 808 million in 2016.

This is the first time the Transportation Ministry has revealed the extent of complaints regarding public transport. Until now, it published only statistics based on samples, without details on how the data was collected and interpreted.

Now the statistics on complaints are being published in full, complete with information on which bus lines and which cities.

Still, the ministry posted the data to its site without informing the public or releasing any announcement calling attention to the fact.

Nongovernmental organizations in the sector, including 15 Minutes, have been demanding that the ministry release this data for years.

One-third of the complaints are about buses that never showed up. Another 16% relate to driver behavior, and only 7% are about late bases. Another 17% relate to other issues such as accessibility, taxis and local government.

When divided based on bus operators, the largest number of complaints are against Egged, Israel’s largest bus operator, with 35% of all complaints. Egged is responsible for 35% of all bus rides in Israel.

However, a significant number of complaints were against the operators Kavim (17%), Afikim (10%) and Egged Ta’avura (8%), none of which have market share proportionate to the number of complaints. Afikim is responsible for 7% of Israel’s bus transport; Kavim 11%.

Dan, which controls 20% of the market, suffered only 8% of complaints.

Metropoline, responsible for 7% of the market, and Superbus, responsible for 6%, each suffered 3% or fewer of all complaints.

The current focus in Israel about public transportation is actually about trains, due to high-profile interruptions in service in recent days. But only 2% of all public transportation complaints last year were about trains. Less than 15% of public transport trips in Israel are by train.

The numbers show that, for nearly every line, there was an increase in complaints about buses that never arrived.

Many of the buses with the highest number of complaints were in Jerusalem.

Even though a high percentage of complaints were found to be justified, the Transportation Ministry seems to lack the means to penalize the bus companies. Of the 90% of complaints found justified, 60% were passed on for enforcement, and bus companies were fined only 32% of the time.