Ninety buses, bought for a combined price of NIS 115 million and intended to ply the route of the Tel Aviv region’s light rail system until the trains start running, are sitting idle in a parking lot because ticket machines cannot be installed in them.
Instead, ticketing machines must be installed at the bus stops, which requires coordination with city authorities and considerable expense.
The Transportation Ministry and NTA, the government-controlled company that is building the light rail system, have been planning for a while to operate high-capacity buses along the planned red line - Tel Aviv to Petah Tikva, via Bnei Brak and Ramat Gan. The goal was to provide efficient public transportation along the route despite the expected traffic delays caused by construction of the new railway.
Earlier this week the Transportation Ministry said the delay in launching the new bus service was connected to overall project delays. But yesterday ministry officials changed their story to say the buses will be running by the first quarter of 2014.
NTA, however, said the buses were ready to roll as soon as ticketing stations could be installed at bus stops.
Ticket machines cannot be installed within the high-capacity buses, which are like the ones being used in Haifa’s new Metronit project.
NTA also said the buses should be on the road by early next year.
That may be overly optimistic: Ticketing booths and electronic signs require electricity, which requires coordination with local authorities.
In the meanwhile, the 90 buses are suffering damage from standing idle for an extended period of time.
In any case, the buses are slated to use standard public transportation lanes for part of the route, which means they’ll be stuck in traffic like any other vehicle.
The Transportation Ministry said in a response that various delays are par for the course for a project as complicated as the new light rail system.