Tel Aviv Will Finally Run Buses on Shabbat - but Only for Eurovision Guests

City to provide two separate routes to the contest, takes measures against taxi price-gauging ahead of the contest finale

An Egged bus in Tel Aviv, March 28, 2019.
Ofer Vaknin

The Tel Aviv municipality will run 50 free buses to ferry Eurovision fans from various parts of the city to the contest arena.

The buses will run throughout the day on Friday and Saturday, May 17 and 18. During much of that time, regular public transportation is unavailable due to Shabbat.

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The city will station people with signs at each designated collection point so that passengers know where the Eurovision buses stop. The information will also be published on the tourism ministry’s website and in its information booklet.

The buses will follow two routes. The green line will begin at the Carmelit terminal, not far from the Eurovision village in Charles Clore Park, and run through the center of the city, down Ibn Gvirol Street, to the Tel Aviv fairgrounds. The blue line will travel down Ben-Yehuda Street, parallel to the beach front promenade.

The municipality also plans to translate the names of stops into English for Eurovision visitors; include a public transportation map in the tourist information booklet that will be distributed to the tens of thousands of anticipated tourists; and staff a tourist information center 24/7 in the arrivals hall at Ben-Gurion Airport, in conjunction with the tourism and transportation ministries.

Due to fears that taxi drivers might exploit tourists, the municipality has issued stickers that must be posted in every taxi listing the fare per kilometer. But it’s not yet clear how drivers can be forced to cooperate or whether they will be penalized for price gouging.

The city also plans to temporarily expand its supply of rental bikes and scooters and ask taxi companies to expand their services during Eurovision. In addition, it intends to recruit thousands of volunteers to help tourists reach their destinations.

Israel Hofsheet – the Be Free Israel movement, which advocates for public transportation on Shabbat, has inquired as to why only Eurovision merits free Shabbat buses.

“Why not also run buses on weekends for the Gay Pride Parade; during the summer months of July and August; on Israeli holidays; for sports competitions; on weekends, when people go out; or on Friday nights, when people want to get to a family dinner,” their statement said. “With or without the Transportation Ministry, the time has come to run public transportation on Shabbat in Tel Aviv.”