Jerusalem Light Rail to Begin Charging Fares

Fare will be NIS 6.40, which includes a bus transfer within 90 minutes; decision to charge made despite string of malfunctions, strikes, accidents and scheduling problems.

Although Jerusalem's light rail has yet to overcome a plague of malfunctions, strikes, accidents and a general lagging behind schedule, its operator, Citipass, is going to start charging for the ride on Thursday.

The fare will be NIS 6.40, which includes a bus transfer within 90 minutes.

train in Jerusalem - Emil Salman - 29112011
Emil Salman

Citipass claims significant improvements in service following an upgrade of the traffic lights along the route, and believes that disputes with the conductors' union have been resolved, though not all Jerusalem residents are convinced.

Jerusalem city councillor Merav Cohen has written to Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, protesting the ministry's agreement to allow fares to be charged, "when only 14 of the 21 trains are permitted to travel the route, their frequency is totally irregular, the service is poor and passengers are suffering terribly."

A major concern is that changes are soon to be made to dozens of the city's bus lines that will force passengers to rely on the light rail to make their connections as they cross the city.

Citipass rejects the criticism, noting that since the rail began operating in August, the length of a ride from one end of the route to the other is down from 90 minutes to 50 minutes. The main reason is the replacement of 38 of the 60 traffic lights along the route with "smart lights" that give the train priority at junctions. Citipass also hopes to get approval within a few days to increase the number of trains plying the route.

Despite the problems, which have ranged from suspicious objects near the tracks and fistfights between Jewish and Arab passengers to two strikes by conductors over their work conditions, the rail carries tens of thousands of passengers a day.

On Sunday, the rail was involved in its most serious accident to date, when a pedestrian crossed the tracks unlawfully near the Old City's Damascus Gate and was hit by the train, suffering serious injuries.