Editorial

Mayors, Join Tel Aviv and Bolster Shabbat Bus Service

One of the public minibuses that served routes in Tel Aviv on a Shabbat for the first time on November 22, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

The Shabbat and holiday transportation arrangements launched this past weekend in the Dan Region at the initiative of Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai is justified and necessary. It should have started long ago, primarily to serve the public lacking private means of travel, those who don’t drive or don’t ride bikes because of their age or health status, and those who cannot afford to take taxis frequently. It turns out that a nonfunctional government can sometimes spur local authorities to take the lead.

Transportation is a basic need, like electricity and water. Just as the latter continue to flow through the pipes and high tension wires on Shabbat and holidays, so transportation must be made available to the public seven days a week. And like water and electricity, transportation is based on a network of lines. The broader the network, the more people it can serve at greater distances. The more dense and more branches the network has, the more diverse destinations it can reach, and the more frequently it runs the more flexible it can be, allowing riders to access it closer to their homes, and to change lines without having to plan ahead.

Transportation is a clear example of a whole being greater than the sum of its parts, which is why every local authority that joins the initiative led by Tel Aviv raises its quality for all the other cities, by making it possible to reach other destinations and improving availability and frequency.

On the other hand, every local authority that doesn’t join undermines the efficiency of the new service. That’s why it’s unfortunate that Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shamah Hacohen decided not to take part. He has thus wronged the residents of neighboring Givatayim and Kiryat Ono, who could have benefited from more frequent service that covers more areas. He has also harmed the residents of Petah Tikva, who are likely to join the new service, but without Ramat Gan it will be less frequent and varied. The ones who will suffer most are all Dan Region residents who might want to visit his city, Ramat Gan, on Shabbat.

The order of the day, therefore, is to join Huldai, as have Givatayim Mayor Ron Kunik, Ramat Hasharon Mayor Avi Gruber and Kiryat Ono Mayor Yisrael Gal.

Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich has hinted that cities joining the new service will get the cold shoulder from his ministry, but no one should yield to his threats. Smotrich knows very well that to carry out any future plans he will have to designate bus lanes, set up depots and build train stations and tracks – none of which he can do without the cooperation of mayors and local council heads. The Transportation Ministry needs them more than they need him. Even the minister knows that his threat is an empty one, meant solely to placate his Shabbat-observant voters.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.