Gov't Okays Higher Parking Fees to Boost Public Transportation

Local authorities have been authorized to raise parking garage rates to encourage public transportation usage. The socioeconomic cabinet, chaired by Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, okayed the finance and interior ministries to implement the legislative changes, following Netanyahu's recommendation to regulate the public transportation sector.

The Finance Ministry announced a decision that the finance and transportation ministers would submit amendments to encourage public transportation following the port authorities and rail law to regulate the division of Israel Railways and the port authorities.

The cabinet also authorized the transportation minister to make arrangements for issuing integrated public transport tickets allowing commuters to transfer between rail and bus lines operated by different companies.

The number of rail passengers in August 2004 jumped 24 percent from the August 2003 level, totaling 2.2 million. Some 15 million passengers have traveled on trains since January, representing an 18 percent growth over the parallel period last year, according to Israel Railways figures.

The Tel Aviv-Rosh Ha'ayin-Kfar Sava line has increased capacity most dramatically - 44 percent - to 161,000 in August. The line usage is up 14 percent for the year to 1.1 million.

Train usage has risen across the board, the August statistics reveal. The Haifa-Nahariya line enjoyed 26 percent more riders to 175,000 in August, bearing 175,000 passengers for the year. 57,000 riders took the rejuvenated Ramle-Beit Shemesh in August; around 390,000 have taken that line this year.

"We expect 23 million passengers will ride trains in 2004. The train line to Ben-Gurion Airport is expected to open in October 2004," said Israel Railways CEO Yossi Mor, adding, "Israel Railways will operate a new schedule which will run 288 passenger trains a day as opposed to 260 a day currently. Israel Railways has focused since the beginning of the year on the goal of running on time as a principal part of improving its service to passengers."