Not Just Metro: Where is the Future of Public Transportation in Israel?

Globes

June 13, 2019

One of the burning issues in recent years in the State of Israel concerns public transport infrastructure.
More specifically, the construction of mass transit systems in the most crowded areas, especially in the Dan region, and how to use them optimally. Activities in this area have been done and done: In 2011, the red line of the light rail in Jerusalem and the metro in Haifa, which is a BRT bus Rapid Transfer system, based on high-capacity buses were launched. In addition, work on the light rail, which will pass above and below ground, is underway.

“When looking at public transport solutions, we look at the complex,” explains Yaron Ravid, CEO of Citizens Light Rail in Jerusalem. He adds, “[who] will give up their private vehicle. The challenge is to create a situation where people will be more lucrative in terms of time – from their home door to their destination, to travel on public transport. To this end, better connectivity and synchronization between all modes of public transport must also work, which is one of the biggest challenges facing the Israeli government in the field of transport.”

Despite the important targets set by Ravid, the Ministry of Transport data, compared with the OECD data and other data in the world, show that while in some cities the percentage of public transport users is 40%, in Israel it ranges from 10% to 15%. 280,000 new vehicles get on the road every year and the problem of congestion is only getting worse. So what, then, are we doing in the world to promote and access public transport and where in Israel can we see buds of change?

Paris – Metro and more

Paris has a broad infrastructure for mass transit, which, along with buses, also includes the highway (RER) and of course the metro, which is famous for the various systems. The Metro has made significant changes in Paris since its inception in the 19th century. He connected with the metropolitan center of the city suburbs that were previously logistically detached, expanding their cultural, occupational and economic development. All this while reducing unemployment rates in these areas by tens of percent.

Although Metro Paris works well, it is not necessarily the ideal solution for mass transit anywhere else in the world. On one hand, the subway operates underground, and does not interfere with traffic and traffic jams. However, it is more suited to a huge metropolis such as Paris, where more than two millions citizens live, making more than 1.5 billion trips a year, according to the French Ministry of Transport. But, what about other cities where passenger traffic is significantly less? “The cost of one metro line is about twice the cost of a light rail line,” explains Ravid. Which actually means that instead of one metro line, a number of light rail lines can be paved. Therefore, in cities where there is less travel than Paris, and their underground space saturated with archeological finds, the solution of a subway may be less lucrative. In addition, the execution time required for tunnel mining is longer and therefore many times prefer light trains on the ground.

Los Angeles, one of the pioneers of the BRT

Alongside the heavy rail (such as the Israel Railroad), the subway and the light rail, another mass transit solution is the BRT, which was adopted by Los Angeles. As part of the BRT solution, there is no need to pave a dedicated track on the ground, but a separate travel route. The BRT system, which consists of large capacity buses, was established in Los Angeles in 2005. It operates on two major lines, the silver and the orange, along routes between 35-61 miles. One of the reasons for establishing the Los Angeles-based system was the need to connect areas in the city where the infrastructure did not justify investing in underground underground excavation. However, they still required dedicated routes for high-capacity buses in terms of traffic loads. Research on the Los Angeles public transportation system shows that every dollar spent on the city’s BRT system will generate about $ 3.5 per economy. It also contributed to the welfare of the residents, the expansion of the supply of jobs in the city and more.

The BRT is a quick setup and lower costs compared to other transport solutions, such as metro and light rail. In addition, the BRT system allows for great flexibility of route changes and diversion of buses to alternate routes, while the railways can travel solely on the tracks. So if the travel route is blocked, the train cannot move. On the other hand, the BRT can only cater for about 140 passengers on each trip. This compares with other solutions such as light rail and subway which are valued at hundreds of passengers on each trip. Also, in most cases, the BRT system has no priority in the traffic light system and is “waiting in red” just like any other vehicle.

Jerusalem – The light rail is upgrading the city

In Jerusalem, Light Rail Transport (LRT) was launched in 2011 by Citypes, with the operation and maintenance of Connect Jerusalem . The light rail gets a train there because it travels on a rail. However, it is adapted to fit within the urban space, without interfering with the existing fabric of pedestrians, cars, pedestrians and roads. By its nature, the light rail is suitable for major cities in Israel, and for Jerusalem in particular, where population size and passenger traffic are not in the scope of metropolitan areas such as London and Paris.

Despite the difficulties experienced by the program at the outset and the birth defects, today the light rail program is considered a breakthrough and even serves as an example and role model for other cities in Israel. This is especially so in light of its success in addressing local Jerusalem challenges – weather, security and more. The foreign ministries and transport also present it as an efficient and pioneering solution in Israel, in the desire to be adopted in other cities in the country.

Moreover, the effectiveness of the light rail in Jerusalem, as can be seen below, has led the country to promote the establishment of a similar system in Gush Dan – where the light rail will act as a major mass transit solution, alongside subway-style subway tracks and three BRT lines to complement the metropolitan transport network.

“We gained the knowledge we gained to operate the light rail around the world, thanks to our membership in the International Transport Organization and our relationship with companies like Siemens, Elstom, Bombardier, and more. Today the light rail in Jerusalem is a product that doesn’t exist anywhere in the world. 150 subcontractors are responsible for transporting about 170,000 people a day, about 45 million a year, which is a lot,”he adds. “Connecting Jerusalem with the Quality and Excellence Award from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Israeli Standards Institute.”

Operating the light rail in Jerusalem is not a matter of that, according to Shechtman. “There are many varied challenges in light rail operation, which crosses the surface and is part of the urban fabric. In Jerusalem, every few days there are ceremonies, events, huge demonstrations that can block train tracks, marches and more. The issue of vehicles blocking the track or suspicious objects may also be delayed. We make sure to operate a service that is also adapted for special days such as Memorial Day and Independence Day, with the aim of providing the best for residents and passengers, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Transport, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israel Police. It’s made possible by our dedicated employees, “he adds.

At the same time, in the eight years that the light rail has been operating in the city, it has made many changes in a variety of areas, including to the public transport in the city. One of the most notable, for example, is the reduction of noise and air pollution from old-fashioned cars and buses, a small number following the transition to electrified public transport. But that is not the only change. “The historic downtown of Jerusalem runs through the triangle of King George, Ben Yehuda and Jaffa Boulevard.” Ravid says, “This place concentrates on all the city’s trading activities, but it grew in the years before the construction of the light rail, partly because of its obsolescence, and the development of shopping malls in the city, but also because the public transport to the area was not convenient. This, he became more accessible to more people and came back to life. Another change the city has undergone is accessibility for disabled people. For example: “Passengers with a wheelchair who live at the summit of Ze’ev – a very inaccessible area in the past – can now leave home.”

In addition to all these, although the light rail travels on a separate rail, it fits into the fabric of urban life and does not cross the streets it traverses, in two. Furthermore, global studies highlight the potential impact of mass transit transportation solutions, such as light rail, on the prices of nearby properties. For example, in cities such as London, Manchester and Paris, properties adjacent to subway stations and light rail have risen by 5% -10% higher than parallel areas in the city.

Bottom line, reviewing mass transit transportation solutions in the various cities brings up one notable finding: heavy rail, light rail, metro or BRT – each city has the solutions that fit its unique texture. Either way, the solution lies not only in choosing one system at the expense of another. The solution includes networking of the entire city in a mass transit system, so that the point of arrival of people from point to point is significantly reduced.