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Jerusalem’s light rail: CityPass out, CFIR in

CM 21/04/2021

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 After over 10 years of providing light rail service judged by residents and activists as far from the best that it could be, CityPass has left Jerusalem amid great frustration and disappointment over how the new form of public transportation could have brought far greater change.

However, in under a week since CityPass was replaced by Cfir in running the Red Line, the only light-rail service operating thus far in in the capital, some interesting changes have already arrived with the new management.
In this regard, Mayor Moshe Lion seems poised to seize the moment to upgrade the service. It has been decided that the light rail will maintain expanded hours during the summer season, providing 24-hour service during weekends, meaning all night from Thursday night to Friday morning and Saturday night to Sunday morning. 
A significant number of city council members, municipal officials and activists were involved in bringing an end to the contract with CityPass, as dissatisfaction with its services grew. With the issuing of the new tender, a dramatic change includes an end to the ban on bus service in certain areas that could provide an alternative to the light rail. 
A central sticking point that had angered passengers was that under the terms dictated by CityPass, those traveling – for example – between the central bus station and Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem were forced to take the light rail from the city’s entrance to Mt. Herzl, get off there at was is the final stop on the rail route, then board an Egged 27 bus for the rest of the trip to Hadassah.
Now, however, that arrangement of waiting for public transportation twice during the course of the trip will no longer be necessary. With the entry of Cfir, bus companies can propose solutions of their own for making the trip more efficient. 
Another solution said to be on the way is the introduction of more train cars. CityPass based the number of cars in each train on figures of how many passengers traveled on the light rail a decade ago. Yet current figures show that the number of passengers jumped over the years from 90,000 to nearly 150,000 each day.

Despite this, CityPass refused to purchase and add cars to the trains, creating packed conditions at busier times throughout the day – a situation exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, when Health Ministry regulations prohibited filling the cars to capacity, and many passengers were left at the station hoping for room on the next train. 
Yossi Saidov, a public transportation activist and a member of the board of the Gonenim community council, says this change is a true illustration of what dedicated activism on the part of residents can achieve.
“It took us years to reach this goal, but here we are now, and the major achievement is that this new company, Cfir – formed by an Israeli company specializing in transportation and infrastructure, and its Spanish partner, CAF, specializing in the means to provide such transportation – both have in mind the needs of public transportation and the means to provide it, and not only to make a profit; this is a tremendous step in the right direction to serve the public.” 
Elad Malka, a city councilman from the Hitorerut party who has long followed issues of traffic and public transportation in Jerusalem, says this is an important turning point toward ensuring Jerusalem residents receive what they really need in terms of transportation. 
He cited the ability to now provide other forms of public transportation in places where the light rail also runs as “the best news,” calling the change a “true public service.”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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