(This is the first post in a series on the subject of public transit in the Jerusalem area. We at AACI would love your questions, comments and suggestions, to be included in a future article. Please contact us.)
“How do I get to Ramat Beit Hakerem?” asked someone at my workplace in Old Katamon the other day.
A colleague who lives in that area replied, “Take the 13 bus to the Central Bus Station, transfer to the light rail to Har Herzl, then there’s another bus.”
“Any idea how long it will take me?”
“A couple of hours. Each way.”
“But I have to be there at 4:00, and it’s already 2:15!!!!??? $%^&*!@#”
Sound familiar? It’s a scene that is being played out all too often as Jerusalemites adjust to our new, improved transit system.
After enduring the snarled traffic and endless delays around Machane Yehuda when all buses were rerouted away from Jaffa Street, most of us were looking to the light rail system, finally up and running following eight months of tests, for relief. Or at least a faster way to get from Point A to Point B. Instead it seems to have brought new headaches, as the eggheads at Egged* cancel, curtail and redirect our old familiar bus routes with apparent haphazardness.
Many situations carry with them a touch of absurdity. Residents of Kiryat Moshe, for example, have a direct route to just about anywhere in the city … except their next-door neighbor Har Nof. Buses heading east from the Central Bus Station (CBS) loop the loop around the shuk, then abruptly detour north to Neviim Street before rambling along the scenic route next to the criminal court. The previously mentioned trip from Old Katamon to Ramat Beit Hakerem, pretty much due west as the crow flies, becomes an arduous elongated U-shaped trek north, west and finally south, approximately FIVE TIMES as long a distance by public transit as by car!
To its credit, the Egged Transit Company does have an excellent website, with English and Russian in addition to the Hebrew. Users have the option of searching by destination or by bus route. Simple to use, it offers detailed information including times of departure and arrival, gate number for buses leaving from the CBS (Tachana Merkazit in Hebrew), stops and fare. I have happily used the site many times to plan my wanderings around Jerusalem and ventures to other areas of the country. (One complaint: The site has no information about the light rail routes. I had to refer to Wikipedia to find a list of stops.) Several months ago, when the website was updated, I found I could no longer use the English version. My question via the site’s Contact Us page brought a very polite phone call from an Egged computer techie, who spoke with me several times at length and eventually fixed the problem, an outcome not to be taken lightly in this country.
If only the people in charge of planning transit routes would display such concern for customer satisfaction!
* NOTE: In the course of researching this subject, I found that it is not actually the “eggheads at Egged” who plan the bus and train routes, but the phrase was too delicious to delete.
When I contacted Egged and explained I was writing an article for Enlgish olim on how to deal with the new transit system, they referred me to “Tochnit-Av Jerusalem Transportation” (Jerusalem Transportation Master Plan Team). “Thank you, could you give me their phone number or contact information?” I innocently inquired. Their verbatim reply: “We do not have it. As an organization, they surely have a website. You can use Google to find such information.”
Alas, I could not.
Two very useful links I did find were:
1. A printable unofficial map of the light rail & the 40 most popular bus routes
2. Extremely detailed maps of both Jerusalem city & suburban bus/rail routes, with the possibility of joining a Facebook group to receive updates.
TO BE CONTINUED
Buses # 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.