By Donalda Shell -
Forty-thousand people stood with the hope of boarding the first 14 light-rail trains Friday afternoon as Jerusalem inaugurated their first light-rail. This is wonderful news for Jerusalem in experiencing the completion of this NIS 4 billion dollar project that has spanned over a decade to complete.
There were obvious technical issues along with delays that were primarily instigated by the huge amount of would-be riders on the first day the light-rail was open for operation. When the train is one-hundred percent operational, it is predicted to carry 100,000 people on any given weekday ranging from 5.30 in the morning past midnight. This is the equivalent to 30 million rides annually.
Train rides on the light-rail were generously offered free to riders on Friday. If you were not fortunate enough to attend the inauguration of the light-rail, there is good news, free rides will continue to be offered during the first two weeks of operation.
Tickets will cost the average rider NIS 6.40; this price is similar to a bus ride to the capital. What makes the tickets for the light-rail such a bargain is that they allow unlimited rides on buses and trains for ninety minutes through the RavKav card.
Excitement was experienced by all who attended the inauguration of the light-rail, including Yehuda Shoshani, the CEO of the CityPass consortium who is quoted as saying “Everyone is excited, this is a real event.” Mr. Shoshani is also quoted stating “This is an historic event, and the happiness of the residents is evident.”
The light-rail is a new, modern green way to travel Israel. This new mode of travel is great news for tourism in Israel. The fare is not only affordable but is providing a wonderful way to support the environment. The outpour of support from the residents is proof that this mode of transportation has not only been highly anticipated but is also greatly appreciated.
There was great concern with the inauguration ceremony due to the previous terrorist attack in the South the day before the event. Due to the terrorist attack, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat cancelled their ride on the train for the opening ceremony. Residents still showed up to support the opening of the light-rail despite the recent terrorist attack.
Even with all the anticipated excitement and hype, some residents are not convinced that the light-rail was a great investment. Some of the complaints from residents were concerns that the light-rail did not serve their neighborhoods which means that the travel services will prove useless to them. Other complaints consisted of labeling the new light-rail mode of travel nothing more than a tourist attraction.
Where there were a large share of complaints and negative statements concerning the new mode of travel, store owners in the area expressed hope that the light-rail will bring in more customers to their businesses.
Some residents complained that local landlords have increased their monthly rents to reflect their location along the light-rail line from NIS 10,000 to NIS 22,000. This is not good for local residents who have had to relocate due to expensive living costs from obvious price-gouging of landlords who have properties along the line.
There were concerns with the light-rail’s passage through Arab neighborhoods such as Beit Hanina and Shuafat. The train passed safely through these neighborhoods without incident. The Arab residents were asked how they felt about the opening of the new rail and one local Arab resident praised the idea of the new rail stating that the new mode of travel will make traveling to the Old City for prayers during Ramadan will make traveling and parking less stressful.Jerusalem, transportation