There was only a 4-percent increase in the use of public transportation this year, compared to the passenger count in the years 2013 through 2015, a poll by the Geocartigraphia polling organization said. During the previous three years, bus ridership rose 25 percent, according to the poll, which was presented this week at a transportation conference in Israel.
The three largest consumer groups for the buses are chareidim, retirees and students, and of the three, only chareidim rode the buses more this year than last. 55 percent of chareidim are regular bus riders, and 16 percent of them increased their use of buses this year compared to the period 2013-2015. Israelis age 65 and older, on the other hand, were 23 percent less likely to ride buses this year than compared to the previous period.
Overall, 14 percent of Israelis 18 and over said they increased their bus ridership this year, compared to 10 percent who said they rode the buses less.
Train ridership, as well, was flat. 2 percent more Israelis used the trains in 2016, compared to a growth rate of 25 percent between 2013 and 2015. Overall, 13 percent more people were using the trains more often, while 11 percent were using them less.
The results, according to Geocartagraphia director Professor Avi Degani, indicate that policies to improve Israel’s road system have improved, as the people who are not relying on public transportation to get around were perforce driving or taking taxis. “The government has invested billions on upgrading the road system, while investment in the public transportation system has been minimal, and it shows. The direct result is a mass infusion of new vehicles, further choking the roads with traffic.”
Commenting on the poll, MK Dov Hanin (United Arab List), chairperson of the Knesset Subcommittee on Public Transportation, called for a major overhaul in how money for transportation was spent in Israel. “Adding more roads will not solve the traffic problems, without a similar development plan for public transportation,” said Hanin. “The more roads, the more cars people buy, and the more traffic and pollution is created. This is a ridiculous cycle, and the only way to break it is to give priority to public transportation. There are some great solutions out there. We just have to decide to utilize them.”