Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Public Bus Crisis in Judea and Samaria


I guess I am the only one who remembers the Israeli government promising bus service in order to quell the possibility of abductions and terrorist attacks at the hitch-hiking stations in Yesha?

I guess those aren't important considerations any more--after all, the government has done nothing to return the abducted soldiers, so who cares if a few Yesha "settlers" are abducted, right?

by Hillel Fendel

(IsraelNN.com) Residents of Judea and Samaria, where public bus transportation is an integral part of day-to-day life, are finding it increasingly difficult to count on the Egged public bus cooperative's schedule. Too often it happens, they say, that a scheduled bus simply does not arrive.

It happened three times to one family visiting a Yesha town from the United States this month, twice in two days to siblings from a local family, and countless other times to everyone's friend, neighbor and family members. Everyone, it seems, has a story involving waiting times of an hour or more.

Who can do something about it? Beit El resident Chani Luz, who has been keeping track of no-show buses for close to a year, says it's hard to pin down anyone. "The basic problem is the lack of enough bulletproof buses," she says, "but meanwhile no one is taking up the gauntlet to solve the problem."

Local municipal officials complain to the Egged bus company, which says it is currently negotiating with both the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Transportation regarding how to pay for the bullet-proofing of additional buses. The negotiations are not expected to end any time soon, and transportation for Yesha residents continues to be difficult.

Egged spokesman Ron Rattner told Arutz-7, "The number of bulletproof buses in the service of Egged, for use in areas defined by the security establishment as 'sensitive,' is close to 100... It is only natural that the frequency of buses on these lines, as well as the ability to follow the timetables, is influenced by the number of buses, as well as other factors that are not in our control."

Help from Rachel's Tomb
Another Egged spokesman, Aryeh Frankel, added that the recent relaxation of the requirement for reinforced buses to Rachel's Tomb should help alleviate the problem. He admitted, however, that this will add only a small number of buses to the supply.

Another solution being considered is for Egged to rent out the bulletproof buses used by the various local regional authorities. No progress has yet been reported on this front, however.

Some residents feel that the issue is largely political. Yehudit Katzover of the Kiryat Arba Task Force said, "They know that without public transportation, there is no life here - so this is one of the methods they are employing to get us to leave Judea and Samaria."

Unplumbed Waiting Times
Arutz-7 asked if, in the meanwhile, there was any way to notify passengers in advance regarding canceled buses: "Given the fact that reinforced buses are in low supply, can't passengers be notified in advance of a canceled bus, so that mothers can nurse and children can go to the bathroom without having to worry that a bus might arrive in those short minutes?"

Rattner, in a written statement, responded, "It is recommended that passengers check our internet site, or the national information center by dialing *2800, for the latest updated information."

Frankel added: "At the moment, we do not have a precise picture of where every one of our buses is at any given moment - but we hope to have a GPS room ready for this very purpose in a matter of months." Until then, he agrees, the internet-phone solution is the best Egged can offer.

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