The organization of transit services in Israel can be a bit confounding to people who are not familiar with how everything comes together. It used to be that Egged basically had a monopoly in every part of the country except Tel Aviv, where the Dan Bus Company had a monopoly of its own. Both companies were overseen by the Ministry of Transportation, and they received significant subsidies from the Israeli government to support their operations. During Benjamin Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister in the late 1990s, he proposed privatizing transit services and increasing competition by allowing other companies, including those that had not operated in Israel previously, to bid on tenders for specific services that would be put out by the Transportation Ministry. Egged went on strike to protest this change and brought all of Israel to a halt, but the march towards privatization and increased competition had begun. Today, the Transportation Ministry puts out tenders for companies to bid on. The company with the best bid package for that tender wins the right to operate those routes for a set number of years, at which point a new tender is made available for bidding for the next contract duration.
As of this writing, there are 26 companies providing transportation services under the auspices of the Ministry of Transportation, including the Carmelit in Haifa, Citipass (which operates the Jerusalem Light Rail), Israel Railways, the Golan Regional Council (which operates the transit service in the Golan Heights) and seven bus operators in East Jerusalem. In response to a query on a Facebook group that I am a part of, I used a recent GTFS data feed download, I mapped out the starting point for each transit route in the country, and color coded those points by operator. You can see the results of that here:
Operators in certain parts of the country have changed over time. For example, Ashkelon intracity lines have been operated by Dan BaDarom since 2016, but before that they were operated by Egged Ta’avurah and before that by Egged itself. The bus routes in Tiberias were operated by Connex (Veolia) until that company ceased operations within Israel, at which point those services were transferred to Afikim and are now operated by Superbus.
As you play with the highlighter and filters on the map above, what patterns or trends do you see? Feel free to post any observations and/or questions you have about the map above in the comments section on this post.