Rail Photo of the Month: July 2019

Alstom Citadis 302 020

Alstom Citadis 302 020

Location: Derech Yafo (Jaffa Road) at Shlomtzion HaMalka, Jerusalem, Israel
Operator of Vehicle: Citipass
Date of Photo: June 2, 2016

Summer in Jerusalem means there’s a pretty good chance there’s a festival or two taking place in the evenings, and my favorite of them all is currently ongoing.  The Jerusalem Light Festival, which has taken place each summer since 2009, will be illuminating the Old City of Jerusalem through Thursday evening, July 4.  As a photographer, it is lots of fun to wander through the Old City and around its walls, capturing the dazzling displays which are so different than what one typically sees when traversing these areas any other week of the year.  In 2016, the festival extended down Jaffa Road towards the present day city center, and some of the the light rail trains themselves got in on the fun by having strings of lights placed along their rooflines.  Here is a photo of one of those trains passing by a model Eiffel Tower.  If you’re able to catch one of the remaining nights of the festival, I highly recommend it!

For more photos of the Jerusalem Light Rail, please click here.

Bus Photo of the Month: January 2019

MAN NG-313 37192

MAN NG-313 37192

Location: Arlozorov Terminal (2000 Terminal), Tel Aviv, Israel
Operator of Vehicle: Egged
Date of Photo: December 8, 2009

The “New” Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv gets a lot of attention from the transitfan, urban planning, and architecture communities, generally for all the wrong reasons.  As a result, those who can avoid traveling through the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station do so when they can, opting instead to use Arlozorov Terminal, adjacent to the Tel Aviv Central Railway Station.  Unlike most major bus terminals in Israel, the Arlozorov Terminal is not located in a large building that also contains retail and other space in the transit terminal.  Instead, it is open air, has no building, and passengers just walk straight in from the street to their platform.  (This also means there is no security check prior to boarding the bus, unlike at just about every other major bus terminal in the country.)  Although perhaps it is a bit utilitarian, it is certainly the easier of the two major intercity terminals to use in Tel Aviv.  Recently, a reconstruction project has taken place here, and the new and improved terminal layout with boarding location changes and the like is officially being implemented today.  It will still be superior to the Central Bus Station (how could it not?) but perhaps a little less trecherous for pedestrians trying to reach the bus platforms in the middle of the terminal to get to where they want to go.

For more photos of the buses in Tel Aviv, please click here.

Bus Photo of the Month: November 2018

Mercedes-Benz OC500 42044

Mercedes-Benz OC500 42044

Location: Route 40 between Har HaAyit and Neot Smadar, Israel
Operator of Vehicle: Egged
Date of Photo: November 13, 2011

What is the most surprising place you’ve found public transit services?  There have been quite a few times in my travels over the years I’ve seen a bus stop in a seemingly random place and wondered how much service really comes out here and how many people actually board or alight here.  Although it makes up over 55 percent of Israel’s land area, the Negev desert is home to only about 8 percent of its population.  Yet there are bus stops throughout the desert and considering the low population densities and distances between places, many routes operate a minimum of four to five trips per day.  Why so much service?  Much of the land is used by the Israeli Army, and soldiers ride free on public transit, so they take buses to and from their bases.  In addition, the resort town of Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city, has regular service to cities in the central and northern parts of the country in order to cater to vacationers.  Besides the bus, the most common ways to travel to Eilat are by plane (expensive and inconvenient for anyone not coming from Tel Aviv) or driving (on two lane roads through miles upon miles of desert).  Needless to say, the bus is a popular option, and reservations are recommended for the buses to and from Eilat.  

Why do I say those are the most common ways of getting to Eilat?  When I took this photo, I was on an organized bike ride that ended in Eilat.  It might not be the way most people get there, but it does create opportunities to get photos of buses as they cross the desert.  

For more photos of Egged Intercity Buses in Southern Israel, please click here.

Mapping Each Israeli Transit Operator’s Service Area

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.

Oren’s Reading List: A Train Ride Back to the Old Israel

About one month ago, after many delays and some fanfare, Israel Railways inaugurated service on the new Tel Aviv-Jerusalem High Speed Rail line, the first time that Israel’s capital city is connected to the rest of the country by a train line that is actually competitive with driving.  However, for reasons that can only be explained as politicking, the line is open despite not being ready for full operations just yet.  Trains are operating every half hour on weekdays between Jerusalem and Ben Gurion Airport, at which point passengers must transfer to another train in order to continue the rest of the way to Tel Aviv.  The power substations along the line are temporary, and several trains have gotten stuck along the line with passengers on board when the temporary electrical system is extended beyond its capabilities.  The line does not operate evenings and weekends so crews can finish the line and bring it to full operational status, which will take longer than it would if the crews could work 24/6 instead of needing to clear the tracks for revenue service each weekday.  Eventually, the trip between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv will take 35 minutes and not require a change of trains.

One question I’ve often received over the past few years while this new line is being constructed is what does the future hold for the old Tel Aviv-Jerusalem train line?  This line was constructed by the Ottomans and opened in 1892, and despite the fact it takes well over 90 minutes to travel between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and carries few passengers, it has been in operation ever since the line was reopened following extensive repairs and the construction of a new terminal at Malha in Jerusalem in 2005.  While this train route may not be the fastest way to get between these cities, it is quite pretty, as the train winds its way through the hills.  However, the beautiful scenery along the route will not be enough to save the line; the segment between Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem is likely to be closed at some point in the future after the new high speed line is fully operational.

Last week in the New York Times, Matti Friedman wrote about why he prefers the old Ottoman era train route over the new high speed route.  You can read his piece here. And if you find yourself in Israel with enough time to take the scenic train route on your way to or from Jerusalem, do so.  You won’t have the chance for too much longer…

Bus Photo of the Month: August 2018

Yutong ZK6121HQ

Yutong ZK6121HQ

Location: Sheva Hayim at Sderot Golda, Jerusalem, Israel
Operator of Vehicle: Afikim
Date of Photo: May 25, 2018

For many years, the Israeli bus scene has been dominated by European manufacturers.  For much of the 21st century, this has meant that most buses are built by companies such as Mercedes-Benz, MAN, Volvo, and VDL.  However, this is starting to change.  In recent years, Israeli bus companies have begun ordering buses from two Chinese manufacturers.  Yutong, which was founded in 1963, makes buses such as the one seen here.  Golden Dragon, another Chinese manufacturer founded in 1992, has also delivered units to Israeli companies.  Chinese buses aren’t new to the Middle East, as many of Israel’s neighbors have been ordering Chinese buses for some time.  However, they are new to Israel and part of a rapidly diversifying bus scene as other companies such as Solaris break in to this market as well.

For more photos of Jerusalem area Afikim buses, please click here.

New Photos from Israel & Washington, DC Added

The summer travel season is well underway, and photos from my adventures in May and June are now available for your viewing pleasure here on Oren’s Transit Page.

Most of the new content can be found in the Israel section, where you will find new photos of the Jerusalem Light Rail, Egged buses in Jerusalem (including the Solaris Urbino 18 unit currently on trial), Egged Ta’avura buses in Jerusalem, Afikim buses in Jerusalem, Kavim buses in Jerusalem, and Superbus buses in both Jerusalem and Tiberias.  If you haven’t been to Israel lately, with the entry of the Golden Dragon and Yutong bus models from China and Solaris buses from Poland in to the Israeli market, there is quite a bit of diversity in Israeli operators’ fleets beyond the typical MAN and Mercedes-Benz buses that have dominated the scene for years.  You can also find photos of the exterior of the new Jerusalem High Speed Railway station (the interior of the much delayed station will be open to the public this fall if you believe the latest rumors).

In addition, new photos of various WMATA equipment types have been added as well.

Here is the complete list of pages with new photos in this update:

“Buses”: An Exhibit at the Israel Museum

Last month, I visited Guy Marco Shani’s exhibition, which is entitled Buses, at the Israel Museum.  You can read an explanation of what the exhibit is about on the Israel Museum’s website.  I enjoyed the exhibit, but not for the reasons I expected.  For me, the exhibit turned out to be a sensory experience involving more than just my eyes as I walked through the space.  Have you visited it, and if so, what were your impressions?

Buses is on display at the Israel Museum through October 31, 2018. Click here for more information about the exhibit, museum hours, and more.

Rail Photo of the Month: January 2018

Alstom Citadis 302 003

Alstom Citadis 302 003

Location: Hatzanchanim Street, Jerusalem, Israel
Operator of Vehicle: Citipass
Date of Photo: June 2, 2016

Jerusalem has been in the news quite a bit lately.  Despite what you may see in the press, life goes on in what you would likely consider to be a normal way in this extraordinary complex city, and thousands use the city’s public transportation system to travel between home, work, school, shopping, and other destinations.  The light rail line that opened in 2011 is a rolling melting pot used by all the sectors of the city’s population.  At pretty much any time of day at any point along the line, you’ll be crammed in to a car with secular Jews, ultra-Orthodox Jews, Arabs, Palestinians, and tourists.  The light rail line serves a variety of different neighborhoods, including the Arab neighborhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanina, as well as the city center.  While there is a notable security presence and the Alstom Citadis 302 rolling stock used in Jerusalem had some special modifications made to it in the interest of counter-terrorism, aside from a brief service suspension due to safety issues in 2014, incidents of violence on the light rail have been few and far between.  Jerusalem is a fascinating city that should be on your potential traveling destinations for a host of reasons, and if you’re a transit fan, the light rail gives you an additional one.  

For more photos of the Jerusalem Light Rail, please click here

Bus Photo of the Month: October 2017

Leyland RT intercity bus

Leyland RT Intercity Bus

Location: Egged Historical Center, Holon, Israel
Operator of Vehicle: Egged
Date of Photo: April 1, 2010

Many places have transit museums to commemorate the vehicles and systems of old, and Israel is no exception to this.  Its largest bus operator, Egged, operates the Egged Historical Center in a corner of its bus depot in Holon, just outside Tel Aviv.  Until recently, it was known as the Egged Museum, which is probably a more apt description of the attraction.  It consists of over 60 buses and other vehicles that have been preserved and are on display to the public during the museum’s opening hours.  This bus was built by Leyland in 1963 on a Greek chassis, earning it the nickname Yavaniya (lit: Greek woman).  Egged operated 50 of these buses for about 10 years, at which point they were withdrawn from service.  In the photo, you can see the continuation of the line of buses on display at the museum.  If you’re a transit fan and you find yourself in Israel, provided you can get to the museum while it is open, it is definitely worth a visit. 

The Egged Historical Society is located in the bus depot at the corner of Moshe Dayan and Dan Shomron.  At the time of this posting, the museum is open to the public on Friday mornings from 8 AM until noon and also during the intermediate days of Sukkot (October 8-10, 2017) and Passover from 8 AM until 12:30 PM.  The museum can be reached by taking a short bus ride from central Tel Aviv, and since September 2011, it is also accessible by Israel Railways’s Bat Yam-Kommemiyut Station.  From Jerusalem, one should travel to Rishon LeTzion and take a local bus to the museum from there.

For more photos from the Egged Historical Society, please click here.