Haifa is unique among Israeli cities in a variety of ways, and this description can be extended to the city’s public transit. Haifa has Israel’s only and the Middle East’s first subway system, which has the additional distinction of being the smallest subway system in the world. Haifa also has Israel’s first bus rapid transit network and is even considering complementing these modes with cable cars.
The Carmelit was opened in 1958. At 1.1 miles long with just 6 stations, it is the world’s smallest subway. However, this distinction has not garnered ridership, as annual ridership tallies only came out to about 732,000 passengers in 2012. This is because the city has expanded in such a way that the Carmelit does not serve the needs of most citizens. The system was closed in 1986 for an extensive renovation, and some suggested that it would not be worthwhile to reopen the subway, but the Carmelit did reopen in 1992. Since then, proposals have been made to expand the system, but none have come to fruition. Most recently, the Carmelit was shut down again after a fire at the Paris Square station caused significant damage to one of the trains and the tunnel. A request for tenders to repair the system has been issued but service is suspended until that work is tendered and completed.
Buses within Haifa are operated solely by Egged. Following the opening of the HaMifratz and Hof HaCarmel bus stations on the city’s outskirts in 2002 and 2003 respectively, the old Central Bus Station at Bat Galim was closed and bus routes were reorganized to serve the new bus stations instead. In addition, intercity routes now terminate at these outlying terminals, so they do not have to run through the congested downtown to reach the old station. Combined with the Carmel Tunnels that opened underneath the city in 2010, this arrangement allows many passengers to bypass downtown and reach their destinations more directly.
More recently, the Metronit, the Haifa area’s bus rapid transit system, opened to passengers on August 16, 2013. The 25 mile long network has three lines and extends to the suburbs of Kiryat Motzkin, Kiryat Ata, Kiryat Yam, Kiryat Hayim, and Kiryat Shmuel. The Metronit uses dedicated lanes with signal prioritization for much of its length. Passengers also pay their fares prior to boarding the buses, which reduces dwell times. Unlike the local intracity services that are operated by Egged, Metronit is operated by a subsidiary of the Dan Bus Company.
Most Israeli public transportation does not operate during the Jewish Sabbath (sundown Friday to nightfall Saturday) or on Jewish holidays. However, Haifa is unique in offering limited bus service during Shabbat, and the Metronit’s Line 1 has the distinction of being the only 24/7 line in all of Israel. (However, there are exceptions to this, even the Haifa bus lines stop operating on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.)
The Carmelit is one of the world's smallest subways. If one does considers the Istanbul Tunnel (2 stations, 0.573 km/0.35 miles) to be a part of the larger, sepaprate Istanbul subway, then the Carmelit is the smallest subuway in the world. It is an underground funicular system with 6 stations along a single track, 1.8 km (1.1 miles) line. The system's rolling stock roster consists of just 4 cars and two trains. It takes no more than 8 minutes to ride the entire line.
The Carmelit originally opened in 1956, and was closed in 1986 for extensive renovations. It reopened in 1992, but has little ridership (about 2,000 papssengers per day) and has been losing money ever since that reopening. The line was shut down again following a fire on February 4, 2017 that caused significant damage to one of the trains. The shutdown was also used to refurbish the control center and other system components. The Carmelit reopened in October 2018. There have been extension propopsals so that the system would serve a larger part of the city; others have suggested that the Carmelit be shut down entirely.
Today, the trains operate about every 10 minutes from 6 AM to 10 PM Sunday-Thursday, 6 AM to 3 PM on Friday and holiday eves, 7 PM or after the Jewish Sabbath ends until 10 PM on Saturdays, 6 AM to 2 PM on Passover eve, 6 AM to 1 PM on Yom Kippur eve, and is closed on Yom Kippur Day.
Each station has two platforms on each side of the single track, although at B'nei Tzion and Masada, only one platform (the western platform) is actually in use. At the stations with two usable platforms, passengers board the train from the eastern platform (on the right hand side as the train heads downhill towards Downtown and Paris Square) and exit on the western platform. Each station has an easily recognizable yellow canopy over the stairways leading into the system, with a pylon indication the trains' locations nearby. Stations are not handicapped accessible (the platforms and trains both have stairs) but many station have an escalator for going up.
Each train is two cars long. Like on many European systems, doors are manually opened at each station by the push of a button, or they can all be opened by the train operator. The train operator also closes the doors, although he does not operate the train. Both trains begin to move automatically once they have finished their station stops. Because the subway is a funicular, the trains are always either both in motion or both at a stop.
Metronit is the Haifa area's bus rapid transit system. It opened on August 16, 2013 after being constructed at a cost of 1.5 billion NIS (approximately 400 million USD). The Dan Bus Company operates Metronit using a fleet of 90 18.75 meter long MAN NG-363F articulated buses on three routes, each starting in Haifa and operating to the Krayot. Each line features exclusive lanes, off-board payment systems, and traffic signal priority. Thirty million people rode Metronit in its first year.