This and That

Random bits of my life

Who is CityPass? And Why Are We Stuck with Them for 30 Years?

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 28, 2012

CitiPass site in Hebrew

There has been some misunderstanding about who or what CityPass actually is. You need to know who they are because we are stuck with them for the next thirty years. Read on….

CityPass (not to be mistaken for CityPASS, the American company) is a consortium that was formed specifically to build and operate the Jerusalem Light Rail. Its membership is as follows (source: Calcalist):

Last Thursday the Ministry of Transportation granted full operating authority to CityPass. The contract is for 30 years. You can read the general details in this Globes article.

CityPass is not the Jerusalem Municipality and it doesn’t care about your rights as a passenger. CityPass is a conglomeration of businesses trying to a lot of money in as little time as possible. Your NIS 6.60 ticket doesn’t keep them running. Your NIS 186.60 fine does. The CityPass ticket inspectors, I’ve been told, are required to fulfil a quota of fines (“duchot” in Hebrew), so if you see a huge grin on an inspector’s face as he writes your fine, it’s not your imagination. CityPass has had a lot of financial problems because ticketing problems forced them to run the train for free during the first months of operation. Now they’re recouping their losses, at our expense — and they still have ticketing problems.

What are your chances of being fined? Very high if you are a tourist, a non-Hebrew speaker, elderly, Arab, or from out of town. If you live in Jerusalem and use the system regularly, your chances are lower because you know how to validate your ticket but you can still incur a fine if the ticket reader is broken or locked (a friend of mine was on a train last Saturday evening and discovered all four ticket readers in the car were locked; she was lucky an inspector did not board her car), if the ticket reading machine did not read your Rav Kav card properly, or if you boarded the train and then discovered that you did not have any rides left on your Rav Kav.

It is not possible to buy a ticket once you’ve boarded the train.

It is not possible to buy a ticket from an inspector.

It is not possible to explain to the inspector that you made a mistake or ran out of rides or that the ticket reader was not working. You will receive a fine (NIS 186.60 or $50) because that’s how the inspectors keep their jobs.

The system is designed so that a large number of new users will make mistakes. Paper tickets do not have terms or conditions printed on them, so you have no way of knowing that they are valid only for one day. The ticket selling machines do not tell you this condition and the only notice is in a verbose Hebrew poster (photo below). The notice does not appear in other languages. You might find it on their Web site if you’re fast enough with your iPhone! Rav Kav cards don’t tell you how many rides are left. The card reading machine on the train has a yellow display with light grey dots. When you validate your card or ticket, a message will flash on at lightning speed and then disappear. If you are standing too close or too far away or you’re not fast enough at reading the message, well, too bad. These machines do not provide receipts to indicate that your ticket validation was successful. There is a beep and a light but you may miss them if you’re distracted. I didn’t notice them the first two times I went on the train. The “success” and “failure” beeps are similar, but at slightly different pitches. If you’re boarding a quiet train you might hear the difference.

Update: Originally I had a section here on CityPass’s Web site. I’ve moved it to its own posting.

Unless you are adept at reading Hebrew and able to take in information very quickly, your chances of knowing the conditions of your tickets are not high. Here is the CityPass information. It is displayed four times at the Central Bus Station, with empty sign posts between. You’d think they would rent the space or add posters in other languages, but, no, that would probably reduce the incidence of fines.

If you are able to read Hebrew, I strongly recommend that you click on the photo below (on the Flickr site, right-click and choose “Original Size” ) and read it at your leisure, because you may not even get close to the poster at a crowded train stop.

CityPass poster

Note the empty sign posts between ticket machines (Jerusalem Central Bus Station):

Jerusalem Light Rail, Central Bus Station

While the train is operating it is difficult to get close enough to the posters to read them. The ticket machines (if they’re operating) have long lines and people are clustered by the benches, under the shelter. I had to wait for a train to pull out of the station in order to take this photo.

Jerusalem Light Rail, Central Bus Station

I apologize to readers who follow my blog for its photography content. I will post the Carmel wildflower photos soon!

As for the Jerusalem Light Rail situation, I plan to blog soon about your rights and what you can do if you are harassed or intimidated by a ticket inspector or receive an unwarranted fine.

4 Responses to “Who is CityPass? And Why Are We Stuck with Them for 30 Years?”

  1. Issy Ruvein said

    Avital – I have not visited in Israel, yet I share your frustration present in this article.

    First, let me say that the concept of light rail for Israel is a wonderful addition to the infrastructure and provides a new alternative mode of transport for Israelis and visitors. The obvious economic benefits are very important to the population and to the government.

    The business implementation of this light rail system is another matter altogether. The multiple company ownership that you have identified is the root of the problem as you see it. The question is, what other orientation is better, if any ?

    I encourage you to look at the transport model in the Netherlands. In a nutshell … what they have done is taken a fantastic government monopoly in the form of a multi-modal transport system that evolved over many decades and put it into the greedy hands of private investors similar to what you have described in Israel. (Veolia is also one of the players in that geography.)

    This system worked well and as transport technology progressed, the Dutch Government entities including Nederlands Spoorwegen (NS, GVB, etc.), made appropriate upgrade/replacement decisions and implemented changes very well as not to disrupt their main purpose – public transport.

    In the 1990’s broad legislation was passed (and most likely not understood by the general populous) that began the dismantling of many Government monopolies (transport, telephone, post, energy, medical/health, etc) for the sole purposes of “market liberalization.” The public were told that private enterprise could run these “utilities” better and more efficiently than Government could. (The typical mantra of the large Management Consulting Firms, Investment Banks & Hedge Funds.)

    That “efficiency” my friend is what you have a problem with. That efficiency has only to do with more efficient ways of generating profit for the private ownership of these monopolistic utilities at the expense of the consumer public and has no regard for the service quality of the offering whatsoever.

    I encourage you to verify for yourself how the OV-Chipcard has created a huge cash machine for the entities now in control of the transport layer of this still great nation of Holland, and what has happened to service levels over the past 5-years there.

    B’Shalom ~ Issy

    • Avital Pinnick said

      Yes, I think you make many valid points. I’ve heard of a similar system in Belgium. It’s happening all over the world and seems to be inescapable! Thank-you for taking the time to comment.

  2. Issy Ruvein said

    Dear Avital – my apologies for using “Mr.” in the greeting of my initial blog post, Please feel free to remove “Mr.” from my posting should you decide it is worthy of appearing on your wonderful blog.

    Many thanks- Issy

  3. Yosef Stein said

    Meeting in Giv’at Sha’ul on light rail expansion ask for directions
    רכבת הקלה – בכנפי נשרים
    בימים אלו שוקדים במשרד התחבורה
    בשיתוף עיריית ירושלים על תכנית העתידית
    של הרכבת הקלה בציר הרחובות
    הרב צבי יהודה, בן דור, כנפי נשרים.

    לתכנית יש השלכות רבות על מרקם החיים
    של תושבי השכונה וכן השפעה רבה
    על כל התנועה והתחבורה בשכונה.
    הצגת התכנית לתושבים תתקיים
    ביום רביעי כ’ טבת 2/1/2012 בשעה 18:00 במרכז קהילתי בית רוס – רחוב נג’ארה 27.

    נוכחותכם חשובה!
    אנו מעוניינים לשמוע את דעתכם בנושא

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