This and That

Random bits of my life

A Survival Guide for the Jerusalem Light Rail

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 1, 2012

Jerusalem Light Rail, Opening Day

(Photo: Ticket inspector on train, first day of operation). Passover is almost upon us and the inspectors will be hungry to fill their quotas of fines. Om March 29, Sharon D. of Jerusalem saw six inspectors in a single car at 9 p.m.; it was the end of the month, so they were getting antsy.

Update (April 1): Don’t dawdle when you’re getting your ticket validated or Rav Kav swiped. Yoel K. of Maale Adumim reports inspectors handing out tickets as soon as the doors closed, to people who were waiting in line to validate their tickets.

Update (April 4): Explain these procedures carefully to your children. Amichai G., age 17, couldn’t figure out how to insert his paper single-ride ticket into the machine. Two inspectors stood over him, waiting to ticket him. They made no attempt to help him. Other train passengers helped David with his ticket and told the inspectors that they should be ashamed.

Here are some simple guidelines to keep you from parting company with your NIS 186.60 ($50). Pass on these instructions to family and friends who are visiting Jerusalem. Carry them yourself if you’re not familiar with Light Rail procedures. For background and additional information, see my Jerusalem Light Rail page.

If you do not have a Rav Kav card

Update (April 4): L.R. of Maale Adumim reports that she was fined on the Light Rail when she tried to use her Egged bus ticket receipt to transfer from the Maale Adumim bus to the train. However others have reported being able to use their paper Egged tickets, so perhaps that issue has been resolved.

  1. Buy a single-ride ticket at a machine on the station platform.  (Instructions here.)
  2. Use the ticket the same day. Although it’s cheaper to buy a group of tickets, they must all be used on the day that you purchase them. These conditions are not printed on the ticket. By the way, you’ll note I said “day” and not date. If you buy the ticket after midnight and try to use it the following day, when the same date is stamped on the card, it will not work. The “day” ends when CityPass closes its gates.
  3. Insert the ticket into the top slot of the card reader on the train (attached to pole in photo above). Do not forget this step! It is easy to do so when you’re tired or confused. This is called “validating” the ticket. If you forget this step, you may be fined.
  4. Check that your ticket has a date and time-stamp on the back. That is the only thing that prevents you from being fined. Hold on to that ticket. You may transfer to a bus within 1.5 hours of the time stamped on the ticket. Just present the stamped ticket to the bus driver. (A note about beeps. I’m not sure whether the “long beep = good / three short beeps = bad” applies to tickets. If you know, please tell me.)
  5. If your ticket is not stamped, go to another machine. If you can’t find a functioning machine on the car (Devra A. of Maale Adumim once found herself in a car where all four machines were locked), get off the train and get on another car or train until you find a functioning machine. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Just say, “Excuse me, does anyone speak English? Can someone help me with this?”

CityPass single ride ticket

If you have a Rav Kav card

These instructions are for people who have a Rav Kav card but do not use the Light Rail frequently (e.g., residents of Maale Adumim, Jerusalemites who travel by car most of the time).

You cannot use a Rav Kav card for children or people traveling with you. They must travel on the single-ride cards described above.

If you have not used your Rav Kav since the new code (code 62) was introduced (ostensibly on December 1, 2011, but a bus driver sold me ten code 3 rides on Dec. 3), you need to load your card with new rides. This is not a concern if you are transferring from a bus (say, the Maale Adumim bus to Jerusalem) to the Light Rail because the bus driver would not have let you on with an old code 3 ride. It may be a problem if your Rav Kav hasn’t been used since last year. If this is the case, I advise you to load your card at a machine before getting on the train. CityPass did agree to cancel fines levied on passengers who were caught with the old code, but you don’t want the aggravation.

  1. Locate the yellow LED display on the front of the card reader attached to the pole on the train. Keep your eyes on it at all times because the confirmation message flashes by very quickly. Try not to get distracted. Update (Apr. 11): If you hold your Rav Kav against the ticket reading machine, the message continues to be displayed. (My husband discovered this by accident today. Of course, this could be a challenge if the train is very full.)
  2. Touch your Rav Kav card to the panel beneath the LED display. While your Rav Kav is in contact with the panel, you will be able to read the message. Otherwise it disappears as soon as you take your card away. You should hear a long beep and see a confirmation message on the screen. (Note: three short beeps indicates that something is wrong.) Now breathe a sigh of relief because you know that the machine was functioning and read your card correctly. The machine does not provide you with a printed receipt. That is why this confirmation is so important.
  3. If your card was not read correctly, go to another machine. If you can’t find a functioning machine on the car, get off the train and get on another car or train until you find a functioning machine. Or ask for help.

If you are approached by a ticket inspector

This is up to you. If you are sure that you have a valid ticket/Rav Kav card and you don’t want an argument, you can hand it over without a fuss. The alternative is to invoke the Light Rail Inspector law (English and Russian translations provided). A ticket inspector is obliged to have his name and function displayed on the uniform and to carry an ID card with the signature of the franchise owner (CityPass) and a photo of the inspector himself. You are legally entitled to request to see his ID. You do not have to show your teudat zehut if the inspector does not have an inspector ID with a photo, signed by CityPass. A ticket inspector is also supposed to wear a uniform that is distinguishable from a police uniform. That is admittedly subjective. Here are the photos. You be the judge.

If you receive a fine and wish to appeal

CityPass has an office in the Central Bus Station near the SuperPharm. If you received a ticket on a technicality (i.e., you forgot to validate your ticket, you couldn’t read the info posters because they are only in Hebrew, or the machine was brokenlocked), you can appeal your ticket there and they will likely convert it to a warning. It’s worth a try if you live here or plan to return to Israel.

What does not work:

  • Arguing with the ticket inspectors. Forget it — a lot of these guys enjoy a good fight and they aren’t going to let your distress stop them from making their monthly quota of fines.
  • Writing to the State Comptroller. Yoni C. of Jerusalem tried this and received an email (the only response to all the emails he sent out to CityPass and other organizations) that the State Comptroller couldn’t help him.
  • Refusing to show your Israeli ID or passport outright (without requesting to see the inspector’s ID. See the Light Rail Inspector law). CityPass will eventually close this loophole but it’s worth knowing. If you simply refuse to show your ID, the inspector will call the police, and they will side with the ticket inspectors.

(Update: April 22 – section on children/strollers added)

Traveling with young children and strollers


  • An adult is allowed to travel with one child under the age of five, free of charge (if you have two adults and two children, the children are free).
  • If an adult is accompanied by more than one child under the age of five, only one child may travel free. The other children must have their own Rav Kav cards and pay with them. You cannot put more than one person on a Rav Kav card, so you can’t use your own card to pay for children.
  • A baby’s Rav Kav is valid for either 8 or 10 years (needs to be verified).


  • A folded stroller is always free.
  • An unfolded (i.e., open) stroller is free during low use hours (before 7 a.m., between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and after 7 p.m). An open stroller requires payment during peak hours (between 7 and 10 a.m. and 3 and 7 p.m.).
  • If a child is in a stroller, the stroller is considered an “open” stroller.

In other words:

  • 1 adult + 1 child + 1 closed stroller: pay for 1 adult at all times.
  • 1 adult + 1 child + 1 open stroller:
    • Off-peak hours – pay for 1 adult
    • Peak time – pay for 1 adult + 1 child (you pay for the stroller using the child’s Rav Kav).
  • 1 adult + 2 children + 1 closed stroller: pay for 1 adult and 1 child at all times
  • 1 adult + 2 children + 1 open stroller:
    • Off-peak hours – pay for 1 adult and 1 child
    • Peak time: pay for 1 adult and 1 child

(Naomi M. of Jerusalem verified this with Danit from Citypass customer service. Many thanks, Naomi!)

Disclaimer: This information is offered as a public service. While I make every effort to keep it up to date, CityPass may change its conditions at any time.


13 Responses to “A Survival Guide for the Jerusalem Light Rail”

  1. yana said

    One mistake- You DONT have to show the inspector your ID\passpost unless he shows you his “inspector ID” first. most of them dont have one. it is aganst the law for them to ask you for your ID with an ID of there own. here is the law translated to english:

    • Avital Pinnick said

      No, Yana, I didn’t make a mistake. I will make it clearer but I did reference the law before “What does not work,” implying that you already know this option. I will rewrite that section above. Thank-you for your comment.

  2. jtorgler said

    You are so very helpful! I hope all who use the Light Rail will read your instructions 🙂

  3. Mark Leaman said

    I have complained to Citypass a number of times about “those” who do not punch their ticket and only do so when they see an inspector board the train.
    You can tell by the look of the ticket that it can be several days old as it is screwed up, if it is only valid for the day or purchase then how do these people get away with using it another day.
    It aggravates me to see people getting away with this crime and I feel that they need to change something with the system.

    • Avital Pinnick said

      That doesn’t make sense because tickets are stamped with the day of purchase. Unless they are extremely adept forgers, I don’t see how they can get away with using the same ticket over several days. My guess is that they may be using their ticket as a day pass, several times on the same day. I agree that it’s not right and that people doing this deliberately shouldn’t get away with it.

  4. When I rode last on the rail, the Rav Kav didn’t register on the machine. Hope they have repaired that.

    • Avital Pinnick said

      I hope so, too! It sounds like it could either be a malfunctioning reader or possibly an old code on your Rav Kav.

  5. Sara Stewart said

    Hi, Avital! Thanks for writing this. I look forward to using your advice ifwhen (with any luck, when) I’m back in Jerusalem again!

    • Avital Pinnick said

      You’re welcome! I hope the Light Rail situation will be much improved by the time you return. 🙂

  6. Sammy Katz said

    I used the light rail last night and a few people showed regular Egged bus tickets to the inspectors and they were not fined. YMMV.

  7. Shmuel Oliven said

    Thanks so much for the info, with much less trauma than could have been, all this happened to me, my “rav kav” did not work correctly, inspectors asked me to check and in the argument I told them it was a problem with City Pass.
    How to correct: Go to the central bus station opposite line 17 I think it was you get your unuseable amount refunded, and then go refill it at the normal ticket counter using a credit card.
    Have not yet tried to use it in the new state

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