Jerusalem Light Rail
(Photo above: Light Rail ticket inspector on first day of operation.) On March 26, 2012, I was fined for using an invalid ticket on the Jerusalem Light Rail. It was an unpleasant, humiliating experience. It spurred me to ask why there are so many complaints about CityPass — excessive and irrational fines, abusive ticket inspectors, bad service, poor security, substandard customer relations, and general chaos.
UPDATE: CityPass apparently no longer lets you transfer from Egged buses. You may recall that Egged took all their downtown lines off service, because the Light Rail was supposed to replace them. The ease of transferring between the train and bus (several times a day, with heavy groceries and children) was touted as a benefit of the CityPass/Egged monopoly. Well, no more. Now you have to pay for the inconvenience– twice over.
A ticket costs NIS 6.60 ($1.70). A fine is NIS 186.60. That’s a 3000% mark-up. CityPass is not making money from tickets — they’re making money from excessive fines, even when their own equipment is at fault.
If you are from outside Jerusalem, a non-Hebrew speaker, elderly, or a tourist, your chances of being fined by a Light Rail inspector are quite high. Instructions are provided in Hebrew only, on crowded posters located in the busiest part of the platform. The paper tickets do not have their terms printed on them (or even a notice telling you that they may be used only on the day they are purchased). The card reading machines on the train are not infrequently broken or locked (a friend of mine boarded a car and found that every single machine was locked so she could not validate her Rav Kav card). The Web site is in Hebrew only, with a disabled English link and an Arabic link to a two-page PDF. Ticket-selling machines are frequently out of order (on March 26, I noticed that 2 out of 4 machines at the King George stop were not working). Ticket-reading machines on the train are often not working or even locked (a friend recently found all 4 machines locked on a car that she boarded). The whole system is a minefield to entrap the unwary traveler.
If you are a regular traveler on the Jerusalem Light Rail, your chances of being fined decrease somewhat but you can be caught “breaking the law” if the ticket-reading machine does not validate your ride. These machines do not provide a printed receipt. You are not allowed to make a mistake on the Jerusalem Light Rail and you will be required to pay, even if you are fined unjustly. (There is one recourse: Go to the CityPass office in the Central Bus Station near the SuperPharm. I plan to cover that at a later date but you may need to know this now.)
- You cannot buy a ticket from an inspector.
- You will be fined if there is some irregularity in your Rav Kav card or ticket. Inspectors carry card readers.
- You cannot explain that you made a mistake.
- You cannot use a malfunctioning or locked machine as an excuse for not having a properly validated Rav Kav or paper ticket.
- You cannot transfer from a Maale Adumim bus to the Light Rail with the Egged bus receipt (if you pay in cash), only with a Rav Kav card.
- If you do not have a properly validated ticket or Rav Kav, the inspector will request your Israeli ID card (teudat zehut) or passport. If you refuse, the inspector will call the police, who will side with the inspectors and threaten to arrest you unless you comply.
- If you resist an inspector, you could be roughed up, especially since lately they’ve taken to traveling in gangs of 6+. So be careful.
- Unless your Hebrew is good and you can invoke the Railway Inspector’s law, you are probably better off taking the fine meekly, getting off the train (for heaven’s sake, you don’t want to be fined again, do you?), and going in person to the CityPass office in the Central Bus Station.
You could try boycotting the Light Rail, but CityPass has pretty much eliminated that possibility by getting Egged to agree to cancelling all bus routes that duplicate the Light Rail route, in contradiction to logic, safety considerations, and design principles followed by transport systems around the world. CityPass has a 30-year contract. It’s going to be a long 30 years for Jerusalemites.
NEW! Practical tips: A Survival Guide for the Jerusalem Light Rail, a short pithy guide for tourists and anyone who hasn’t learned “the system.” Feel free to pass on the link to others or to email me with corrections.
Here are the articles I’ve written so far. I plan to write a posting about your rights and how you can appeal a fine, but that will probably be the end of my involvement because I live outside Jerusalem and am not a regular user of the Light Rail.
- CityPass Rip-Off : My encounter with CityPass ticket inspectors on the Jerusalem Light Rail
- Who is CityPass? And Why Are We Stuck with Them for 30 Years?: An explanation of CityPass’s ownership and a look at their not-very-informative Web site and posters.
- Video: Family with Tickets Fined NIS 933 on Jerusalem Light Rail: Ido Naveh’s interview with a family who bought valid tickets for the Light Rail and forgot to validate them in the ticket reading machine. They tried to refuse to show their ID cards (teudot zehut), the inspectors called the police, and the police threatened to arrest them if they did not comply.
- CityPass’s Web Site: Hebrew Only: If you are an English-, Russian-, or Arabic-speaker, you are going to have difficulty finding info on CityPass’s site. The site is entirely in Hebrew and the Arabic link leads to a PDF of an Arabic translation of the price list and rules posted at Light Rail stops
- Damaged CityPass Posters: Who Do I Call?: I just noticed in my photos that two out of three posters at the Central Bus Station Light Rail stop have been damaged only in the lower right corner so that you cannot see the phone number or URL. No other part of the poster is affected. These posters are at the busiest points of the station. Could there be a possibility that someone doesn’t want disgruntled passengers to whip out their cellphones and call?
- Light Rail Inspector’s Law: Know your rights! You have the right to request to see the inspector’s ID, which must include his name, job title, and photo and be signed by CityPass.
Are you on Facebook? Here are two groups:
- Rakevet Takalah: Hebrew language Facebook group. Open membership
- Stop Jerusalem Light Rail Abuse: English language Facebook group. Open membership
CityPass in the press:
- BBC Derails on Jerusalem Tram Story (November 7, 2011): Critique of BBC article that uses Light Rail as political vehicle
- Educating The People On The Jerusalem Light Rail (January 11, 2012): Life in Israel blog posting about tickets being handed out when CityPass equipment malfunctions
- A fine muddle (January 15, 2012): Jerusalem Post article about passengers who were fined (CityPass later backed down and cancelled those fines after widespread protest) for ticketing code glitch when transferring from bus to Light Rail
- Light Rail passengers still unable to operate ticket machines and some receive high fines as a result (Hebrew, Feb. 2, 2012): Jerusalem City Councillor Merav Cohen (Hitorerut B’yerushalayim) gathering information for possible class action suit against CityPass.
- Demonstrations against CityPass (Feb. 27, 2012)
- 30 passengers sue J’lem Light Rail (March 6, 2012): Faulty CityPass equipment causes large number of fines. Jerusalem City Councillor Merav Cohen (Hitorerut B’yerushalayim) helps organize small claims cases. Now it appears to be 24 lawsuits (May 3, 2012).
- Jerusalem: Soldier stabbed on Light Rail (March 15, 2012)
- Citypass to complete Jerusalem light rail improvements (March 28 2012): Globes article about CityPass’s promise to correct problems in order to receive government approval and rest of construction grant
- Light Rail stopped because of smell of garlic (Hebrew; April 4, 2012): Driver stops train for half hour after passenger boards train at shuk with bundles of garlic. During Passover many people buy fresh garlic and take it home to dry. The driver said he couldn’t bear the smell.
- Jerusalem commuters up in arms over light rail’s bumpy track record (English, HaAretz; April 10, 2012). This is the first report I’ve heard about violent ticket inspectors. I had heard that they did not have the authority to use force or detail you, but this woman was assaulted. Ido Naveh (admin of Rakevet Takalah) is collecting the reports.
- Light Rail a financial flop, with only 70,000 riders per day, instead of 140,000. Who pays? The taxpayers. (May 25, 2012)
- MK Uri Ariel (National Union) tries four times to buy a ticket. Good thing CityPass officials helped him after three times or he might still be standing on the platform. Article also mentions that CityPass issued 13,000 fines over the last 4 months. That’s 100 per day. (May 29, 2012)