Residents of the Old City are not sure about the new traffic arrangements to the Western Wall and environs, but are willing to give them a chance.
As of today, private cars (except for those belonging to Old City residents) will not be allowed into the Old City via the Jaffa Gate during the day. Instead, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Egged Bus Company have joined together to buttress the car parks and shuttle bus networks. The overall goal is to ensure ease of access to the Jewish Quarter, while decreasing traffic snarls in the narrow streets, as well as air pollution.
No fewer than eight parking lots are available near the Old City, all of them adjacent to, or within walking distance of, the #38 shuttle bus route. There is no fee for parking at the old train station, for instance, while the first two hours at the Mamila lot are free. Discounts and day-long family rate combinations for both parking and the #38 bus are available. On special occasions, there will be shuttle traffic from further-away parking lots, such as at Ammunition Hill.
The 38 shuttle bus line goes from the Western Wall, passes the Sultan’s Pool, the Mt. Zion Hotel, the Khan Theater, Liberty Bell Park, and then returns to the Wall via Jaffa Gate. A family – two parents and up to five children – can purchase a 25-shekel ticket (10 shekels for an individual) enabling travel on the #38 all day long; a normal city bus ticket costs 6.20 shekels.
How will the changes affect the residents of the Jewish Quarter? They have several concerns, as David Lapidot, head of the Local Residents Committee, told Israel National News: “For instance, take what happened today with a neighbor of mine. He called a washing machine repairman to come, and the company said they would send whichever mechanic is closest. When my neighbor called the city to ask for a permit for the car, they told him that they have to know exactly which car is coming –information that he did not have. In general, we have been told that our relatives and friends coming to visit will be able to get permits, if we ask in advance; we’ll have to wait and see if this works.”
Lapidot said that he agrees in principle that traffic in the Old City must be thinned out. “Sometimes the traffic jams here are unbearable. But we don’t want fewer people to come and visit the Old City because of the new regulations. If it turns out that it will be easier for people to come, then it will be worth it. In short, we have to wait and see.”