Light rail company makes big profits on unnecessary fines

Jerusalem's CityPass earns 7 million shekels over four years - from fines alone.

Haim Lev,

Light rail train in Jerusalem
Light rail train in Jerusalem
Chana Roberts

The CityPass company which runs Jerusalem's "light rail" train earned approximately 7 million shekels ($1,913,000) over the past four years from fines it handed out to passengers, a report said.

The report was written by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), for MK Uri Maklev (UTJ). In it, Katz says that out of 80,000 appeals, only 137 were accepted.

Two weeks ago, Maklev spoke to Katz and said that most of the fines were not justified. In his response to Maklev, Katz wrote that in the past four years, CItyPass has handed out 68,635 fines, for a total of 6,932,599 NIS ($1,912,863).

2015 saw the most fines handed out (26,000), and 7,307 fines were handed out in the first five months of 2017. On average, 18,000 fines were handed out each year.

"Statistics show that most of the time, people are hones and pay, but sometimes there is an issue with the card," Maklev said. "The light rail train is one of the newest forms of public transportation int he world, but the technological system is old-fashioned and the company insists untrained civilians pay via old-fashioned machines which are often problematic. And if something goes wrong, the passenger is forced to pay a fine."

"It's a scandal, and the fines are given arbitrarily, without consideration - maybe even inhumanly, in a draconian fashion. It's shameful and even mean. The fines are disproportionate to the price of the ride itself. You're talking about over a million shekels each year in profit, just from direct fines. The one directly responsible for these issues is the Transportation Ministry."

CityPass said, "The number of passengers who are fined is much smaller than the ten million passengers per year who pay properly. Six years after the light rail train began functioning in Jerusalem, the public knows and understands very well how they need to validate their cards. The number of fines is relatively small, and mostly represents people who are trying to avoid paying and to abuse the fact that this is the first public transportation system in Israel which is open and works on honesty. On the light rail, passengers are required to pay independently without passing through a gate or paying a driver."

"CityPass works and will continue to work to enforce the Transportation Ministry's guidelines, in accordance with the clear law which requires passengers to buy and validate their cards. The system is friendly and easy to use, it's accommodating and hard to miss, and it explains everything clearly, in three languages.

"Any passenger who feels he was fined unfairly can submit an appeal. An external committee, appointed by the government, deals with each appeal, and the fact that most appeals are rejected shows that we work in accordance with the law and the Transportation Ministry's guidelines. 145,000 passengers use the light rail every day, and most follow the guidelines. Surveys are often done, and they consistently show that passengers are satisfied."

Earlier in August, the Knesset's Special Committee for Public Petitions for Transportation announced that the requirement to use either your own Rav Kav card, or an anonymous card or one-time ticket may be canceled. Though Rav Kav cards can be personal or anonymous, only personal cards, which have the user's photo, provide student, senior, and child discounts and can be loaded with free daily, weekly, or monthly passes.

Hundreds of civilians have complained that despite paying in full, they received 180 NIS fines for using another person's Rav Kav card on the light rail train. However, most of those fined knew ahead of time that know using someone else's Rav Kav goes against regulations and is subject to fine. Depersonalizing the cards could lead to their being stolen and used.

In July, Israel's Finance Ministry decided that CityPass would not be the company to extend the light rail's route or add a new line.








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