Judea-Samaria Residents Unhappy Over Bus Changes

Direct lines to Jerusalem hurt more than they help, residents say - forcing them to disembark in hotspots of Arab violence.

Tags: Buses Egged
Hezki Baruch and Tova Dvorin ,

Jerusalem Egged bus (file)
Jerusalem Egged bus (file)
Flash 90

Judea-Samaria residents have registered their discontent over recent changes to the bus systemArutz Sheva has learned Wednesday, noting that the routes which lead to Jerusalem purposely stop on the outskirts of the capital city, forcing them to travel through areas where much of the recent violence by Arab extremists has taken place. 

Representatives from several communities near Shilo, in southern Samaria's Binyamin Region, and the Civil Administration met with the Egged bus company on Tuesday to discuss the changes, which are due to be implemented on Friday. 

A whopping 7,000 residents were represented during the meeting - and the consensus overall was that while the increased frequency of the bus lines is long overdue, the omission of bus routes to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station is utterly inconvenient. Residents were so outraged over the change that representatives have even threatened to boycott Egged's new lines (editor's note: Afikim buses, while infrequent, will still run on regular schedule).

Chaya Gent and her husband, who live in the village of Shvut Rachel said Wednesday that the lines are a "detriment" to passengers - not a blessing.

"We note that the change in public transport now adds over an hour of traveling to our commute," she noted. "It's true that [Egged is] updating the public transport to communities [in general], but we would prefer to see fewer lines and have them reach the Jerusalem Central Bus station or city center [instead]."

"We have no doubt that [the routes] hurt people traveling to work or home," she added. 

The secretary of Shvut Rachel, Moria Halamish, added, "I went to the Ministry of Transportation and received a reply that everything was with the consent of the Binyamin Regional Council. I think they did everything quietly so that the residents would not make a lot of noise over it." 

"Top officials make the decisions; they have no idea how ordinary people live in our communities," Halamish added. "Large families, yeshiva students and high schools only use public transport - they do not drive company cars."

Car travel is too expensive for many families, due to both a 150% sales tax on new vehicles in Israel, and gas prices topping 7.66 shekel per liter ($6.50 per gallon). Bus travel and hitchhiking have become the primary means of travel for thousands of residents across 1949 Armistice lines. 

Halamish acknowledged that the decision was made, in part, to reduce the high congestion around the Central Bus Station.

"I'm not detached from reality, and what we ask from Egged is to - at least - make the last stop for buses from Samaria be at Ammunition Hill or the French Hill - but not Pisgat Ze'ev," she explained. Pisgat Ze'ev is a significant distance from the rest of Jerusalem's Jewish areas, and the light rail there travels through the most volatile regions of the capital for rioting at the moment for over 15 minutes before reaching Ammunition Hill.

"Now that the security situation is difficult and the light rail is irregular, they should bring Samaria residents as quickly as possible to their destinations," she added. 

The Transportation Ministry said in response that "planning [for the lines] is done in accordance with the security forces, based on surveys and field trips conducted in collaboration with representatives of regional councils."

It added that the change was also made according to "court order to reduce the input to the Central Bus Station, due to congestion and pollution."