The Shmooze

After Delay, Jerusalem's New Light Rail System Opens With Many Kinks

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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For those of you who drive in Jerusalem, you know that pedestrians just stepping out into the street without looking can be a big problem. Well now it could end up being an even bigger problem as the city’s new light rail system finally starts running today, after years of delay.

The system, which is opening years behind schedule, still has many kinks to work out. They include air conditioning issues, electrical and communications glitches and the operation of the ticketing system — the latter leading to the declaration that passengers will ride free for the first two weeks.

Another problem not completely solved is

the traffic signaling system related to the trains. Jerusalem’s traffic is notorious for being crazy and snarled, so anything adding to the general “balagan” (mess) on the roads would not be a good thing. We can only hope that the signals work correctly — if they work at all — as soon as possible.

The full light rail route will not be operational for another four months, but in the meantime, people can ride on a portion of it. Once the entire system is up, riders will be able to travel 13.8 kilometers (taking about 42 minutes) across the northern portion of Jerusalem from Pisgat Ze’ev in the east to Mount Herzl in the west. Trains will run every 4-10 minutes, depending on the time of day.

It goes without saying that with this light rail being in Jerusalem, the trains will not be running on Shabbat.

The construction of the light rail system has turned Jaffa Road, once a narrow, congested, car and bus exhaust-filled main thoroughfare into a newly-paved, wide pedestrian walkway lined with shops and cafes (albeit with train tracks running down its center). But residents complained for years as the construction disrupted their daily routines. Maybe when the light rail system is completely up and running, it will make up for all the hassle. Or maybe it won’t.


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