Greater Tel Aviv light rail usage disappoints

Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area light rail Red Line  credit: Yossi Cohen
Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area light rail Red Line credit: Yossi Cohen

NTA projected 238,00 journeys daily for the Red Line, but in the first six months of operation passenger numbers were far lower.

Today, NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System released usage figures for the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area light rail Red Line for the first six months of its operation. It emerges that passenger numbers fell from 120,000 daily before the war to 75,000 after it broke out on October 7 last year. Of the nine million journeys on the Red Line since it opened, almost half were within the city of Tel Aviv, and most of them were on the underground sections of the line (about 60% of all journeys). The most popular stations are Allenby, Yehudit, and Ben Gurion, and there is also high demand in Bnei Brak.

The company operating the light rail system, Tevel, commissioned a survey, carried out by Direct Polls, that sampled 2,000 respondents in the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area, where, of about one million residents, about 350,000 live in neighborhoods bordering the Red Line. According to the survey results, 83% of the respondents in these neighborhoods have used the line, while 59% of those who live in neighborhoods not adjacent to the line have done so. Respondents were asked what the main reasons for using the line were, and, unsurprisingly, the most frequent response was speed and avoidance of traffic congestion.

These questions are not, however, very useful. It would be more interesting to find out how often people use the line, and why those who do not travel on it prefer other means of transport, since the purpose of the light rail system is to be a high-quality, efficient alternative to the private cars that choke the metropolis, and to expand the alternatives available to those who use public transport, but these subjects were not covered by the survey.

These questions are particularly pertinent, given NTA’s estimates that spoke of 238,000 journeys daily. The actual daily figures of 120,000 before the war and 75,000 currently come despite improvements made in the service, greater frequency of trains, and fewer buses running on the "competing" number 1 route. Questions about awareness of the light rail do not provide a proper indication, since after all we are not talking about an attraction, but about a mode of transport in which some NIS 19 billion were invested.

NTA admits that people who do not live on the route are insufficiently exposed to the light rail, but this is also true of those who do live and work close to it. In Bat Yam, the rail lines are fenced off in a way that harms the urban space, and the trains still move slowly because the traffic lights system has not been completely calibrated to give them priority at junctions.

The overground section in Petah Tikva is hostile to people seeking to catch trains, since it is trapped between highways. The Tel Aviv Municipality is the only local authority to have enhanced the urban space around the stations, creating bicycle paths and public transport lanes leading to them, and widening sidewalks to the extent that it has changed the face of main streets, from Jerusalem Boulevard in Jaffa, via the historic rail line along Yehuda Halevi Street and Menachem Begin Street, to the Savidor railway station.

It may be that this is the reason for greater use of the Red Line being made within Tel Aviv itself, although demand there is more rigid, since it is the heart of the metropolis.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on February 21, 2024.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.

Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area light rail Red Line  credit: Yossi Cohen
Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area light rail Red Line credit: Yossi Cohen
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