Tel Aviv light rail will be overcrowded from the start

Test run of light rail in Jaffa  credit: Shiri Dover
Test run of light rail in Jaffa credit: Shiri Dover

In the Red Line underground section, trains are expected to carry 700 passengers, instead of the 440 originally planned.

700 passengers instead of 440: overcrowding will be part of the Tel Aviv Light Rail Red Line experience from the beginning. The line, due to start operations shortly, is the first part of a mass transit system for the Tel Aviv metropolitan area that is years behind schedule and lags similar systems in cities elsewhere in the world by decades or more (the London Underground, the world’s first underground railway, opened in 1863).

The Red Line will enable people to reach their destinations quickly and efficiently, certainly in comparison with what is available today, but sources involved in the project are already predicting that the carriages will be very crowded, much more so than in simulations and estimates that have accompanied the construction of the line, planning of which was completed more than twenty years ago.

A light rail train has two carriages with a capacity for 440 passengers, only 30% of whom will be able to sit, while the rest stand. When the project was planned, the line was expected to open with ridership of 100% of capacity, and it was clear that there would be crowding from the start. Since then, however, much has changed, and the overcrowding is now expected to be a great deal worse.

Initial operation at 60% capacity

In the first place, the frequency of trains has been cut. As in other projects, this one will not begin at full capacity. In the underground section, where demand will be highest, a train will run every six minutes, instead of every three minutes. In Bat Yam and in certain sections in Petah Tikva, trains will run every ten minutes, which is a very long interval for a mass transit system when all the alternatives to it are much slower and more tiring.

As previously reported by "Globes", the initial operation of the Red Line will be at 60% of what will eventually be full peak-hour capacity. The line actually consists of three routes: R1 from Petah Tikva to Bat Yam, that is, the entire length of the line; R2 from Kiryat Aryeh in Petah Tikva to Bat Yam, which will not be operated at the opening of the Red Line; and R3 from Kiryat Aryeh to Elifelet in south Tel Aviv. This means that passengers wishing to travel from Kiryat Aryeh to Bat Yam will have to change trains in the initial phase.

Besides this, demand will be far higher than was estimated in the original plan. The flurry of construction, particularly of office buildings near the Red Line route, and the generally worse transport situation in the strangled metropolis, will add demand, as at first will the public’s anticipation and curiosity.

All this will happen in August, in general a relatively calm period on public transport, except that it is also the vacation period for yeshivas, and where there are concentrations of the haredi population and tourist and leisure attractions, ridership is high.

At any rate, with the return to routine in September, and assuming that the light rail is operational by then, there will be considerable crowding not only in the stations but also on the trains. Instead of journeys with 440 passengers, the expectation now is that there will be 600-700 passengers on each train in the underground section where demand will be highest.

NTA - Metropolitan Mass Transit System Ltd. says that stewards will try to regulate the entry of passengers if need be, but that will be a significant blow to the service offered to the public.

Demand will also be moderated by continuing to run the bus line that follows the Red Line route after the trains start operating.

According to the plans, unless there are significant breakdowns, within a year the frequency of trains will have risen considerably, in stages.

According to NTA, 234,000 people will use the Red Line daily. The 24-kilometer line connects Petah Tikva, Bnei Brak, Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv-Yafo, and Bat Yam.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on July 17, 2023.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.

Test run of light rail in Jaffa  credit: Shiri Dover
Test run of light rail in Jaffa credit: Shiri Dover
Twitter Facebook Linkedin RSS Newsletters גלובס Israel Business Conference 2018