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Rail Blogging: Jerusalem Light Rail

by gk Sun Jan 15th, 2012 at 11:07:32 AM EST

The Jerusalem Light Rail, Israel's first light rail system, started full operation a month or two ago.

Construction started in 2002; besides the usual corruption etc, there were additional delays due to BDS (a lot of the line is in the occupied territories) and an Ultra-Orthodox mayor who had other funding priorities (and there were suggestions that some opposition was due to the possibility that the train would replace some existing segregated bus lines).
After testing, including testing what happens when the train collides with a car (it seems that drivers were ignoring the red lights as they knew the train wasn't running....) full service started last month. They have already had a few minor incidents of terrorism Palestinian kids putting their feet on the seats. Incidentally, the European-style honor system for ticketing doesn't work so well in a Middle Eastern country. This is partly their own fault, for making the system so confusing: transfers are free from the train to buses but not vice versa (probably because the buses don't issue electronic tickets yet), and tickets are valid only on the day bought, but still have to be validated on the train (I can't see any reason for this). So they have inspectors checking tickets every time, but you are allowed one warning before you get a ticket. But I saw people arguing and refusing to show an ID card (for registering the warning) and being simply told to get off at the next stop.

Here is the start of the line, at Mt. Herzl, named after the founder of Zionism (the signs on the trains themselves call it Mt. Hertzel, after the car rental company).

The Calatrava bridge, spanning the main entrance to Jerusalem from the Israeli side.

Davidka station:

The Davidka (Hebrew: ‫דוידקה‬‎, "Little David") was a homemade Israeli mortar used in Safed and Jerusalem during the early stages of the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. Its bombs were reported to be extremely loud, but very inaccurate and otherwise of little value beyond terrifying opponents; they proved particularly useful in scaring away Arab forces.
Sounds a bit like an early version of the Quassam.

Jaffa St. This street used to have some of the worst traffic jams in the city. The problem has been solved in the usual way, by banning cars:

Crossing into East Jerusalem.

We are now at the Damascus Gate station on the following map (why does English Wikipedia have a German map?)

The route from here on will make implementing the imaginary maps discussed recently in heathlander's diary rather difficult. But dividing the city according to the pre-1967 lines would be trivial, with each half getting a separate rail line.

Main bus station in the Palestinian side

Branch to the rail yards

Palestinian village of Shu'afat

Settlement of Pisat Ze'ev: Final stop, called, in Hebrew, "Air Force".

The "Heil" spelling is already there in the English, not just in the German map and doesn't correspond to the Hebrew spelling. The signs on the trains themselves are better.

Incidentally, whoever is responsible for the recorded announcements in the trains should have talked to whoever was responsible for naming the stations. Whenever there are two reasonable ways for describing the location, you can count on them to differ....

What is the usage like?  Is it popular?

What is the rail design?  The seattle south lake union trolley (unfortunate acronym) appears to be made from u-channel rails glued into concrete slabs. (LR55 perhaps?)

by njh on Tue Jan 17th, 2012 at 12:01:51 PM EST
On problems and ridership:

Jerusalem light rail to begin charging fares - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Despite the problems, which have ranged from suspicious objects near the tracks and fistfights between Jewish and Arab passengers to two strikes by conductors over their work conditions, the rail carries tens of thousands of passengers a day.

On that note, also worth to quote:

Jerusalem's public transport system as metaphor for Israel in 2012 - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Jerusalem's public transport system is a perfect metaphor for the situation in which Israeli society finds itself at the beginning of 2012. The city's three communities are trying to keep their distance from each other...

...few Jewish city residents are aware of this but the Arab population has its own totally separate transport system, with its own central bus station and stops, a network of white buses, operating in the east of the city, and traversing Jewish areas without stopping to connect outlying Arab neighborhoods...

The three communities of Jerusalem are now being forced into the same carriages of the light rail network - years overdue, billions over budget, under speed and with a route of debatable efficiency, but finally up and running. And over the last five months, it has been the one closed space in which members of all the communities have been rubbing shoulders.

The top unfinished-work problems mentoned in the first article have been dealt with since:

Jerusalem readying to phase in major bus reforms - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Routes that run parallel to the light rail will be canceled, while other routes will be shortened so as to "feed" the light rail. Still other bus lines will have their routes altered, their numbers changed or both.

...Officials noted the bus changes were made possible by the improved service on the light rail. Average waiting time for the train is now between seven to eight minutes, as opposed to 19 minutes when it first began rolling in August. This improvement was achieved primarily by the upgrading of traffic lights along the route to "smart lights" that give priority to the rail at intersections.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 17th, 2012 at 01:49:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is the rail design?

I think a slab track with a more conventional channel rail system similar to the one in Seattle. Construction photos.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jan 17th, 2012 at 02:10:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very popular - at first it was free, and I'm told people would simply ride from one end to the other for the journey.

The real problem is getting tickets. Anything other that a single ride requires applying for a special pass, and so is impractical for visitors. Tickets are valid on on the day of purchase, and can be purchased only at the 2 or 3 machines at each stop, so there can be long lines there.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Jan 17th, 2012 at 03:24:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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