The Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality said on Monday that it will begin operating a network for free public transportation on Shabbat this coming weekend. The city first announced that it was launching a system for free public transit on the Jewish Shabbat, when public transportation is not available, late last month.
Starting on Friday, November 22 at sundown, a free public bus network will begin operating in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, connecting with surrounding cities Ramat Hasharon, Givatayim and Kiryat Ono, the municipality said. Additional municipalities may soon participate to “provide a suitable transportation solution for approximately four million metropolitan residents,” the city added.
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The intercity system will run from 6:00 pm Fridays, every half hour, to sundown Saturdays, with a break overnight. Every third bus will be accessible to passengers with disabilities.
The network will be operated by the Kavim transportation company which won the bid to operate the service.
“The routes will provide passengers with fast accessibility to city centers as well as various surrounding neighborhoods, whilst taking into consideration areas characterized by Shabbat-observing residents,” the city said.
“The ability to move during the weekend from one point to another is a fundamental right,” said Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai in a statement. “The metropolitan transportation network was created in order to answer the need of a large part of the Israeli population during the weekends, in the absence of public transportation.”
Ramat Hasharon Mayor Avi Gruber said the new transportation system was “a groundbreaking initiative for all the residents in the metropolitan area.”
“Efficient public transportation throughout the week is crucial and will lead to a reduction in traffic congestion,” said Kiryat Ono Mayor Israel Gal. “The new transportation service will be extremely valuable to young people who can now move freely during the weekend and the older citizens who will be able to spend their weekends in the big city. “
Passengers can ride free of charge in the buses at this pilot stage.
Last month, the Tel Aviv municipality said its Finance Committee approved an initial budget of approximately NIS 1.5 million to launch the network. The annual costs are estimated to amount to NIS 12.5 million and the budget is expected to grow as other cities may join the venture, the city said then.
Real-time information and schedules for the mini-buses will be communicated to passengers via common transportation apps like Moovit, and through a dedicated website which is currently only in Hebrew.