Effective public transport can offer us all varied options to reach our destinations, quickly and conveniently. All this intensifies in the face of the busy and congested Israeli reality. The rise in population and the climate crisis, which are in the background, force us to look the private vehicle in the eye, and to realize that it is no longer a solution. Suitable and advanced public transportation is the order of the day and the reasons keep adding up. Starting with us not standing in traffic anymore, through reducing harm to open areas and polluting emissions, up to huge economic savings.
Over the years we have led several campaigns on this matter:
- The campaign to construct a high-speed train to Jerusalem:
For many years, the capital city of Israel was not linked to a railway. In order to remedy this twisted situation, in 1999, Israel Railway suggested a number of options to connect the Holy City to the National Railway Network. Among the suggestions that were raised, was to update the old railway line that had fallen into disrepair; construction of a track along the route that passes through the Territories, or construction of railway tracks alongside Highway #1 (which was awarded the unattractive name of A1).
Green Course activists in Jerusalem realized very quickly that the A1 option was the only one that would truly constitute an alternative to using a private vehicle. It seemed that any other option meant throwing money away. However, as is the way with very effective alternatives, placing tracks along Highway #1 was the most expensive of the offers. Therefore, in 2000, Green Course activists decided to help the country reach the proper decision: signs, maps and information pages were handed out to anyone who was interested. But despite the many efforts, the Israeli in did not get the complex message. Therefore, it was decided to change the message.
“Jerusalem Lacks a High-Speed Train”, the activists cried at protests and the elephants at the Biblical Zoo stomped wearing signs with the outline of the railway. Because of the struggle, the planning institutions approved the A1 option for a high-speed train, at the same time as upgrading the old railway, which is ironically marked with the letter S.
This marked our first victory, by simplifying the message and highlighting the advantage. If the campaign had not succeeded, the chosen option would probably have been one in which travel time would have been over an hour and does not reach the city center. In addition, its construction would have caused dire harm to the region of Nahal Sorek.
In order to maintain the achievement, once a year, the Train March sets out from Jerusalem. Each time we marched a different route on the Judean Hill Plains, and with much fun and noise we accompanied implementation of the decision, until construction was evident on site.
- Establishing a direct bus route from the Western Negev to Tel Aviv:
Led by the Green Course Cell at Sapir College, project coordinator of Making a Neighborhood at New Spirit Association, Eran Ben Noon and the social activist Avichai Shelly, bus route 378 was launched in 2012, which allows arrival from the peripheries to the center of the country in an hour, and passes through Netivot and Sderot.
The decision makers, who until then claimed that this was not done due to feasibility considerations, could not ignore it any longer. Following several protests, and after Green Course activists gathered 23,000 signatures, the new bus route was announced!
The leader of the struggle was Avichai Shelly, a social activist, a resident of Netivot, blind and hearing impaired, who simply wanted to get to his job in Tel Aviv. The struggle achieved much more than that, and for that he was awarded the Green Globe Award to add to his title of World Bible Laureate.
Eran Ben Noon, one of the leaders of the struggle, said, “It wouldn’t have worked without Avichai and the involvement of the residents, and the truth is, that we were surprised that the CEO of Metropolitan Bus Co. invited us to present our plan to him. It is great to know that the change we made still effects the lives of people, and makes life easier for them”.
- Public Transportation Campaign and Establishment of the CEO Forum:
The matter of public transportation has been foremost in the hearts of the Green Course students, almost since the beginning. The activists at various cells saw the Ministry of Transportation’s preference to promote roads, and the public transport companies battling each other. In the face of this, the activists raised their voices in protest that grew into a national struggle.
The selected course of action was dialogue with all the parties, and public activity. And sure enough, collaboration between Green Course, Transportation of Today and Tomorrow, The Nature Protection Society, produced a significant lobby by means of the pressure we applied, and for the first time, CEOs of public transport companies in Israel met in 2004 with representatives of the Ministry of Transportation and other parties to discuss the matter. Green Course activists who were present, were moved to see the representatives sitting together at the table, discussing the urgent matter: collaboration which will make public transportation more effective, and create a proper alternative to the main competitor – the private vehicle. In order to stir up public opinion on the matter, for the first time ever in Israel, in September 2004, a public transportation day was held. The colorful activity in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem resonated in the media impressively. As a result of this, the public transportation day in 2005 was celebrated in collaboration with green organizations, the Ministry of Transportation, public transportation companies, and local authorities in Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv and Be’er Sheva.
One of the results of the campaign was a response campaign in 2006, where Egged and Dan bus companies began selling monthly passes at a significant discount for students. This undoubtedly was another meaningful step on the road to convincing as many people as possible to favor public transport over the private vehicle.
The road to create effective and suitable quality public transportation routes for all the citizens of Israel, has not ended. Next stop – a public transportation lane on Azza Street Jerusalem. Join us! The struggle continues.