Sunday, January 23, 2011

Looking Forward To The Jerusalem Light Rail! (רכבת קלה בירושלים)

18 of the Eleventh Month 5771

While running errands in the Mahaneh Yehudah (Shuq) area of town, I had the opportunity to see the trains running through the center of town. The Jerusalem Light Rail is not scheduled to begin service until around Pesah time, but testing, double-checking, and training have increased this week.

Local bus routes have changed yet again. Instead of Yaffo Street, most routes have shifted to Agrippas and/or HaNevi'im Streets. Hopefully, three months will be enough time for travelers to get used to the lack of access to Yaffo Street, and to find alternative routes to and from work.

Traffic on Yaffo Street is now closed completely from Davidqa Square/Klal Building all the way to City Hall, and is limited on other sections of the street.

I very much look forward to having the light rail in Jerusalem, and will be one who receives direct benefit from it, as I live only a block away from a station. Although there has been some criticism of the route of the first, of hopefully more, lines, of the poor management of funds, and that ridiculous looking $70 million bridge, I believe there are several positive moves which have been made by those building and operating the light rail.

The route passes many hotels and tourist spots, two hospitals, City Hall, follows along the edge of several neighborhoods, and connects northern neighborhoods with the center of town.

There will a light rail station across the street from the central bus station, and right next to the future train station, which will include speed train service to the airport and Tel-Aviv (est. 2014).

Additional routes can be easily connected to the existing line reaching the Jerusalem Mall and Teddy Stadium, Hebrew University, and several additional neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, there are also several concerns I have about the light rail, the main one being that of security. During the test runs taking place, several thousand sheqqels are being spent on personnel to direct traffic and to prevent accidents with the current absence of railroad gates.

So, who did they hire? Arabs. Arabs, yelling in people's ears as they communicate across the street to their fellow Arabs. Arabs, making fun of little old ladies trying to ask them questions. Arabs, standing two at one end of a crosswalk, and two more at the other end. Would you want to be stuck in between two sets of Arabs, who could easily block your way off the train tracks when train passes? I sure wouldn't.

Sure, they are a few police and border patrol officers scattered about. But, it just takes one head turn, and anything could happen, from an "accidental" trip to an "accidental" fall in front of a moving train, to an "accidental" bomb placed on the track just before the train passes, or stuck to the train itself.

What was the rail company thinking, giving the mice the key to the cheese cabinet?

Go figure...

Pray for the best, write your Jerusalem city council member, and be vigilant.

In the meantime, here's a day shot of the light rail in the northern section of the route from studiotor. The route begins in Pisgath Ze'ev, goes through the currently Arab neighborhood of Shu'afat, stops at French Hill, Ammunition Hill, continues down Derekh Shkhem (Road #1), runs along the northern wall of the Old City, and then to City Hall and Center City, along Yaffo Street.

Here is a cool night shot of the light rail from pluz18, coming into the future central station, from the center of town. The train route will continue on to skirt a few more Jerusalem neighborhoods, come within blocks of Sha'arei Tzedeq Hospital, and end (for now) at Har Hertzl and Yad VaShem Memorial Centers.

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