Thursday, May 19, 2016

Big City Transit

Yair Assaf-Shapira
Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies

In large cities, public transit is a critical factor which, in addition to personal mobility, enables economic development, social, commercial and cultural life. Looking at the quality of transit in cities can be done from a few perspectives, and this time we choose to look at the customer, or rider side.
In the Social Survey held annually by the Central Bureau of Statistics, participants are asked about their use and satisfaction with public transit in their city. In the surveys of 2013-14 (we averaged to minimize error) 69% of Israelis aged 20 and over stated that they use public transit. This percentage may seem high, but it's going down. Eight years before, in the 2005-06 surveys it stood higher, at 73%.
One could expect to find a higher percentage of users in large cities. This is true for Jerusalem, Haifa Ashdod and Petach Tikva (where use rates are 84%, 79%, 78% and 71% respectively), but wrong for Rishon Lezion and Tel Aviv (63% and 65% respectively). We may assume that Jerusalem's exceptionally high rate (at 84%), stems from the combination of a very large city in terms of distances, with some of the neighborhoods located far from activity centers; a large population of young adults (ex. students); a large population living in a low socio-economic status; and a well developed net of busses and light rail compared to other cities in Israel.
The reforms done in Jerusalem and Haifa's transit systems may be one of the factors contributing to the fact that these are the only two cities in which a rise in transit use was recorded. Use in Haifa and in Jerusalem rose by 4 and by 1 percentage points (PP) respectively. In the other large cities in Israel a drop of 1 to 4 PP was recorded.
How about satisfaction from transit service? It seems that the high rate of users in Jerusalem is not connected to satisfaction from public transit. Only 45% of the Jerusalemite transit users stated they were satisfied or very satisfied with the public transportation in their area of residence. This figure is low compared to both Israel (58%) and the other large cities (67% to 75%). The combination of a high user rate and low satisfaction rate shows that many of Jerusalem's transit riders are "captive audience", using transit not necessarily because it's the best option to get around in the city.
On the other hand, Jerusalem is the only city in Israel with an LRT line. The LRT completely reformed transit in the city, and the system is still expanding, so one may argue that we are still in the "learning curve".

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