Jun 10, 2010

Shocking numbers regarding mehadrin bus lines

I was reading the protocols of a Knesset Committee meeting that was discussing a proposed amendment to the public transportation law regarding giving authority to deal with people who don't pay the bus ticket.

The discussion was led by MKs Ofir Akunis and Eli Aflalo, and had many others invited to participate and share their experience and opinions. One of those invited was Eli Balilius, the Director of Superbus.

The discussion as laid out in the protocols is actually pretty interesting, surprisingly, albeit a bit long.

Before I get to my point, a humorous digression: When Eli Balilius first spoke up to share his opinion regarding the percentages of passengers who do not pay, the MKs stopped him and asked what Superbus is (I got the impression they had never heard of it). After Balilius explained they are a bus company like Egged and what region they operate in, MK Akunis stated for the record a comment directed at the Transportation Ministry, "You put public transportation back 40 years. There used to be tens of companies that all merged to 2 companies. You have taken us backwards 40 years to the 50s and 60s. I have no complaints against Superbus, chalila, but how much good did it do [allowing new companies back into the public transport market]."

I thought that was a funny little point to make during the debate. Now back to the point.

So Balilius is speaking and he tells the committee that the driver needs to be concentrating on driving and safety, and not have to be concerned about the normal people who do not pay the bus fare. Not the abnormal people. The normal people who do not pay are a parent who gets on with 2 kids and doesnt pay for either, when he has to pay for one, elderly people who don't have senior citizen cards but ask for the discount anyway, and other similar situations. the loss on the normative people who do not pay is between 5% and 10%, Balilius says.

Aflalo, surprised to hear those numbers, ask for clarification as that sounds like a lot of money.

Balilius responds, "I evaluate it at at least 5%. And that does not even include the mehadrin bus lines where the number is as high as 30% because of the people who get on in the back of the bus and never bother paying! (emphasis mine) Our objective is at the end of the day that the driver should not be responsible for collecting the bus fares. With the smart card, there is no need for the driver to be involved in the collection instead of being focused on driving and safety. But what will happen? If we tell the driver it is not his responsibility to collect the fares, 30% of the people will not pay!"

For the rest of the discussion, read the protocols of the meeting where they discuss giving the authority to fine passengers for not paying, and more...

That line struck me. On your average bus line, they see that up to 5% of bus fares are lost by people finding ways to get out of paying. On mehadrin bus lines, the numbers are as high as 30%!

To be dan l'kaf zchus, perhaps a lot of those people who get on in the back and don't pay are possibly holding monthly passes, so the bus fare is already paid for and is not being lost (the card still needs to be displayed and scanned, but no money is lost). And perhaps some people get on in ths back and are harried as they maybe have a few kids with them and just figure they will pay for their rides the next time they use the bus.

But still, 30% is an awfully high number. Especially for a community that praises itself on its exceptionally high level of morality.

I myself, a few times, witnessed people get on and not pay. I have seen the bus driver stop at a certain point and go to the back and scream at people for getting on and not paying. i will add that every time I have seen it, those people paid. meaning, they were not holding monthly passes that they then simply flashed to the driver, but they got on and actually had to pay a bus fare and did not.

Is that a chillul hashem? A mehadrin bus line has 30% of the people not paying the fare! 600% more than the average bus line!

As an aside, when Superbus first started operating in Bet Shemesh, I complained about the timing and some other problems. I must say that over time they have gotten pretty good and I have very few complaints about their service. I don't know if they are any better than Egged, but they are usually punctual and the drivers are pleasant.


  1. (Rafi not G)
    Of course it is an incredible hillul hashem. I don't ride buses much and if I do I avoid mehadrin ones, but I have seen this and it is not pass holders or "harried" people (no excuse BTW, we all get harried, but we all need to pay). I recently took a bus to Beitar and women just calmly got on the bus at the back and sat down like it was the most natural thing in the world not to pay. When we got to Beitar an inspector got on, demanded to see their tickets and shouted at the ones who had no tickets, sending them to the front to pay. One woman didn't want to trek down through the men to the driver but he insisted she go down herself.

    My attempt at diyun lekaf zechut: they are angry at the bus company who goes along with the kanoim and won't let them sit in the front and frightened of kanoim who might insult or attack them if they did try to navigate down the aisle of the moving bus (without falling in someone's lap on the way). So they say "Scr** you. If you don't want us to get on via the driver and pay like everyone else, then we'll get on behind, not pay and see how you like it".

  2. I don't know how many people pay or don't, but I do want to say something positive about superbus. While they seem to just not show a little more frequently than Egged, between the 12 and the more frequent 14, getting around without a car is much easier than it was with Egged.

  3. It seems to be that the more obsessed you are with real or imagined "Chumras" (e.g., Separate seating on busses), the less you pay attention to basic Halacha (not stealing).

    This concept of not paying is a sharp contrts to what was once the norm (maybe still is), one of the uniquely Israeli bus experiences for me used to be watching people get on a crowded bus on the back, and pass their ticket and money to a stanger in front of them, who would pass it forward until the money or ticket made its way to the driver and the change made its way back to the passenger.

  4. thanks for the nostalgic memories, Michael. i remember those days fondly...

  5. we had a Shabbos guest recently, a small blond harmless looking woman who told us that she got in a fight on a separate bus because she went forward to pay and a kanoi started shouting at her. She told him in no uncertain terms to be quiet because she was more concerned about her gezela than his shemiras eynaim, which seemed to do the job nicely!

  6. I've noticed a new phenomenon on the RBS buses, which are NOT mehadrin, like 12. Although not mehadrin, the women tend to congregate at the back rather than at the front. If there are cases where the men are at the back, the women sit in the front, but here comes another phenomenon. It is one thing not to sit next to a women, but when a man won't sit opposite a woman or vice versa, and stand instead. You might say he or she can stand if they want to. However they are endangering not only themselves, as the bus travels fast. They can lose balance, and fall maybe even on a person of the opposite sex, or stamp on my foot as happened to me. Either way, the chumra is taking over. I've even seen cases where a guy got on in Bet, and instead of sitting next or opposite to ME, stood. I suppose I'm just one step up the ladder from a woman, not good enough to be seated next to.

  7. I have been screamed at for going to the front of the bus to pay.
    I have had the driver scream at me for getting on in the front because I needed to fill my card.
    I generally try to avoid it at all costs.

  8. You write "But still, 30% is an awfully high number. Especially for a community that praises itself on its exceptionally high level of morality."

    I don't know where you got the idea that they praise themselves on high morality. But if they do, it's a farce. Maybe for mitzvot ben adam lamakom, but, ben adam lechaveiro, I don't think so.

    Any community that pushes in crowds, shouts and hits women, burns garbage, blocks traffic, and steals, lacks very basic ben adam lechaveiro.

    I think their school system lacks basic education on how to treat other people like tzelem elokim.

    Regarding hilul HaShem, I tell my hiloni co-workers that they dress frum but really aren't. (They ask me about it since BS makes the news so frequently.) I explain that being religious depends on how you act, not how you look.

  9. Of course it is a hillul Hashem. But they don't care about that.

    Especially sad is that when I was young, one of the admiring 'only in Israel' stories often told, was how common it is for someone to get on at the back (middle, really) and pass their money or kartisiya up front to pay. And how the money always made it safely up front, the ticket made its way safely back.

    It usually went along with the observations about how men regularly jumped to help a woman with a stroller get her things on at the back door, and give her the seat near the open area where she could fit the stroller.

  10. I have very clear memories (from my childhood years) of using the long accordion buses in Tel Aviv and paying the guy who stood in the back to take care of those customers getting on from the back.

  11. Actually, I see a lot of people(both sexes) helping mothers with strollers and assorted small children or older people with packages on and off the bus, and usually, people are pretty good about rearranging themselves to give me a seat(I have balance problems and walk with a cane). And nobody thinks twice about plunking a baby in my lap while they go and pay the driver.

    The only time I ever had a problem with a kanoi(I didn't realize it was a mehadrin bus but he's the only one who has ever been nasty to me about it), I had my small son with me so I played "dumb American", said, "Yonky, I have to go sit in the back but this nice man is going to take care of you until we get off in Chasmonaim" and then sat in the back laughing to myself--along with most of the rest of the riders of both sexes--while my son cheerfully chattered away non-stop for the next 45 minutes at the kanoi, who was looking pretty desparate and wild-eyed by the time my son cheerfully waved good-bye.

  12. You know, in the Kashrus business, they have the same problem, i.e. honesty. And I read one Rav say that where there is a vested interest/money involved, be extremely scrupulous and careful. IOW money seems to win out over honesty and integrity.

    It's an awful thing to realize about our own, but the Torah warned us a loooong time ago. People have weaknesses regardless whether religious or not. Its the 'human' factor.

  13. Neshama - you are 100% correct about that. But then perhaps it would be advisable to forgo the mehadrin bus line completely. Putting a name "mehadrin" on it, and then seeing that people evade paying the bus fare is horrible.
    I would much prefer that loss being "swallowed up" by the general public, i.e. if it is a regular bus, nobody knows who is or is not paying.
    I mean this from the perspective of those who push for mehadrin bus lines. There is nothing mehadrin about a bus line that allows, and helps (by giving them the chance to get on in the back) people to steal.

  14. "There is nothing mehadrin about a bus line that allows, and helps (by giving them the chance to get on in the back) people to steal."

    Rafi! I protest! You are blaming the victim. You should say there is nothing mehadrin about a sub-culture that fosters such a high rate of brazen theft.

  15. I am delighted to report that Modiin Elite's Superbus is still not mehadrin in the same way that BS has; meaning that the 1st couple of rows are for men and then everyone basically sits whereever. Normally most women tend to sit towards the middle or back; but some men also sit at the back. Everyone gets on at the front and I have NEVER seen anyone not pay.

    What I do see is women in Jlm getting on the back and "pretending" to pay - ie waving a cartisiyah near the ticket puncher but not actually punching their ticket. I have even mentioned it to one woman who just looked at me as though I had come from the moon.

  16. Mordechai I don't think Rafi meant it was the bus line's fault, rather that its a farce to call such a line mehadrin fostering an atmosphere that includes theft.

    To take it further, I think it's a great example of what happens when the general public let kanoim have their way - sometimes the "new way" discourage (bullied) from keeping halacha properly as in the case of women yelled at for coming to the front to pay, and sometimes a general malaise of disrespect for overall societal structure sets in.

    To be kanoim against kanoim?

  17. How do they arrive at these figures? Surely, from he 5% and the 30%, people don't get caught. Are these figures only from those who get caught, or is this all largely guesswork?

  18. I have no idea. I am sure they must conduct studies and surveys to see how many people are riding the buses and they compare that with the fees collected, but I dont know..

  19. "I am sure they must conduct studies and surveys".

    Why are you so sure? Why do you dismiss the possibility that it was a WAG?

    Even so-called studies often have their problems; here's a recent example. And of course there's Stamp's Law: "The government are very keen on amassing statistics. They collect them, add them, raise them to the nth power, take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams. But you must never forget that every one of these figures comes in the first instance from the village watchman, who just puts down what he damn well pleases." But in this case who says there ever was a study in the first place?

    If your thinking is simply that the spokesman of a bus company would not have given a number to a Knesset committee without being 100% that it was true, even though there is no chance at all that anyone will ever check up on him, then you are essentially upholding his honesty above that of the charedi public.

  20. Hmmm. I ride the buses in Beitar almost daily and I can assure you that virtually every woman who gets on by the back door pays. There is a hole punch for punching kartisiyot at the back door and a machine for those with rav kav cards to use their cards with as well.

    I ride the buses constantly and it is extremely rare that someone must be yelled at by the mevaker and told to go to the front to pay. Actually, I have almost never seen such a thing, though I did see one time that a woman wanted to wait and just pay the mevaker instead of going to the front herself. My guess is that is what happened when Rafi rode the bus -- a woman just assumed she could pay the mevaker instead of the driver.


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