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Mar 26, 2012

Theft On Mehadrin Bus Lines

The level of "bus fare avoidance" on the mehadrin lines is in the news again.

The supporters of the mehadrin bus lines every now and again publish advertisements reminding, or encouraging, riders to be sure to pay the bus fare even when they get on at the back of the bus. There are regular complaints about the high percentage of riders who use the cover of the mehadrin bus line honor system to ride without paying. At a transportation committee meeting in the Knesset two years ago the director of Superbus claimed that on mehadrin bus lines 30% do not pay. While that number seems impossibly high to me, that is what Balilius claimed at the time.

In this past week's Chadash newspaper, the issue came up again. Superbus drivers regularly catch people who did not pay. They decided to make an example out of someone they repeatedly have caught not paying when getting on the bus. They figure, they say, that they have been screaming until they are blue in the face to no avail, and if they now make an example of someone it will go a long way to ensuring riders pay.

How are they making an example of one rider?

Superbus is suing a female passenger that did not pay when she got on the bus using the back door. Superbus has installed "smart card readers" next to the back door for the "mehadrin" buses and by the honor system riders boarding in the back are meant to swipe their card. The article says they plan on suing for thousands to tens of thousands of shekels for damages.

Superbus responded, when asked, saying that they spent a lot of money installing systems to make it possible, all out of desire to respect the wishes of the community that wanted it, while trusting that the riders in the haredi community would be careful to pay. After investing a lot of money in machines that are easy to use, instead of making it easier for everyone involved, it has become a source of a breach in the system, allowing people to not pay and causing them a lot of loss of fees and has become a tremendous bother for them.

Superbus has admitted that the lawsuit being filed is in order to teach a lesson so that others will begin paying and not be prone to such suits of their own. Riding without paying is illegal and each time it is done it is subject to a fine worth thousands of shekels. Suing one person, they say, will hopefully cause others to decide to start paying for their rides.

Who would have ever thought that riding with separate seating was more important than theft? With the knowledge that this has been going on for years and all their encouragement to pay, a significant enough percentage of people (whatever the actual percentage is, it is clearly significant enough) still do not, the rabbonim and askanim should simply cancel the mehadrin lines. They should say that enabling theft is not an acceptable byproduct of sitting with gender-segregation, and if people are going to continue not paying for their rides they will make everyone get on in the front of the bus and pay the driver directly.

We don't blow shofar when Rosh Hashana falls out on Shabbos out of concern of one ignorant fellow that might carry the shofar in a place he isnt allowed to. We have many takanos in our religion to prevent people from getting anywhere near sinning inadvertently, or to prevent temptation of sin. Here we have a situation that is causing the temptation of theft - if theft is rampant on these buses, the mehadrin status should be cancelled by the rabbonim who have backed them until now.

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22 comments:

  1. Who would have ever thought that riding with separate seating was more important than theft?

    Unfortunately, a lot of people would have thought so. It's a shame they're being proven correct. Who was it that said it's a shame that the prohibition of theft isn't a minhag, because then, more people would keep it? Not that I wish to elevate this segregated bus arrangement to the level of minhag, in my opinion, it's simply narishkite, pure and simple.

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  2. separate seating was more important than theft

    Of course it is - tznius uber alles!

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  3. riders alighting in the back

    Alighting means to get off the bus. Are you aware of that?

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  4. If there's a card swipe at the back of the bus, it's not so easy to forget to pay. I stopped getting on in the back once when I forgot to punch my card under the old system.

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  5. All kidding aside, the 30% number sounds ridiculous. Does anyone really think that the sub-culture that's developed in RBS Bet, Nachala U'Menucha and Cheftziba is that distorted and anti-establishment? I have zero patience for those people but I don't believe there's such rampant theft among them.

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    1. Might be accurate. Egged is State-related.

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  6. My daughters and wife who have ridden those lines can confirm that 30% number. Basically you're a frier among the women if you get on and DO pay.

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  7. anon - I agree. 30% sounds ridiculously high, though Balilius said 30% back then - its in the protocol. regardless of the precise number, it is significant enough that they are going the route of suing some poor lady who wont be able to afford the fine she will be slapped with (not that she doesnt deserve it..)

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  8. saying 10% doesn't make it that much better

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    1. But it makes it more believable :)

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  9. prove positive that the mehadrin really has nothign to do with halacha and tznius but control. if it was truly about halacha, there'd be almost zero genaivah. the fact that it's 10 or even up to 30% proves halacha is not involved.

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  10. I don't have statistics from people boarding in the back on regular Egged busses. I'm curious as to the comparison. I can say that as a young man in the 70s and 80s who constantly rode the busses, in city and around the country, I certainly saw hundreds of people boarding in the back because they had a stroller with them, or maybe lots of packages. It was expected, and always happened, that they passed cash or their cartisia up front to pay. And their ticket, change, or cartisia always came back. I'm going to dare to guess that the incidence of theft must have been very, very small. This honor system worked well for decades in Israel. Theft would have been difficult to cover. I'm sorry to note that if it is happening on such a large scale on the haredi busses, that it isn't only a problem of the 30%. Those 30% outright thieves know that the others won't protest or look at them so badly. They wouldn't dare do this so much, nor get away with it, if the general population involved were more honest and had a stronger sense of yosher.

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    1. Yes, when I was a seminary student in the mid 80s passing cartisiyot to the driver was de rigueur.

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    2. thanks for the reminder of that. Yes, I now remember the passing of the kartisiyot or money vividly. I was always amazed people got their cards or change back.

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    3. "It was expected, and always happened, that they passed cash or their cartisia up front to pay."

      Naive of you. Of course you noticed the card and change passing. It's a pain in the butt for the other passengers. ("Lookit me! I'm so MODEST!") But I doubt you noticed when it *didn't* happen.

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    4. Chana - But I doubt you noticed when it *didn't* happen.

      Wanna bet? I was a kid and I rode the buses in the 70's all the time, and kids notice everything! The rare times that someone didn't pay or pass a cartisiya up, invariably one of us would pipe up and say "hoo lo sheelem" in a loud enough voice :) And sometimes the guy would tell the driver that he doesn't have his cartisiya (this is before chodshi-chofsi and certainly before rav-kav) and that he can punch it twice tomorrow. And the kids would also do that if they forgot their cartisiya (usually in a plastic holder with a lanyard around their neck).

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    5. Nostalgia. Whenever I have a card punched at a haircut place or a bowling place I think of my red & white cartisiya. (There was some debate at my seminary about whether 18 year old American students needed to pay for an adult card or could purchase a cartisit noar.)

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    6. in yeshivas as well. there was a lot of lomdus to explain why we were could buy the noar cartisiyot... :-)

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  11. Rafi, the decision by the bus companies to run mehadrin lines is economic. The 30% figure does sound downright ridiculous, but if it were true, and Superbus and others choose to continue running mehadrin lines, then that means they think it pays for them, 30% nonwithstanding.

    (Which to me is all the more proof that it isn't 30% or close, because I don't think there are anywhere near 30% that would not ride the bus if it were mixed. But that's not the point. The point is that the companies are making a economic decision and are doing what is best for their parnassa, so there is no need to remove the mehadrin system in an attempt to save their parnassa.)

    However, their parnassa is indeed important, as is the prohibition of theft (I still am floored that any significant amount of people would do this) and perhaps the topic of theft is something that our Rabbanim should speak about. But it has nothing to do with the mehadrin bus.

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    1. I question whether that's even true that the segregated buses are an economic decision. I don't know about the more recent implementations, but when I lived in Beitar, and this was an issue, neither the bus company nor the city wanted these buses. They were forced on the bus company and the public by what a very loud, active, and sometimes threatening, minority of zealots. To the extent that the bus companies today are going along with this segregation, I would guess its because they would rather go along with the zealots to avoid problems. To say that this is an economic decision is to say that a storeowner that pays protection to the mafia is making an "economic" decision. Strictly speaking, that may be the case, but it doesn't really tell the whole story.

      Moreover, even if correct, the point isn't whether the bus companies are making paranassa. The point is that it's a disgrace that a humra, or takana, or whatever you want to call it, that's supposed to be "mehadrin" is resulting in stealing. If the women entered the bus in the front, there would be no opportunity for this stealing to take place, so it's directly connected to the segregated status of the buses.

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