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Sep 22, 2008

making the commute to tel Aviv even harder

The representative of CHEN heads the Traffic Committee of Bet Shemesh. They recently sent an update to the local email list detailing a number of decisions the committee has recently arrived at.

One of those decisions was that the train station parking lot would be cut down by 30 parking spaces. Those spaces will be used instead by the bus company in an effort to improve the bus service to and from the train.

Below is the letter I sent to the representative of CHEN who had sent out the message.

Greetings -

As a regular commuter to Tel Aviv via train, I was distressed to read in your recent update fro the Traffic Committee sent to the BS email list a notice about the train parking lot.

The train station parking lot is already sorely lacking adequate parking. The lot itself is small compared to how many parking spaces are needed. Originally, there was (perhaps informally) an agreement with the management of the BIG mall, that the mayor used when he was promoting the train, that the overflow parking could use the BIG parking lot. For a long time already the BIG management has closed off that option, at least to commuters who arrive prior to 8:30am (which is most of the regular commuters for work) by disallowing parking from the train station clientele.

A temporary solution has been the undeveloped lot across from the entrance to BIG. The problem with that now is they have begun development on the lot and at times close it off and do not allow us to park there. Try to imagine the panic caused when you arrive to the station and look for parking only to find the parking lot closed off. There are no alternatives as the lot of the station and the few curbside spaces have already been filled. Many people have missed trains to work while they have to drive back up to the industrial zone to look for parking and then walk back down 5-10 minutes to the train station. Even though most of the time it has been available, in the near future when they actually start construction it no longer will be.

In your recent update you wrote "Please also note that Starting in January 2009, Superbus will be taking over the 415 and 420 bus routes from Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem. In addition, the current plan is to replace 30 car parking spots in the train station parking lot with two bus parking spots, thus enabling better public transport from the train."

Considering the above, this is particularly troubling. The lot is already not adequate for the amount of people who require parking. Now your committee is planning on removing 30 more spots so buses can park there? I understand maybe a few people will stop driving their cars and take the bus more as the bus service improves, and then less spots will be required, but I am sure you are fooling yourselves if you really think the solution is taking away 30 more spots instead of expanding the number of parking spaces. Most people will not rely on the historically inadequate bus service, and will not give up the convenience of their car.

Please reconsider the decision. Think of the large numbers of people who daily take the train to work outside of Bet Shemesh and are already frustrated by the regular frustrations of not having enough parking. The decision your committee has arrived at helps nobody but the bus company.

Find a solution for the residents of Bet Shemesh who commute. Find us more parking, not less!

Kol tuv,

If and when I should receive a response, I will post it here. I urge you, if this issue is one you are affected by and concerned about, if you are a commuter via train, write to your representative, whomever it might be, and ask him what his position on this issue is and how he can help.

A further problem that I did not write about in the letter is that when the new building goes up that whole area will just be more congested with only one little street serving as the entrance to the train station and two malls. It is already over-congested and traffic leaving the train station can be dismal at times as traffic from the station merges with traffic exiting the mall, but it will only get worse when the new building goes up. But that is a separate issue for a different time.


  1. I don't know the specifics of BS's situation, but in theory the city is smart to provide adequate busing timed to the train schedule. Cities should make public transportation more convenient than driving. This cuts pollution and traffic, and may bring more shoppers to the area. It would be best to provide parking as well. If the bus turns out to be convenient people will use it. Maybe even you.

  2. I have no problem with bus service being provided and improved. There is already bus service (though people who take it consider it inadequate, unless they live very close to the station). But it should not come at the expense of the parking when that itself needs a solution.

    The parking lot in the train station of BS has 90 parking spots, some of which are handicapped parking and rarely used (though by law they have to designate them as such). Taking away 30 spots is cutting the lot by a third.

    Will the bus service be so greatly improved that 30 commuters will decide to take the bus and not their car? I doubt it. But even if it will, what about the fact that tens of cars are already parking in the empty lots surrounding the area? Those lots are sometimes cut out due to construction, and will eventually be cut out completely.

    So the problem of the parking lot is not just the loss of 30 spots. It is the loss of 30 spots when it is already too small by over a hundred or so spots.

    The bus service should be improved, and maybe I will even take the bus to the train if it would not take upwards of 50 minutes to get home (instead of a 7 or 9 minute drive). The bus ride him is as long as the train ride from Tel Aviv! But find a different solution to the bus situation, not at the expense of the drivers who already feel a severe problem.

    When they last shut the empty lot for a few days because of the onset of construction, I asked the manager of the train station what we could do. His answer was that it is a problem, but they already have plans to expand the lot but the city has not approved it. If we write to our reps and get them to approve it, they can expand the lot by x number of spaces (I do not remember the number. it was not enough, but it is a start at least) within half a year or something like that.

    So now instead of expanding the lot, they are making the lot even smaller1

  3. BTW - you should know that there are/were plans to make a parking lot off of Road 38 - (where that Kiosk is today), with a pedestrian bridge over the train tracks so that people from outside BS can easier access the train station.

    At one time there were eevn plans for BS's own light rail line going from the New MAAR (which has been frozen) down to 38 and up to the train station. Such a system would get you from the MAAR to the train in about 5 minutes. It owuld also make it easier to provide an efficient bus/shuttle within RBS A, B, C, D-H (in the future) to this light rail line.

    In addition - besides waiting for the above ideas to actually happen, the powers-to-be could make a shuttle bus from RBS A straight to Train station via either 38 or Road 10. The problem is how many people would actually take it. The bus would have to arrive 5 minutes before train to allow easy alighting time and buying ticket. Add to that the 10minutes it takes to get from RBS A to station and then add about 10-15 minutes needed to do a sivuv around RBS A and you're looking at 30 minutes time. They'd actually b better off doing a short route in RBS A - Dolev - Sorek and then go through BET and out by Ezra V'achva - more ridership same travel time. But still for the person getting on at Dolev - 30minutes before train is still 3times longer than taking his car door-to-door.

    Another idea that just accured to me is that given the layout of the existing parking lot and how most ofit is below street level- they can easily add a second level of parking. On this level they can put in the 2 bus stops they wanted so they get more parking and the 2 bus stops. and if they offer good bus service people will use it instead of leaving their cars sitting all day in the lot. In any case, the parking spots will all be full even with good bus service.

  4. to mother in israel...good point, if it works out well then more people can take the bus. If it does not work well it not only lose 30 spots but also likely cause enough congestion in that area to make car drivers misserable. The few buses that go through there often make an unnerving bottle neck.
    It seems obvious that the bus company was able to offer the right inspiration to the decision makers to do this. Everybody knows there is plenty of open fields nearby for buses to park. They do not need to strangle commuters to force them to use bus service.

    Oh...Rafi G. Did you ask about posting your work on THERBSNEWS.com? Maybe they can help make a movement to make a change here and other issues!

  5. Chaim - I don't know what that is about and how they picked up on it, but if a few more people will be aware of the problem and help try to solve it, then it is fine by me that they posted it...

  6. The current BS traffic situation and public transportation is absolutely ridiculous and frankly impossible.

    As BS has developed the RBS A & B (and C now under construction), they have taken existing bus routes and extended them through the new areas. This leads to the nightmare situation where it takes a 20 minute bus ride to Jerusalem, but 45 minutes from the entrance of Beit Shemesh to central Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef (example route 418). Similarly the "local" bus (route 14) starts at the train station, winds through the various BS neighborhoods, then heads through RBS-B, then around and through RBS-A. That's a 50 minute route when traffic is good.

    The traffic circles - which avoid the need to install traffic lights - are another nightmare. While in most areas it's fine, in front of the RBS-A shopping area it creates a massive backup. Same thing in front of BIG and the train station.

    As much as BS needs the additional shopping the BIG expansion will provide, IT SHOULD BE PROHIBITED FROM EXPANDING UNTIL THE INFRASTRUCTURE IS BUILT TO HANDLE IT.

    If they want more train use and less people driving to the station, they should build a standard hub-and-spoke model, with 1/2 size buses that run out to areas with many commuters - such as straight from the RBS mercaz to the station, another from Dolev to the station, etc.

    Even 38 is ridiculous - with massive backups at Tzomet Shimson and a heavy crowd of slow trucks coming from the quarries, cement factory and industrial zones slowing the road up the hills to a crawl. When I have to drive to Tel Aviv or Petach Tikva in the morning, it's 30 minutes from RBS to route 1. Completely nuts.

    (Which explains why so many appreciate the train!)

    Israeli commutes are now as bad as New York area commutes - purely due to really bad planning.

  7. why can't you take the bus to train?

  8. LOZ - the bus might be a reasonable alternative to some people who need to get to the train.

    For me the problem is from where I live, the bus ride to the station takes 45-50 minutes. That doubles, literally, my travel time in the morning to work. As well, to arrive at the 7:23 train in time, which gets me to work at 8:30, I would have to catch a bus at around 6:30am, instead of leaving my house a little after 7.

    It is just not a practical solution for people living in RBS.

  9. lion - because the bus takes 1 hour to go the 5 miles to the train. By car it takes 10 minutes.

    Since the train ride itself is 1 hour to Tel Aviv, adding that 1 hour for the bus makes it a 2 hour commute EACH WAY. Nobody can afford a 4 hour daily commute.


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