Gabe W. sent this guest post about transit in Israel. Thanks, Gabe! Look out for Part 2, which will talk about transit in Madrid.

Hello fellow MBTA riders! I’m Gabe W., a random reader of Miles’s fantastic blog. Recently, I took a two week international trip to Israel, with a stop in Spain. And while I did not do as much public transit riding as I wanted to, I do have many transit tales to share.

My trip began at Ben-Gurion International Airport, which is the largest and (as far as I know) the only international airport in Israel. The bad news was that the taxi fare to our AirBNB apartment was very expensive. The good news, at least for me, was that Israel Railways, the national passenger rail service within the country, had opened up a station at the airport. It was new enough that the only signs leading us to the station were standing banners. So, we followed the signs, baggage carts in hand, to get to the mezzanine of the station. However, as I discovered, my phone was dead (turns out playing games on a 7 hour flight is not good for your batteries). So I couldn’t take any photos of the train.
Let me set the scene: there’s a concrete pavilion, sheltered by a parking garage above. One side of the square is a small, grassy courtyard. On the opposite were the fare gates to get down to the below-grade platforms. On the adjacent side was an entrance to the drop-off and pick-up stretch of road, and on the opposing side of that was an entrance to the arrivals terminal.  There were only two ticket machines, so we had to wait for about 10 minutes to get on board. Dad spent this time conducting some research about where the nearest station to the apartment was. Turns out the train heading in that direction came in half an hour, so we didn’t have to rush (we determined this from the LED signboard above the ticket machines). When our turn came, we purchased two sets of 3 tickets (that was the maximum amount) to Tel-Aviv HaHagana railway Station. The immediate area after the fare gates was very bland, containing only the escalators/stairs down, the elevator down, and NOTHING ELSE. I guess they didn’t need to put benches there, because you could sit and wait on the platform, but it seems a bit of a waste of space. Secondly, with broken windows and exposed concrete, the area behind the double elevators was a mess. The platform was so much nicer. It was divided into two sides, with a median of plants in the middle. They were raised to be about 3 feet off the ground, and every fifty feet or so the median would disappear, and there would be a set of benches. There was also plenty of seating along the platforms, which I found nice. The countdown clocks went from 20 minutes to 10, 5, and finally a pair of headlights turned the corner. The train we got was one of their newer ones, a 6 car bilevel that had LED screens and announcements. The seats were all in a seat-table-seat configuration, and there were four per row. They were obviously comfier than the commuter rail seats, but they weren’t that plush. Our ride was only 3 stations long, but it was much smoother than any ride on the T. When we arrived, we followed some well-placed signs to the front, where we hailed a much cheaper cab.
A picture of the Israel Railways ticket, taken the following morning.
The next day, we tried to catch a bus. So, my family and I walked down the block till we reached the nearest bus stop. Even though it was a very minor stop, it was still way above anything that the MBTA would construct. It had a full metal shelter, including a cool hanging bench. It was pretty spacious, and all 6 of us could fit under it (it was also in pretty good quality, unlike many MBTA shelters). It even had a countdown clock, though it wasn’t on at the time that we rode (other stations had fully functioning ones).
The bus sign, in not-perfect condition (note that all the routes with the owl sticker were both day and night routes).
The countdown clock, which is obviously turned off.
The bus stop itself. The yellow papers posted on the side of the stop indicate which minibus routes stop at the station.
A minibus itself. These buses will not stop if they are full, and run their own routes. Being smaller and more quiet (and run by a different group), they cost an extra NIS (New Israeli Shekel).
After waiting for a couple of minutes and not having our bus arrive, a stranger passing by advised us to download Moovit, the bus app for Tel Aviv. One we found our station and consulted the app (which is very well designed), we found out that our bus would not be arriving for some time, so we decided to call a cab (again).
Once we finished going through the museum the bus was supposed to bring us to, we as a family decided to try taking a bus again. Walking down the street near the museum, we found a much bigger bus stop that was served by many routes. The stop itself was an assembly of three normal shelters, spread out over about 50 feet. After waiting for about 10 minutes, our bus arrived.
A random bus I saw while walking to our stop.
A view of the larger stop, showing the three shelters and a bench (it had a bike rack too).
Now, Israel’s buses are split into two groups. The first is Egged (pronounced egg-ed), the national bus corporation. Egged runs two types of routes: long distance ones that still make stops along the way (sometimes you will see random stops on the side of the highway, in the middle of the desert, that are served by 3 routes), and inner-city routes. The long distance routes use a tour-bus vehicle, while the inner-city buses usually use conventional buses. I say usually because the bus that rolled in to pick us up was built around a coach-bus frame, even though it was only travelling a couple of miles. The bus was quite comfy, with airline-style seating (though a bit more simple) and individual AC vents, which were fantastic due to the 90 degree weather.
The inside of the bus, showing the seating, AC, and scroll board up front.
The bus (so, us) pulled up next to a couple other routes at the next stop.
Some skyscrapers I saw on the route. Pretty cool looking.
A skyscraper in progress, I guess.
An advertisement for the up and coming Tel Aviv Light Rail, which looks to be very extensive.
Our bus finally arrived at the huge Tel Aviv Central Bus Terminal, a 7 story behemoth station (bus only, though an Israel National railway station was nearby) serving hundreds of routes. The station was mixed with a mall, so many of the levels had bus platforms on the exterior and shopping in the center. There was a complex system of ramps leading up to each level.
A view of the bus level serving our route. On the closest sign, the symbol to the left is the Dan bus symbol.
The next bus we got on was managed by the Dan Bus Company, which is the bus carrier of Tel Aviv itself. It was built like any other city bus, with grab bars, stop request buttons, and a scroll screen at the front. The route itself wasn’t that interesting, and was much more residential than the last one. Unsurprisingly, the bus stop we got off at was the same as every single one we had seen before, though only one module. Later in the day, we just hailed a cab to get back to the apartment.
The inside of the bus, looking pretty normal.
What a nice modern building! It reminds me of the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge.
Goodbye bus! Also, note the very quiet street.
The rest of our Israel trip was not transit related at all, as we rented out a car to drive around in. However, as we stayed in Israel for another week and a half, I tried to take as many photos as possible, so here’s a small collection of assorted ones.
A picture of the Jerusalem Light Rail system, which I snapped as our car was at a traffic light. When I asked, mom said that we didn’t ride the system because we had a rental car. Also, the system ran through the new, developed sections of the city, and we were staying in the historic Old City.
On the way back, while on the Tel Aviv section of one of the highways, I saw an Israeli Railways train passing us. It was one of the older trains, with single level cars in a blue livery, but it was a nice way to end the Israeli leg of our trip!
Note: Both pictures were taken from a moving car.