The red line of the Jerusalem light rail has been, by most counts, a success. It has been a boon for the downtown area and is slowly changing how residents approach transportation throughout the city.

Just two years after beginning operation in 2011, the number of passengers on the red line grew from an average of 100,000 to 140,000 per day. Today, more than 150,000 passengers use the train daily and 15% of riders report that they no longer use their private vehicles. This result, provided by the Jerusalem Transport Master Plan team, is considered high.

The air quality on Jaffa Road, which was once the main street for cars downtown, has been so vastly improved that carbon monoxide emissions have dropped from 500 parts per million to fewer than 100 parts per million. Pollution fell to such negligible levels that monitoring was deemed unnecessary. The number of pedestrians increased by 11% between 2011 and 2012 and businesses that once regarded the construction as catastrophic to their bottom line are now thriving.

It is, therefore, no surprise that Mayor Nir Barkat and other key members of the Municipality have worked quickly on a plan to not only expand the current line but to add two additional lines to the Jerusalem light rail system.

The Red Line Expansion

The red line currently runs over 13.9 kilometers from Mount Herzl to Heil HaAvir Street in Pisgat Ze’ev. Construction is underway to extend the line to the Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem where a terminal station is being built alongside a new inpatient building. The rail will be integrated along the narrow route via complex bridging and infrastructure work:

Construction is expected to last for nearly five years and is being funded as part of a government budget of 25 billion shekels set aside for the light rail network, which includes the green and blue lines.

The Green Line

The green line will consist of 19.6 kilometers of track running from Mount Scopus to Gilo with branches in Har Nof and Malcha. A special campus line will connect the Mount Scopus branch of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem to the Givat Ram branch. It will serve as a central part of the Jerusalem Gateway Project, transporting commuters to and from the planned business district.

Seven groups are bidding for the tender, estimated to cost ten billion shekels.  The line, which has complete municipal approval, is expected to transport 200,000 passengers daily when it is completed in 2024.

The Blue Line

Spanning 23 kilometers, the blue line will run from the Ramot neighborhood through downtown Jerusalem (beneath Mea Shearim), and into Gilo. A second arm of the line will reach Malha. How it gets there has yet to be determined, however.

The most natural path for the line is along the old tracks where an Ottoman-era heavy rail once ran. That route has since been repurposed into a popular park, Park HaMesila, making it untouchable in the eyes of the municipality and residents alike. That leaves Emek Refaim as the only alternative and, despite it being deemed the best route, the committee designated to decide on its fate has delayed the decision indefinitely. This controversy has led to the future of a significant segment of the line to be up in the air.

Update: The light rail will pass through Emek Refaim

The Jerusalem Light Rail Map

What good is an article about a light rail without a map? Below is the most detailed version of the current and planned lines available to date. All of the known stops and stations are listed, including those planned for Emek Refaim.

No matter how the final map looks, the movement toward a significant light rail network is evidence that Jerusalem is preparing for a future of faster and safer travel, cleaner air, and a more densely populated city.

(Header Photo by Claude Villetaneuse)

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