The new Shabbat bus service in Tel Aviv last Saturday was such a hit that some passengers were left waiting at the stations.
More than 10,000 passengers used the public transportation service, an initiative called “We move on weekends,” which was launched despite strong opposition to such programs by Israel’s Orthodox establishment.
There are six routes — most circumvent religious neighborhoods — with minibuses scheduled to come every half hour. The service includes transportation to surrounding communities including Ramat Hasharon, Givatayim and Kiryat Ono.
Minibuses, seating 19 people each, began servicing the new routes as Shabbat began after 4 p.m. on Friday. Three hours after the service was launched, Tel Aviv announced that it would add more vehicles after passengers were left waiting due to large demand, the Israeli business website Calcalist reported.
During the early weeks of the program, the service will be free to all riders.
The city of Tel Aviv will pick up $2.6 million of the $3.6 million operating costs for the first year, i24 reported.
In Israel, buses and trains do not generally run in Jewish-majority cities on Friday night and Saturday before sundown. The practice was born of an agreement reached between the ultra-Orthodox community and Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, before the formation of the state.
Secular Israelis have long chafed at their restricted mobility during the weekend.
Other Israeli cities recently announced their intention to begin providing public transportation on Saturdays, including Tel Aviv suburbs Ramat Gan and Ganei Tikva. Earlier this year, a free Saturday bus line was launched in the northern town of Tiberias.