Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Rav Kav - Israel's Bus Ticket: Friend or Foe?

Some time ago Israel introduced the Rav Kav public transport ticket. It certainly looks like a fun ticket with a green colour that says "go!" and an icon logo (not the cartoon character numbered 2) that says "fun" or perhaps "speed", but was it really created for the benefit of the public commuter or was there perhaps another reason (such as to simply create confusion and further the public transport economy through "alternative" means (sic - read below,) that it was put into place? 

I'm not sure, but I'm going to tell you my personal story and the battles I have experienced with it. This story is here for everyone to learn from and prepare (and arm(!)) themselves well so that the "mistakes" I have made are not made by others. At the end of the article I'm going to share with you the ultimate solution of saving you (and me!) not running into trouble again! I'm thankful to a group of friends who agreed with me on the problems this card has brought, and who shared with me their solution which finally puts the consumer back in control of his bus ticket - something which the Rav Kav will take away from anyone not prepared!

To be honest, I'm not sure if Egged is to blame, Illit bus lines (Kavim) are to blame or if it's the Rav Kav card - and who actually determines how it works - that is to blame.

The famous Rav Kav (having no relationship to any Rabbinical authority or organisation) allows one to purchase a variety of tickets on it. The catch is, only the Rav Kav (and its accompanying "partner in crime" - the machine that it is scanned upon) knows what's happening when the card is scanned. Buying bus tickets in Israel now no longer affords the consumer the opportunity to ever see how many tickets he has left etc. as the ordinary paper kind allowed. There are apparently apps on smartphones that allow one to check - but this only helps those who own them. There are also booths that are situated in select areas - but unless you live nearby one, they are virtually out of reach for the average person. As for the drivers, it's rare to find a driver who will allow you to see how many tickets you have left - though he can easily do so using the machine on the bus. So all in all - your stuck with a card that completely hides any information about the content of tickets on it.

Here's a practical example: If you purchase a 10 "punch" ticket in Jerusalem using your Rav Kav, you get ten rides (if you are lucky - see below.) If you purchase a 5 "punch" ticket from Beitar to Jerusalem, you get 5 regular rides in that direction. If however you want to be "smart" (quotes there for good reason!) you can purchase a Hemshech (continuation trip) ticket which allows you ONE ride from Beitar to Jersualem, and then ONE ride in Jerusalem itself - at a "fraction" (quotes again for good reason!) of the cost. But here's the catch: The computer ticket machine cannot read your mind as to which ticket you want. When you place the card on the machine, it takes off whatever it reads. If you have purchased THREE separate tickets (one regular Jerusalem, one regular Illit and one Hemshech, the computer does not know what to read when it is placed on the machine - as the computer does not know what you are planning for the day!) There is little you can do about it - unless...

You can of course tell the driver to please use the Hemshech. Begging him to use it (instead of just the regular scan) may also be a necessity. I have found most drivers intolerant to listening to what I have asked for, most either telling me they know what to do - or that I can just place the card on the machine because the computer is already programmed "correctly"! 

At the end of the day, if he refuses and makes use of one of the other tickets (his ego having being hurt), you have no recourse. You're stuck with the ticket he chooses for you. This means, if you're hoping to save money by using the "continuation trip" ticket and he selects another, you will be forced to use the normal and thereby pay MORE. On the other hand, if Driver A chooses "continuation trip" ticket, and Driver B in Jerusalem uses REGULAR (i.e. not making use of your original continuation trip ticket!) you will not only pay more for the regular, you will also have paid for the entire "continuation" ticket, losing BOTH amounts!!!

It's not the first time this has happened to me - though yesterday it was just too much... "Fortunately" I met a "lovely" driver on the Illit bus, who pointed out it must have been Egged's fault. (G-d forbid to even suggest that something he did was incorrect and that the fault could easily be corrected by cancelling the ticket and going about things differently!) It was also "fortunate" to have two of his friendly bodyguards accompanying him on his obviously new found job - who refused to accept any blame. By the sounds in their voices, they were more likely employed to act as security on the bus than already-accomplished-drivers who had been employed to instruct the driver on how to deal with ticket-taking and bus driving for the Illit company - but what can one do?! They had a great laugh at my expense! Nobody was prepared to give me their names to allow me to lodge a complaint (the companies always ask you who was involved as if asking the criminals for their names will really help!) - though on returning home, I did so with both Illit and Egged using the bus registration number. Let me equally mention here that I had indeed complained about this issue before to Illit Kavim who after some 3 months of serious meetings about the issue - eventually refunded me - an admission of guilt amount- of 20 Shekel credit for my loss.

All in all, it meant losing the value of TWO full Hemshech tickets, one additional regular Beitar ticket and an additional Egged ticket - in order to "save" money by making use of the one famous Hemshech (continuation trip) ticket!

Totally frustrated I shared my problem with others who came up with the ultimate solution. I'm offering it to all today - until legal attention is given to the problems that will of necessity come up with a computerised card manned by intolerant drivers whose egos are more important than honest business.

The solution: Buy 2 Rav Kav cards!!! Additionally as another friend pointed out - buy an additional Rav Kav card for every single ticket you use. Example: If you use a regular Jerusalem ticket in Jerusalem, use one Rav Kav for this. When traveling in Beitar (or any other city that uses the Rav Kav), use ANOTHER Rav Kav for Beitar. When traveling Hemshech Jerusalem-Beitar - use YET ANOTHER Rav Kav. When traveling, present the card you know has the correct ticket on it. In this way, you avoid having to instruct the driver which ticket he should use on the one individual card!

It's a simple solution. It also tells the Rav Kav company - we're not prepared to settle for a flawed system. Yes, it will cost a little extra for the additional cards - but in the long run, the money and stress saved from working this way is sure to make everybody once again feel as though they are using their paper tickets - which they can clearly be aware of for themselves! Putting us back in charge means not allowing the transport department to fabricate additional ways of removing money from a legal card meant for other journeys!

For those wanting to find out more about understanding the intricacies of this card, do see Egged's page about it as well as the Transport in Israel web page. 

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