Public transportation is a basic service and a crucial tool for reducing social and economic inequality. This is especially the case for Arab communities, most of which are in geographically peripheral areas and have endured longstanding discrimination in the planning and development of transportation infrastructure along with an inferior level of public transportation services. In consequence, residents of Arab localities are excluded from the heart of Israel’s economic, cultural, and social life. In pursuit of real equality, it is vital to ensure appropriate planning, development, and enhancement of public transportation so as to meet the unique needs of Arab communities.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Arab localities almost entirely lacked public transportation, even cities and towns with tens of thousands of residents apiece. In recent years, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry for Social Equality have taken significant steps to improve public transportation services, mainly in the wake of Government Decision 922. Yet there is still a long way to go to reach a quality of service comparable to that in Jewish towns and sufficient to meet the needs of the residents of Arab communities.
Hence, Sikkuy works to reduce the disparities, seeking improvements in public transportation and transportation infrastructure in all of the Arab localities in Israel, through advocacy with the relevant government ministries. We also provide professional assistance to the Arab local authorities and work jointly with other civil society organizations active on this issue.
In 2012, we published a study entitled “From Barriers to Opportunities – Public Transportation in Arab Towns” and, using the model developed by Sikkuy as described in that research, we identified the barriers to improving public transportation services in the Arab towns. The paper offered concrete policy recommendations for enhancing public transportation in Arab localities, most of them since implemented by various government ministries in the intervening years.
In addition, we held a series of public participation meetings with residents of Kafr Qassem, Sakhnin, Isfiya, and other Arab towns, and we provided guidance to local authorities in drafting detailed local needs assessment documents for submission to the Ministry of Transport to better align the services provided with the needs of local residents. Leveraging the considerable experience we have accumulated, the next step will be to publish a working guide on how to draft needs assessments and convene public engagement meetings , for the use of other Arab localities. We are also continuing to assist additional communities and work with the relevant government ministries to improve the level of public transportation services and infrastructure in Arab towns.