The cable car will not be economically feasible

The economic feasibility report on the cable car to the Old City:  The cable car will not be economically feasible if the cost of building will rise to 30% above the estimated cost or if the Palestinians do not use it

According to the report, which the developers have refused to make public:  * There is a high probability that the initial costs will be higher than the preliminary estimate  * It is defined as a temporary solution until a light rail station is built to serve the area. * The touristic project will not operate on the Sabbath * Only 8.7% of the visitors to the Old City will arrive via the cable car.

The economic feasibility report commissioned by the cable car developers shows that if the initial costs of the cable car project rise by approximately 30% above the estimate provided, the cable car will not be economically feasible.  It is known that large transportation projects in Israel typically run over the cost estimates provided at the planning stage by hundreds of percentages. (The 500 million ILS estimated cost for the of the Jerusalem light rail grew to 2.4 billion ILS.  In 2004, the initial costs of a light rail system in Tel Aviv was estimated at four billion ILS and at present the estimate is approximately 16 billion ILS. Similarly, the cost of the fast-speed train to Jerusalem rose by more than 100 percent.) The fact that the cable car project is the first of its kind in Israel only increases the probability that the initial costs will significantly exceed the estimate.

The report further establishes that if those entering the Old City through the northern gates (Damascus Gate, Lion’s Gate and Herod’s Gate – i.e., the gates used by Palestinians) do not use the cable car, it will not be economically feasible.  It is not clear why the project developers think that the residents of East Jerusalem will choose to travel to the west of the city only to return to the east. Why would they choose to go all the way to the German Colony and from there travel on the cable car instead of arriving directly from the neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the Old City, on the East Jerusalem bus lines?

In their presentations, the developers assert that approximately 3,000 people an hour will use the cable car.  However,  the economic feasibility report, which is based on a survey of visitors to the Old City prepared by the Jerusalem Transportation Master Plan Team in 2014 and on estimates received according to the Delphi method, states that in the course of one entire week, approximately 47,000 people would use the cable car, i.e., approximately 8.7% of those going to the Old City, fewer than 700 people per hour on average.

As is known, the cable car to the Old City is a tourism project in which the Ministry of Transportation was not involved.  The Ministry of Transportation is advancing a light rail and a regular rail system as a transportation solution for the area.  The authors of the feasibility report explain that they are working under the assumption that the Ministry of Transportation will not carry out any supportive measures in order to create demand, such as the closure of roads to vehicles.  This is to say, there will only be demand for the cable car if such demand is artificially created.

It can also be understood from the report that in spite of the fact that the developers asserted that they do not know what the operation schedule will be, they are indeed privy to this information and they also know that the cable car will not operate on the Sabbath and holidays.  Another interesting fact that arises from the report is that the cable car, the initial costs of which are estimated at approximately 220 million ILS, is simply a temporary project until the opening of light rail line.

In spite of the fact that the project has been planned for a long time, in the course of the court proceedings with respect to the freedom of information petition (that was held after the approval of the cable car plan by the government housing cabinet)  the developers repeated that they still do not know what the expected method of operation would be and the type of tender that would be published.  These question marks, alongside the lack of clarity regarding what the cost of a trip on the cable car would be (and whether or how it would be subsidized as public transportation if it is not a transportation project) raise questions regarding the entire manner in which decisions were made about the project.

The information included in the report was partially obtained by Emek Shaveh following a freedom of information petition to the court. The developers of the cable car project had refused to provide the report, but after a judge examined it and the reasons provided by the developers for concealing it, this week Emek Shaveh received a redacted copy, with most of the content blacked out and concealed from public scrutiny.