Supply of bus services to Arab localities

Segment from the forthcoming Selected Research Analyses:


  •  In the past decade, the quality-of-service gap between Arab and Jewish localities in public transportation (via bus) narrowed, but the trend has not been uniform.
  • Today, the quality of bus service in large Arab localities (more than 20,000 residents), in which approximately half of the total population living in Arab localities resides, is lower by about a third than the level in Jewish localities with similar characteristics. This takes into account the number of residents, their geographical characteristics, socioeconomic level, dependency ratio, and services provided in the locality. The relative status of these localities did not improve between 2010 and 2019, and in some variables, there was a marked deterioration.
  •  The second half of the population living in Arab localities (excluding unrecognized Bedouin localities in the south) lives in small localities, where the picture is different. In 2010, the quality of bus service in such localities was lower than in Jewish localities with similar characteristics, but their relative situation improved between 2010 and 2019, so that the service level in them today is similar to the level in Jewish localities with similar characteristics.


Efficient public transportation provides numerous benefits to the economy and to individuals: an improved matching process in the labor market by increasing the employment opportunities for individuals and expanding the range of workers available for employers in other localities. Increasing the accessibility of individuals who do not own a car to education, health, leisure, and employment services improves their quality of life and the ability of service providers in connected localities to expand the range of services and utilize economies of scale. Recent analyses have indicated that the level of public transportation services to the Arab population in Israel is low compared to the services to the Jewish population. This gap becomes more acute in view of the socioeconomic level of the Arab population, which is low relative to the average level among the Jewish population, and in view of the heightened need for public transportation among populations from weaker backgrounds.


In the past decade, the government reached several decisions, the goal of which was to improve public transportation service in Arab localities and to equate it with the service level in Jewish localities. A document written by Gal Amedi of the Bank of Israel’s Research Department that will be published soon in “Selected Policy Analyses and Research Notes”, found that in 2010–19, the gap in bus service quality between Arab and Jewish localities narrowed, but the level of service in Arab localities remains lower.


This document uses, for the first time in Israel, administrative data on bus services provided to all the localities in order to examine the service gaps between the various types of localities. In addition, this is the first study in Israel that examines the service gaps between Jewish and Arab localities over time, with various service characteristics, and separately for large and small localities.


Figure 1 indicates that the number of bus trips per 1,000 people in Arab localities is markedly lower than in Jewish localities—and that this gap was only slightly narrowed over the course of the past decade. However, Jewish and Arab localities are differentiated in several characteristics that may affect the quality of public transportation in them, and therefore a comparison that accounts for such characteristics is needed. Thus, for example, Arab localities are, on average, smaller, likelier to be located in the periphery, and poorer than Jewish localities.


Examining the gap in the service level while accounting for the differences in locality characteristics indicates that the quality of service in Arab localities in 2010 was markedly lower compared to similar Jewish localities. During the course of the past decade, these gaps closed in the group of small localities (less than 20,000 residents, excluding unrecognized Bedouin communities), in which half the population living in Arab localities resides. In contrast, the gaps in service in large Arab localities did not narrow, and by some indicators even widened during the period. The size of the gap for various service measures is presented in Table 1.


The document finds that the socioeconomic status, level of peripherality, services provided in the locality and age distribution do not explain a significant share of the gap in supply of transportation services in the large Arab localities. A possible explanation for the difficulty in providing adequate bus services to those localities is the inferior level of their infrastructures. Regular bus services in large localities require a reasonable road infrastructure, bus parking lots near the locality and space set aside for bus stops; there are unique difficulties in developing such infrastructures in Arab localities. Therefore, it is important to continue implementing government decision 922, which allocated numerous resources to developing public transportation infrastructures for the Arab sector, and which was reflected in 37 percent of the new roads developed in the two years following the decision being designated mainly for serving the Arab sector. This indicates that, given the funding and the commitment by the parties involved, it is possible to overcome at least some of the unique problems in developing transportation infrastructures in large Arab localities as well. In this way, it will be possible to close the negative gap in the service level in the large Arab localities, as has already been done successfully in the past decade in the smaller ones.


Table 1

Service gaps between Arab and Jewish localities, divided among localities with more than or less than 20,000 residents (percent of average service level), 2019


Small localities

Large localities

Number of trips



Number of internal trips



Number of intercity trips



Number of trips to employment localities



Number of accessible destinations



Population in accessible destinations



Number of active lines



Share of coverage



Number of observations



  of which: Arab localities



* A positive number indicates that the service in the Arab locality exceeds the service in a Jewish locality. For example, given the locality's characteristics, the average number of trips in small Arab localities is 21.5 percent greater than in small Jewish localities, and the number of trips to employment localities in Arab localities is 23.3 percent lower than in large Jewish localities. For a detailed explanation on the calculation method, see Table 3 in the document.