Friday, November 21, 2008

The Carmelit - Haifa's Underground Railway

I came across a short film called Strangers, which has a positive message of co-existence and anti-racism. However, my main interest in this film is that it was made on Haifa's underground railway, the Carmelit.

I enjoy using the Carmelit when I have to go to parts of the city close to its stations. There is no other underground railway in Israel, so this is the closest I can get to the cosmopolitan feeling of using the "underground" or "metro" or "subway". However, it is very different to other undergrounds, since it is a funicular railway going up and down the Carmel mountain, and so both the trains and the stations are built on a slope, with steps (this can be seen at the end of the film and in the photos on the linked sites).

The Carmelit takes just 8 minutes to travel its entire line (much quicker than driving up or down the hill, or taking the bus). However, it has two main problems, which reduce its popularity. I have never seen it crowded or had to stand, in contrast to the frequent overcrowding on Israel Railways trains and on buses. First, the location of the stations. These places used to be important city centres when it was built, but now they are less popular, and other important city areas are not on the route. Second, there is a shortage of parking spaces near the stations, so people can't park and catch the Carmelit very easily. If I want to use the Carmelit, I take a bus to the nearest station as I know it would be difficult or impossible to park nearby.

There is talk of extending the Carmelit one day, but I'll believe it when I see it. Other proposals include a cable car going up the hill to Haifa University. That would make Haifa by far the most transportationally diverse city in Israel. There is already a cable car, going from Stella Maris down to the beach at Bat Galim, but it is primarily a tourist attraction.

No comments: