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In Haifa, a Strange Subway and a New BRT
The Haifa subway. Image via

The Haifa subway. Image via

Earlier this week, we wrote about map designs of public transit around the world. In our research, we came across the Haifa subway—the shortest in the world. The design seems totally unique. Have you ever encountered a transit system like this before?

The system opened in 1959 and has 6 stations along its 1.8-kilometer track that climbs Mount Carmel in Haifa, a coastal city in northern Israel. According to DesignBoom, “the system transports around 2,000 people along the track each day and is among the most unusual subway stations in the world.”

Another image of the subway system.

Photo via

Photo by Chris Yunker.

Photo by Chris Yunker.


Israel is a small country with a total land area of about 8,000 square miles. It’s a country slightly smaller in land mass than the state of New Jersey, with 7.3 million people and a high percentage of them located on the Mediterranean coast. Along with Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Haifa is one of Israel’s largest cities with about 1 million residents.

The city has a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, called Metronit, in the works. Treehugger wrote about the plan back in 2008. Currently, as we wrote about before, intercity bus travel is one of the most popular ways of getting around Israel. Egged Ltd. is Israel’s largest transit bus company and the second largest in the world after London Buses. It operates 945 lines, serving a million passengers daily. About 47 percent of Israeli bus passengers use the service, according to one source.

Despite Haifa’s short tramway-like subway and efforts to improve the bus system, there are a ton of traffic problems in the city. The Israeli Finance Ministry says the country loses NIS 20 billion a year (that’s about $5.5 billion) due to traffic. And Haifa accounts for 10 percent of these costs. Troubling news for Israel, a recent study found that the “use of public transportation by commuters to and from work declined by 20% between 1995 and 2008, while use of private cars increased by 15%.” Israel faces a number of reasons for the increases in car ownership, including tax incentives for the purchase of vehicles, the lack of a national transportation plan and a decline in the number of commuter buses.

To deal with this issue, Haifa plans to have 100 18-meter buses in place for the next 12 years. Implementation will start in 2011.  Some of the buses will be diesel and others will be hybrid. The hybrid buses will act as prototypes for other cities around the country, should they prove efficient. The Jerusalem Post says, “Metronit will augment the city’s existing Carmelit subway and a series of existing and planned cable cars that connect the different parts of the city resting on the Carmel Mountains and the lower city by the port.” (Read our previous post about cable car systems around the world.)

We shall see whether the new BRT system is designed as uniquely as Haifa’s subway line.

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  • I have experienced funiculars in various places of the world, namely Bogota (to the tuoristic and religious hill of Monserrate), Turkey (Taksim and Tunel),, Lisbon, Cape of Good Hope (breathtaking views of the Indian and Atlantic oceans), Athens, Barcelona and Pittsuburgh.

    Funiculars have varied configurations (see the good review in, where else?), and a list compiled there with over 350 cities and places Few are considered “mass transit”, but they are important part of transport systems in many places (like Haifa).

    What is very interesting in the case of Haifa is that it has several stations (most funiculars connect just two points).

    Hope the plans for upgraded bus and implementation of BRT work well in this city of the Middle East. BRT is very succesful already in Istanbul and Tehran.

  • Rodger James Sillars

    Equally unique is BiState’s (St. Louis) fully enclosed double units (one north and one south) inside the gateway arch. I seem to recall a subway funicular in Istanbul too.

  • Haifa’s subway is a funicular railway. I’ve never seen a fully enclosed one before, although I can see how that would help manage an otherwise uneven slope. I’ve had a chance to ride funiculars on four continents; the most famous around here are probably Pittsburgh’s inclines.