Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum writes in this week's Jewish Press that two rabbis from Israel have come to the United States to solicit money for the mehadrin bus lines in Israel. He writes:
Recently, Rabbi Menachem Kenig and Rabbi Binyamin Mark came to the United States to solicit financial support to continue and increase the current bus service for the observant communities. More than 100,000 observant Jews use mehadrin transportation daily. However, there are estimates that there are more than 200,000 other observant Jews who still use the regular overcrowded mixed buses. Rabbi Kenig and Rabbi Mark seek to expand the mehadrin service so that every observant Jew has the opportunity to have his or her daily commute free of intermingling with passengers of the opposite gender.
Rabbi Mark earned endorsements for his efforts from the beth din of the Edah HaCharedis of Yerushalayim and also from Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, author of Shevet Levi; Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, Rosh Kollel Chazon Ish; Rabbi Yisroel Mordechai Twersky, zt”l, Rachmestrivka Rebbe in Yerushalayim; and Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shechter, Breslover Rav in Yerushalayim.
Personally, I don't have a problem with the mehadrin bus lines. If people want to ride the bus and not sit with members of the opposite gender, that's up to them. If they can show Egged that there is a demand for the service (which it seems they have) and convince them to run the lines, then they certainly should have the opportunity to do so.
However, let's recognize this for what it is - riding on a bus with a member of the opposite gender is a chumra at best. There is certainly no halacha against it - people travel on the New York subways all the time and I've yet to hear a single person state that doing so is forbidden -- even though there will sometimes be accidental contact.
That being said, IMHO, the idea of giving charity to support separate-gender busing ranks fairly low in our list of priorities. Giving to people who have physical needs (food, clothing, shelter) certainly rank higher. Giving to institutions that support the community (Tomche Shabbos, Hatzalah, etc.) absolutely rank higher. Giving to institutions of Torah (shuls, yeshivos, etc.) also rank higher. Even providing for Kollel families who could work for a living but choose to learn full time comes higher.
In other words, if one wants to strive for separate-seating busing, fine. But do so out of your own pocket. Every dollar you take in charity to support this takes a dollar away from other causes that are certainly more deserving and more vitally needed by the community and it's members.
(It could be that the rabbis are going to look not for charity, but for investors. But if I had to lay odds, I'd bet that they're looking for the former and not the latter.)
(Hat tip: DAG)